By Lucid Fusion

Having a prime piece of real-estate has long been considered one of the foremost deciding factors of success for many businesses. After all, when so much of reaching and winning new customers depends on getting eyes on your brand and being accessible, what could be more effective than staking a claim along the busiest thoroughfare in town?

While sound in theory (and effective in the short-term), this construct has always proven to be a challenge for growth-minded businesses. Expanding into new locations or territories, has traditionally required a business to establish a whole new physical presence that caters to a new segment of customers, an endeavor which carries a lot of financial and logistical challenges. Add to that the myriad rules, regulations, and cultural nuances of international expansion, and the risk quotient increases exponentially.

The good news is that this emphasis on “location, location, location”—especially as it relates to successful sales and business growth—is waning. That’s because the Digital Age is redefining pretty much everything we know about doing business. And while location does still matter, consumers around the world are becoming savvier about the products and services they want, and less concerned about where the businesses that provide them are located. To see the most impressive evidence of this shift, you need only look at the numbers: 81% of consumers research online before making purchases, 93% of people who research online go on to make a purchase, and 62% of them make those purchases directly online via desktops, tablets, or smartphones.

Retail eCommerce revenue accounted for $1.671 trillion worldwide in 2015!

Businesses that want to extend their reach into the global marketplace (but might not be ready to take the plunge into full-scale business export or expansion) should be shifting their focus from building up new locations to creating centralized, but far-reaching presences through eCommerce. Here are three reasons why.

1. The unstoppable current of connectivity

You’re able to view this post right now because you’re connected to the internet—and you’re not alone. There are currently more than 3.3 billion internet users worldwide, representing nearly half of the global population. In North America alone, connected consumers account for 87.9% of the entire population! This number has been steadily on the rise since 2000, and will only continue to do so as countries become more modernized and infrastructures grow throughout the world. Connectivity is the new standard, and its ubiquity is changing consumer expectations about brand interactions and the buying process itself. Consequently, these new buying behaviors are reshaping how businesses effectively reach and engage connected consumers. Which brings us to…

2. The new path to purchase

Both B2B and B2C businesses are familiar with some form of the sales/purchase funnel, which defines the process by which a prospect ultimately becomes a customer. However, connectivity is effectively flipping this once tried-and-true model on its head. Because consumers are connected, they have an entire world of information, products, and services at their fingertips; they’re used to accessing much of the data they need to make buying decisions on their own, and they’re equipped to enter, leave, or reenter the sales cycle at any stage. While this means that there’s no longer a linear path to purchase, we do know where these savvy consumers begin: Google research reveals that—even if they plan to buy in a brick-and-mortar store—connected consumers (which we’ve already identified as at least half of the global population) start online, and spend more than 15 hours a week on this research.

3. The Millennial influence on online shopping

Not only are U.S. Millennials now the largest living generation (representing more than one quarter of the nation’s population), they’re also poised to outspend Baby Boomers in next year. It’s this generation of digital natives that is driving the rapid adoption of online shopping behavior. Indeed, research shows that Millennials are more likely to spend their money online than previous generations, and their influence is actively setting new benchmarks and expectations about buying behavior. During Thanksgiving weekend 2015, for example, the number of people shopping online surpassed the number of people shopping in-store for the first time ever. As technology evolves and the number of digital natives grows, we can expect this scenario to become more and more common.

The internet has helped to make the world a smaller place. No longer do businesses and brands have to focus on conquering the map by establishing physical outposts and winning local consumers region by region. The real global marketplace is online where the habits and preferences of connected consumers are reshaping the landscape of commerce. The fact is that, as connectivity continues to grow around the world, so too will the number of consumers who look to the global market to find what they want. In order to scale, grow, and reach as many customers as possible, today’s savvy businesses need to be where consumers are waiting. Considering that retail eCommerce revenue accounted for $1.671 trillion worldwide in 2015 (and is expected to more than double to $3.578 trillion by 2019), that place is online.

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