In this time of uncertainty, businesses of all sizes are working to adapt quickly to a changing economy.
One of the most common ways small businesses are navigating the global COVID-19 pandemic is by transitioning to selling online.
Why Making the Transition From Brick-And-Mortar to Online Store Makes Sense During COVID-19 and Long Term
There are many benefits to taking your store online in both the short and long term that make the process worthwhile. For the short term, the most obvious benefit of taking your store online is that you’ll still be able to generate sales under the current government mandated business closures. You’ll also be able to keep customers at safe distances while still giving them a way to support your business. Anyone with an internet connection will be able to view your eCommerce store, which means you can sell on a local, national, or even global scale.
Once business resumes as usual, you can take advantage of what’s known as omnichannel retail. With both a physical and online store in place, you can offer things like BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), offer online returns and exchanges in store, and more to enhance the overall shopping experience for your customers.
While we don’t know what the world will look and feel like post-COVID, diversifying your business now is a smart move to make. It’s difficult to say how exactly consumer habits will change once stay-at-home orders are lifted, but having more than one way to reach your customers and generate revenue will likely benefit you for years to come.
Setting up and managing an online eCommerce store doesn’t have to be complicated — there are many tools out there designed to make it easy. You can have your online store open for business as early as tomorrow by following these guidelines.
How to Transition From a Brick-And-Mortar to an Online Store
In order to take your business online, there are a number of big decisions you need to make and factors to consider. We recognize that every business has different needs and priorities, so we’ve listed the most important ones for any type of business to take into consideration.
Platform selection is the biggest step in taking your brick-and-mortar store to an online store. If you already have a website for your business, start your search there. Most web hosting services have an eCommerce plugin that you can add to the existing site. If the eCommerce plugin can connect to your point of sale system, it may be even easier to start your online store.
If you don’t have an existing website, you can check to see if your point of sale system integrates into an eCommerce platform. For example, if you’re a ShopKeep customer, you can set up an online store thanks to our partnership with Ecwid. This allows for a quick and seamless transition from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce. Your existing store inventory will sync with your online store, and which will make for an easier management process across both sales channels.
If you don’t have a website or a POS system, you can start your search anywhere. Here is a comparison chart of today’s leading eCommerce platforms to help you get started.
Once you’ve narrowed down your platform options, it’s not a bad idea to get answers to these questions before making a final decision:
- What is the total cost? How much does it cost for the eCommerce platform, a website host, and a custom domain name?
- Is it scalable enough to continue supporting my business as I grow it?
- Is it easy to install and use?
- How flexible is its design? Will I be able to achieve the exact look I want for my storefront?
- How many products am I selling, and how many products can I add to the platform?
- Does it come with built-in security, like HTTPS and PCI compliance? Does that cost extra?
- Does it come with customer support, and if so, during what hours? Is there an extra cost for support?
- Will it support my desktop shoppers as well as mobile shoppers? Are its themes and templates responsive, resizing automatically based on the shopper’s device?
- Can it integrate with my existing business systems, or third-party integrations I may need, like my current shipping, accounting, and POS systems?
- Can I easily link my online inventory to create shoppable posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram?
Online vs In-Store Inventory
You’ll need to decide which products from your brick-and-mortar store will be sold online.
Some products have restrictions that prohibit or limit them from being sold digitally. Aside from items that have legal restrictions, you may find that some of your in-store inventory wouldn’t make as much sense to sell online, such as impulse buys placed near your register. On the flip side, selling online has some advantages that selling in store doesn’t, like identifying niche products to sell in your online shop that you wouldn’t otherwise sell in your store.
Shipping and Fulfillment
Opening an online store means getting a product to your customer is no longer as easy as bagging it and handing it across the checkout counter. There are two ways to go about shipping and fulfillment. The first is to take on the packaging and shipping yourself. The second option would be to leverage a third party service who would warehouse, pack, and dropship online orders directly to your customers on your behalf. To simplify the process, try to select a provider that can integrate directly into your eCommerce platform that will give you a host of shipping options with just a few clicks, like ShipperHQ. Whether you’re shipping goods yourself or working with a third party service, make sure that proper steps are taken to sanitize your products and packaging before they are sent out.
You’re opening a new sales channel, which means someone needs to manage it. As a business owner, that someone is often you. Make sure you have a solid understanding of how your new eCommerce channel operates and don’t be afraid to let someone more tech-savvy help out if needed.
It’s always important to keep your customers and community in the loop, and that’s true now more than ever. How will you spread the word about your new online store? What’s the best and fastest way to reach your audience? Are there any ways that your eCommerce platform can automate some marketing efforts for you? Look for features like shoppable posts, online listings management, and email marketing in your eCommerce platform or POS software packages to start building your marketing strategy for your online store.
Using Your POS for a Seamless Transition from Brick-and-Mortar to eCommerce
For a fast and easy transition from brick-and-mortar to online, the best tool to have in place is a point of sale system. An in-store POS system that links to an eCommerce platform can do everything from inventory updates to payments and tax collection for both your physical and online businesses at the same time. To adapt quickly during COVID-19, it’s key to choose an eCommerce platform that’s both easy to use and allows for seamless communication between your online store and your brick-and-mortar business.
Looking to Run Your Business Online and In-Store?
As part of our efforts to ease the transition from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce during COVID-19, ShopKeep has made Ecwid eCommerce features free for our customers. Visit our eCommerce Support guide to set up an online store that connects to your existing inventory in a matter of minutes.