Over the last few days I have been reviewing our advertiser and hobby shop dealer accounts as we move to a new on line accounting system. In that process, I had to confirm all our advertisers and dealers web sites and email addresses. During that process, I saw many sites where the owners had not invested much time or effort into building a good web site. Some didn't even have a web store!
I saw many web site owners who do not understand how to control web traffic and send their web visitors to the pages within their site that they want them to see. For example, it makes no sense to have a manufacturers logo on your home page, with a link to that manufacturers web site. You got someone to visit your web site, and then you send them off to some other web site elsewhere on the internet? That reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of what a web site is for, yet I saw several sites like that in my recent work.
In today's on line world, investing money in a GOOD web site will yield huge returns. But many of the businesses in this hobby truly are small mom and pop businesses, and the owners may be older than the national average. They have run their businesses for decades without the internet, so they don't understand the big payoff in having a good web site with a good web store. You don't miss what you never had.
I once offered to build a web site for a local hobby shop. They had a great brick and mortar store, but no internet presence at all. I offered to build the web site for free just because I wanted to see this local shop succeed. The owner of the shop, who was over 70 years old at the time, asked me how he would get the orders that would come in off the web site. I explained that they would come in via email, with all the information in the email for the ordered items and the shipping information. His response was, "I don't want to have to check email every day." He didn't understand what the internet could do for his sales, but he DID understand that checking his email was an unpleasant task because the technology was new to him. Consequently that site never got built.
A couple of years later, the owner tried to sell the store and retire, but business levels had dropped so low that he had no takers. With only local, walk-in trade supporting the store and no web presence, a new owner would have had a huge hill to climb to make the store profitable. Predictably, the store is now closed and gone.
Those business owners who understand the internet and have built good web sites reap the rewards of that effort. And it is a HUGE effort, in both time and money. It takes thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to produce good web site, and the payoff is not immediate. It can take a year or two to see sales increase enough to justify the development costs. But once the on-line sales start, it establishes an entirely new revenue stream for a hobby shop that they otherwise would not have. More sales is always a good thing for a hobby shop!
As a society, our shopping habits have changed over the last 10-15 years. Where we once jumped in the car and went to the store, we now do most of our shopping in the comfort of our home via the internet. Last year, I did all my Christmas shopping with my iPad, in the comfort of my recliner. In responding to that change, any hobby merchant in business today who does not have a good web presence and on-line store, is ultimately destined to fail.