Will Your Business Thrive Online or In Person?

In 2016, almost half of all local businesses in the United States didn’t have a website, even though more than 80 percent of Americans do research online before making a purchase. Those starting a company are faced with the question of whether or not to invest in establishing their company on the web.

Some companies, like Amazon, sell their products exclusively online, and many commercial companies have online buying options. Though it may be harder for small businesses to know if they should maintain an online presence, it’s a decision that can define their new company and determine their success.

Although every business is different and every company has its unique needs, listed below are the best approaches for three types of businesses that can inspire you to follow suit and start your business the right way.

Eyewear Markets: Online vs. In-Person

One of the many industries impacted by the online market is eyewear companies. Before, you went to your eye doctor, and they almost exclusively provided you with your eyewear. However, you can now buy glasses and contacts online. Even though these markets are in direct competition with each other, there is enough need for both of them that they can coexist.

Many insurance companies offer vision plans that include either glasses or contacts every other year, depending on the plan. This allows patients to get their eye exams and eyewear in one convenient location. Regardless of the stock online, people take advantage of their insurance plan and get their eyewear when they get their eyes checked.

The online market survives because of those who lack insurance and because of those who need more than the eyewear their insurance plan offers them. Most people need to refill their contacts or get a second pair of glasses before their insurance will pay for them, and buying glasses online can save customers a lot of money.

Here is an example of a market where your business could thrive whether you sell your products online or in person. You can boast quality, the opportunity to try endless pairs of glasses in person, and paying little to none for eye-wear with an insurance plan when you sell in person. Online, you can brag about convenience and bargain prices, which appeal to those shoppers who try to save money online.

Estate Sale Companies: Websites as an Asset to Your Company

Some business ideas seem like there is an obvious answer for a business model, such as estate sale companies, which one would assume that this business model could easily be done in person. You find an estate sale to manage, you help sell the items, and you move on to the next estate to manage.

However,  there is rarely one sole solution in the business world. When starting an estate sale company, you need to first consider how to get estates to hire you to manage their sale. Making a website can help show off your value to potential clients by making you seem more professional and organized.

Once you have a client, you need to get people to come to the sale. Again, having an online presence can help reach more potential customers, not only by reaching a larger audience to come to the sale, but you can also put items up for sale on the website and have people buy online. This can be especially useful for quality items that are more expensive.

Record Stores: Exclusive Content and Inventory

Record stores have survived the digitalization of music on the basis of nostalgia and quality sound. You may think starting a record selling business relies mostly on in-person clientele, but one record selling company might have you rethinking that.

Vinyl Me, Please offers its customers a featured record every month through a subscription based business model. Matt Fiedler, co-founder of the company explains that his company is able to offer its customers exclusive products offered only to their customers by working directly with artists, rather than buying bulk product.

“Everything that we do is pressed exclusively for our members, and there are things about it that you can’t get anywhere else; colored vinyl or bonus tracks, or even a record that’s just not available anywhere else, as in we’re the exclusive de facto retailer of that record.”

Additionally, Fiedler explains some of the special inventory needs that subscription companies are faced with; with an 8-week lead time designated for each record release, inventory can be difficult to calculate.

“What we do is put in an initial order, almost like a minimum order, and that’s enough to get the production started,“ he says. “And what we’ll do in many cases is, in the months leading up to that record being featured, we’ll go back and refine our order—increase or decrease it accordingly.”

The success of Vinyl Me, Please has got the company 20,000 monthly subscribers, and the numbers keep going up. Another issue of such a successful subscription company is paying for the inventory. Fiedler explains that about half of their profits currently go into paying for the next month’s product, which is a considerable amount considering other costs such as payroll and overhead.

What You Can Learn From These Companies

  • If you have a preference between selling online or in person, go with your gut. Online markets are becoming increasingly popular as they offer convenience and lower prices, plus you won’t have to rent out a space for selling. There is no right or wrong way when thinking up your business, and being creative can pay off and make you stand out to your customers.


  • Even if you choose to sell in person, it’s almost always a good idea to have an internet option for your clients. Creating a website and selling at least some products online dramatically increases the range of potential customers and engages users from the get-go. Not only can anyone with internet access look at your website, but it can be a channel for easy—or even free—marketing.


  • Simply including a website can dramatically open marketing options for your business. Not only does that include social media sharing, but SEO, online advertisements, and content creation. Additionally, if you choose to create a presence on social media, it can provide a simple and painless line of communication between your company and your customers.   


  • Increasing potential customers online means increasing inventory, which can be difficult to maintain. Taking out loans are a typically unavoidable when starting a small business, and they can be an unneeded source of stress for small business owners struggling to get one. If you are going to start a company online, make sure you have the means to supply the demands.


  • Unless the aim of your company is to be completely brick and mortar, local, and hard-to-find (aka exclusive), then including a website can give your company a boost that can only help. Once you have created a product you love, you want to open as many channels as possible so that others can love it as well.

About the author:

Avery-Taylor Phillips is a magnificent freelance writer. You can contact her @ alorphillips@gmail.com

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