How to move your brick and mortar business online
Just last year most local brick and mortar businesses stayed offline in an effort to focus on in-store sales, but with nationwide shutdowns and uncertainty around face to face transactions, more neighborhood businesses are moving online. Good news for anyone who already has a website and is doing business online; shopping on the internet is up over 76% in June! Not so good for stores that rely on foot traffic or in-store promotions to sell products.
Customer confidence is up and we are seeing more and more people making the move to buying different types of items online. From clothing stores to corner markets, all businesses can benefit from offering their products and services online. Even businesses that traditionally would not be involved in home delivery are finding that the added service is expanding their local business and making them extra money. If you are willing to ship, you can promote your products worldwide. Bottom line, There has never been a better time to move your brick and mortar business online.
6 Steps to moving your business online
Step 1 – Decide what products you are going to sell online and compile as much information and good photos of them as you can. Leave no stone unturned, think about what your customer needs to know, but also think about shipping fees and box sizes. It should go without saying that products that have a lot of information and good photos are going to sell better online than products with basic info and bad pics. Good planning in this stage will save you time and money in the long run as these are all things your web designer or online marketplace is going to need.
Step 2 – Decide where you will be warehousing your products. If you plan on keeping your brick and mortar open this is less of an issue but should still be planned for. There are also services that will warehouse and fulfill your products for you. This is an added cost but can end up being cheaper than renting a storage space or keeping your storefront open.
Step 3 – Decide where you are going to sell online. This is an important choice. Marketplaces like eBay, Depop, Etsy, Amazon, and even Wallmart will list your items for sale online but the hefty fees can make turning a profit next to impossible. Especially on items with a low volume and tight margins. You can also try to build your own website with an online storefront from Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, etc. I, of course, recommend you hire a web designer that has experience with fully functional e-commerce platforms, search engine optimization techniques, and online marketing for local businesses as well as ADA and CCPA compliance (I may be available).
You will want to track your web traffic too, so be sure you address web stats and reporting with your designer. Utilizing site data is one of the best ways to get to know your online customers and provides insights that are vital when it comes to understanding their needs and preferences. I could go on and on about the benefits of data-driven insights but will leave that for a later article.
Processing payments online is now more safe and secure than ever before and the fees are comparable if not cheaper than running debit and credit cards. Using multiple payment processors like PayPal, Square, Venmo and even Bitcoin is a good idea. Some people prefer Venmo or Square over Paypal however, Paypal is still the most widely used payment platform on the web.
Step 4 – Make a budget. You will need to plan for your website, domain name, hosting, advertising, delivery person, and a number of other incidentals. Running an online business doesn’t have the monthly overhead of a brick and mortar but the startup costs can seem high. Planning is one of the keys to success for any business. I also recommend you talk with a tax professional or accountant so you also fully understand how online taxes work.
Step 5 – Build content and promote it. Always build content. Even if you are selling on a site with tons of traffic, your content will set you apart. Content is what brings people to your website. It could be cute videos showcasing what you sell or how to’s on using your products. Whatever it is make sure it is targeted directly at your base customer. The more content you build and the more you publish your content (to your website and to social media) the better chance you have of being successful and growing your customer base.
Step 6 – Promote your business!
- Notify your longtime customers. Nothing is a better boost to online traffic and sales than letting your longtime supporters know that you are doing business online. If you are a neighborhood store reach out to regulars by phone or email.
- Post to social media, having active social media accounts is a signal to search engine that your business is relevant
- Join online directories and niche-specific forums
- Advertise in and out of your brick and mortar store (if possible)
- Update your Google Maps (if you are not already using it, shame on you)
Direct to product printers and drop shipping
You can not really talk about selling online and not mention print-on-demand services. These print houses offer various mugs, t-shirts, and other printable products customized to suit your needs. They make getting t-shirts and stickers for your business a breeze and are a great supplement to your old brick and mortar products. Some of these services make it possible to start a business in a day, without any money or any product. All you need is designs and ideas.