How Missoula Locals Are Taking Advantage of Online Business

on It’s been felt all over the world as e-commerce has taken root in every corner of the globe. Missoula is no exception with local business owners using e-commerce to their advantage.

Small Business Saturday is a chance for people to give back to their local communities. It’s about making an effort to support mom-and-pop stores in your area, some of which have been going for decades. On that same long weekend is Cyber Monday. There’s a contrast between the two days, a taste of the old and the new. You might think that the two events run in opposition to one another but that may not be the case.

Local businesses in the Missoula area are taking advantage of both online and in-person sales. In an ideal world, the two sides of the business should work together and some local business owners are making sure of just that.

“We do sell online,” says Heather Kreilick, co-owner of Lake Missoula Tea Company. “Our online sales are going up and they’ve been going up every year here since 2012.”

“We have a lot of really good content and customers online. We also work on our relationships with our customers. They know we’re going out there and digging in. It’s all about trust.”

“The more energy you put into the website, the more repeat customers you’ll have”

And Kreilick isn’t alone. Some other Missoula natives are noticing a clear improvement in their online sales figures.

“We beat last year,” said Sarah Allen, owner of Mood Boutique on Higgins Ave. “We were up 15% in sales from 2018.”

This is part of a wider trend. Back in 2001, just 1% of retail sales in the United States were completed online. But in 2019, that figure has risen to 16%. That may not sound like much but when we’re talking about the total amount of business done in the country, it’s a staggering amount of money.

But admittedly, much of it is going to online companies. Amazon and eBay are the two that immediately come to mind as the best examples of online retailers. Those two, in particular, have had tremendous success with Amazon’s annual revenue increasing by over 20 times between 2006 and 2018.

But it’s not just about raw sales data. Other businesses are using the internet in other ways. The Missoula Wine Merchants have utilised their web presence to grow their business in person, encouraging people to sign-up to its local wine club.

This kind of internet use certainly isn’t unique. Many companies will use their online presence as a way to increase foot traffic. This is achieved in a number of ways, either through simply advertising online or using something like Buy Online Pay In-Store or BOPIS. One company which does BOPIS better than almost any other is Kohl’s, offering up free reserved parking for its BOPIS customers. A customer who shows up in person is far likelier to buy something else than one who just paid online and had their order delivered.

Another good way to utilise the internet and bricks-and-mortar buildings in tangent is to operate in another country. This is particularly useful for services that can be online-only such as taxes or legal advice. One good example of this is the online casino and bookmakers Betway which operates in the UK but is based in Guernsey. Other companies like the Baltic International Bank have had considerable success with their remote work.

Some Missoula-based firms are certainly taking to the digital landscape. Digital Marketing Missoula offers a range of services such as web design, SEO, and web hosting to a range of local and national clients. It’s simple enough to get set up and offer online services in sectors like digital marketing but it’s not for everyone. Some businesses just need a competitive bricks-and-mortar headquarters in order to thrive.

“We rely very heavily on foot traffic,” says one of the Missoula Wine Merchants employees, Erin White.

“We’re obviously brick and mortar, but we can’t sell wine online. That requires different distribution and liquor laws in Montana. We’re interested in wine growers who have a good story.”

The internet has changed everything but thankfully, it looks like many Missoula businesses are rolling with the tide. Let’s hope that continues to happen because a strong digital presence is vital for almost every business today.