Business Growth in the Internet Age: When to Take an Online Store Offline

It’s the age of the internet start-up. You probably created your business on very little money, promoted it through social media, and were diligent and lucky enough to find an audience. If you’re making money online, congratulations! Little over 3 percent of small businesses survive their first 5 years, so rising profits are something to celebrate. In this day and age, there are many successful online businesses who remain completely pure play (online-only giants like Amazon and Netflix). But strangely enough, the tide has shifted towards online businesses going offline.

Forbes Magazine recently reported on the rise of omni-channel retail. Not only are more offline stores focused on their online presence, online stores are beginning to see the benefits of having a location. You might think opening a store is out of your league, but is it? Have you had a positive response and huge demand for your product online? How do you know when you should be taking your business to that level?

ebay offline store
photo credit: ebayink

Why Offline Makes Sense

Internet technology has changed very rapidly in the past 20 years, and so has retail. As soon as the floodgates were open and online shopping became a cultural and economic norm, it became easier for the internet to get too crowded.

Because of how simple and cheap it is to launch an online business, many consumers still see a lack of credibility, and even the successful pure play stores can run out of room to grow. Plus, how much of internet retail is reliant on hype? A recent study by NPD group found that 81 percent of spending by millennials is done in stores, while only 19 percent is done online. If you’re overwhelmed with orders, shipments, and customer demand for your product, just think – there could be a much, much larger customer base out there that you have yet to tap into at all.

Getting Started

Just because you’re great at running an online business doesn’t mean you’ve mastered what it takes to run an offline business, and that can be a little overwhelming. But understanding the basic important elements is simple.

Your main concern is location. Can you find an affordable spot in a safe neighborhood, near other businesses people frequent? Check the Small Business Administration site to find out about getting grants and loans and what you need to know about operating a small store in your area. Your proven online success should have getting approved much easier as long as you have adequate records and good credit standing. Once you can secure funds, you can officially bring your part-time staff aboard. But don’t forget business insurance concerns. Operating an offline location will lead to the need for property insurance, worker’s compensation, and company insurance for delivery vehicles. You can find company insurance at and other internet resources for business insurance needs. Most importantly, when you’re hiring staff, don’t forget the accountant. If you haven’t had someone on board to help you with your finances before, it definitely won’t be optional now.

Advertising Offline

Opening a store will open you up to a whole new world of advertising opportunities and necessities. Online businesses are no guarantee of success, and the prevalence of online advertising is just as overhyped as internet sales. The majority of big companies still use mostly offline methods like radio, television, and print ads, and if you’ve never ventured into these territories before, it can be daunting. You may have to set aside more of your budget than usual for advertising, but you shouldn’t neglect your online customer base either.

Omni-channel retail means having a symbiotic ad platform where internet consumers are introduced to your offline presence and local consumers are introduced to both your website and your store. Whether this is through Facebook, email, roadside banners, or magnets on the sides of cars, it really doesn’t matter.

Opening a store can seem like a big step, but the aim of starting a business should always be to grow that business. The trick is knowing the right pace and whether your particular product would have a place in the world of local business. If your online sales demonstrate a growing demand for new products and wider availability, it may be time to start thinking about moving your brand name from a monitor to a window. Don’t underestimate yourself. While most business owners are learning to accept failure, learning to accept success can be even more important.

About the Author: Amy Thomson is a blogger for, a leading UK insurance comparison site helping you save money on your business policy needs. Follow her on Twitter @VroomVroomAmy.