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Should You Avoid Selling Online?

December 5, 2019
Author: Jasmine Waters

In the wake of Black Friday, many of us have spent our weekend scouring the web for the last (or first) bits of Christmas shopping. But in the digital age, is there really a need to be online at all? There is now a shift in brands becoming ‘anti-online’ – citing themselves to be more successful without it. With most media portals encouraging sellers to stick to the World Wide Web, what are the reasons for opting for brick-and-mortar only?

What are the problems with online?

At Christmas in particular, almost 75% of UK consumers will buy their gifts online, but six in ten retailers are badly affected by the number returning said online bought items. The ease of online shopping has undoubtedly changed customer behaviour, although more than a fifth of retailers are choosing not to sell online at all. One of the main reasons for this clean break is concerns over managing the delivery and returns themselves. It’s thought that at least 30% of consumers deliberately over-shop in order to be able to return goods for free, and 47% wouldn’t order at all if they had to foot the bill. These returns can prove to be up to six times more expensive than those conducted in store. This is one of the many reasons why physical stores still have a position of power over their digital counterparts, despite footfall perhaps slowing overall.

Have brands abandoned online successfully?

Primark is a fantastic example of how a business can succeed with a limited online presence. Some could argue their national reach is stunted by the fact that its products are not sold via a website, but its business model doesn’t lend itself to e-commerce - you can browse online, but to make a purchase you’d need to head to your nearest store. The company is able to increase its profit margins (as they sell at relatively low prices) by making costs back by not having the costs of online returns or shipping. The typical Primark shopper buys in larger quantities, and its business model is perfectly structured to get the best out of this, relying on high volume at lower prices. This also feeds into the consumer’s want to keep hold of physical interaction, with the Primark shopping experience holding similarities to traditional shopping groceries, going back to the immediate connection between consumer and product, with a basket in hand. In the new era of attempting to strip things back to simplicity, the potential benefits of being a physical only brand can certainly be seen.


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