Fortunately, there are a number of ways for brick-and-mortar stores to simplify this difficult process.
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Our current public-health crisis has resulted in a drastic shift in consumer spending habits, with stay-in-place orders drastically increasing demand for sanitary products and other household supplies, as well as entertainment options like board games and video games. And it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of these purchases are happening online.
For brick-and-mortar stores, the loss of foot traffic can be devastating. After an initial spike in foot traffic when people were stocking up on supplies, even major retailers like Costco and Walmart are seeing a notable drop. That’s why a robust online presence is a must for any small retail businesses hoping to sustain revenue. The sooner you can move your inventory online, the better your chances of reducing detrimental financial impact. Here’s how to make it happen.
1. Use the right e-commerce platform.
The fastest way to get an online version of your store up and running is to integrate your site with a dedicated ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. Such platforms allow you to set up your own secure ecommerce store with a few clicks, and make it easier to customize a design that best matches your branding.
Just like when customers entered your physical store, you will still be responsible for the whole of their experience. You will need to monitor orders, as well as shipping and payment status, to ensure that inventory is sent out in a timely manner. Consider checkout options that will allow you to accommodate the needs of local customers, such as curbside pickup or expedited delivery.
2. Be mindful of additional platforms beyond your website.
Stephen Baird, co-founder and CEO of TrackFly, recently explained via email, “Your own website should really just be the starting point for where you sell your products online. Using social media and niche platforms gives you more meaningful opportunities to reach your customers.”
In times when cash flow is a serious concern, it is important to investigate the variable costs associated with various third-party platforms. A specialized reseller that is more focused on your target audience may not reach as many people as Amazon, but it could ultimately drive more sales thanks to better targeting, while also allowing you to keep more of the profits.
3. Provide as much product detail as possible.
Even with ecommerce’s increased popularity, many shoppers still prefer to buy in-store when possible. Research from Retail Dive indicates that 62 percent of customers share a desire to see, touch or try out the items in person. While you can’t fully replicate that experience online, you can come closer by giving detailed product descriptions.
This can include photos staged in attractive lighting and bullet-point lists describing the product’s features. Many third-party products already have detailed information available online that you can use. For custom products unique to your store, use successful ecommerce platforms in your niche for inspiration to decide which details will best recreate the in-store shopping experience.
4. Keep your customers informed of changes.
Circumstances are changing every day. If you want your online store to gain traction, you must keep your customers informed of these changes through every avenue available. Email lists, social media posts and updates to your website and Google My Business profile will help keep customers better informed about your store’s status and the new availability of online shopping.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to area news media. Many local publications are providing their readers with updated lists of changes businesses are making to continue serving their customers. The more methods you use to reach out to your local audience, the easier it will be for them to discover your online store.
Even “old-school” methods can prove effective as you make this transition. In an interview with Search Engine Land, Mary Bowling, co-founder of Ignitor Digital shared, “I was walking around, and just about every business that’s closed has some kind of notice from the owner on its door with their phone number on it saying, ‘If you need something, call me,’ and to me, that’s a really good way to deal with it.”
Even before our new normal, an increasing number of customers were choosing to do their shopping online. This trend will likely be even more pronounced after the economy reopens. For brick-and-mortar retailers, a shift to include online sales today will help you be better positioned for the future.