Global online retail is growing. Just look at Amazon. The company has “been a major enabler of the growth in online shopping,” according to CNBC. While it can be a hard pill to swallow, the truth is that many brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling, including many famous ones.

Recent store closings include all 650 Dressbarn stores, a nearly 60-year-old business. Other retailers closing stores include Lowes, Mattress Firm, Toys R Us and Pier 1 Imports. Even Gap, Victorias Secret and Tesla are planning to scale back store locations.

As a result, I believe e-commerce is now an essential approach for independent professionals and businesses to consider. Online sales just keep growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of e-commerce sales has enjoyed straight-line growth since 2010, with a 4.2% increase from the first to the second quarter of 2019.

In addition to working with many local business owners, I’ve personally advertised my own businesses on and offline, including financial funds, books, medical services, real estate and software.

For now, some believe that certain services still seem to require an in-person presence (think dentists, medical doctors and hospitals). However, I’ve observed these businesses are increasingly relying on the strength of their online presence to survive offline.

From my perspective, this shows that no industry is untouched by new technology and shopping habits. And as many organizations adapt, it’s important to note that almost half of U.S. small businesses still do not even have a website according to a 2017 survey by CNBC and SurveyMonkey. Fortunately, there still seems to be plenty of growth coming to e-commerce, so there is still time for you to create a strategy that sets your company up with a successful online presence.

The Ease And Challenges Of E-Commerce Today

It has both never been easier or harder to move a business online as it is today.

On one hand, you have access to endless do-it-yourself website building tools, many of which are practically free. There’s also social media which enables even small businesses to have a global reach and get in front of millions of prospective customers in minutes from a mobile phone anywhere.

This has all created new challenges, too. There are now many more competitors. Consumer expectations are far higher. They expect great-looking and highly functional websites. They want to be able to buy online, set appointments online and live chat with real humans (or chatbots that seem human). They expect a seamless online and offline experience across all their devices.

In turn, online marketing has become much more expensive, and trying to figure out SEO and social media can sometimes feel like a full-time job. It takes work and investment to launch an e-commerce site that is effective and also doesn’t turn people off while soaking up precious dollars.

How To Get Started

Between strong consumer spending, global reach, population growth and the adoption of online shopping, I believe professionals and businesses of all sizes have a lot of potential if they build an online presence. Throughout my time getting my own businesses online, I’ve learned a few lessons to keep in mind.

Your first option is to build your online presence yourself. But before you opt for the DIY route, make sure you calculate the value of your time and return on investment. This is because if you don’t have much experience building websites, advertising online, etc., you run the risk of throwing thousands of dollars worth of your time into it and still not end up with the best results.

This is why I’ve seen some businesses rely on digital marketing and e-commerce experts for help. If you choose to hire someone, get out of the way and let these professionals do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Whether you choose the DIY option or hiring an outside expert, always dedicate a sufficient budget to making the product work. And continue to solicit feedback and listen to what customers want from these new experiences and what turns them off.

Done right, your boutique, medical practice, clinic or stand-alone business has the potential to serve many more customers from anywhere in the world.

The world of shopping, medicine and investing is all changing — and fast. There is still great opportunity for retailers, physicians, solo entrepreneurs and other organizations to benefit from this digital evolution.