Timely resources for sellers

How to Shift Your Brick-and-Mortar Business to eCommerce

Alise Bailey, Editor
Square

While much of the population is staying home in recent months, businesses are adapting in new ways to connect with and serve their customers.

If you own a brick-and-mortar business, you may have begun shifting online to continue to sell your products and services. While the change to virtual team meetings and eCommerce for retail can be a big change, there are several steps you can take to ease the transition. Here’s how to get started bringing your brick-and-mortar to online.

Go omnichannel

Set up selling online

If you aren’t already online, you don’t need technical skills to know how to shift from brick and mortar to an eCommerce website — and it’s a solid move for your business. Here are a few options.

  • Sell with a website:
  • Sell over email: You can send email to customers with checkout links included.

  • Sell on Instagram: Create shoppable posts of your products on Instagram.

Here are some tips on how to start an online store.

Strategise fulfilment and beyond

Before you shift from brick and mortar to online, you need systems in place to sort and count products, manage packaging, accept payments and ship and deliver orders. You should create an omnichannel retail strategy that includes the following:

  • Online inventory prep: Fulfilling orders may change the way you manage inventory from brick-and-mortar to online. Be sure to add omnichannel inventory management to your current inventory management practices.
  • Shipping and return measures: Will you offer free shipping? How will you handle the inevitable occasional return? Have a plan in place to ensure customers have a positive experience from start to finish.
  • Delivery and pickup options: If you’re a restaurant or retail business with local customers, you can add local pickup or delivery solutions apps like Deliverect through our app marketplace integration. You can also add shipping outside of your local area if you choose to ship outside of your community.
  • Staffing: Whether you’re a one-woman show or a large team, who will manage and sell your business online? You may also need to train staff in new fulfilment procedures.
  • Invoicing: You may have to work with different vendors when you shift from brick-and-mortar to online to fulfil your orders. Square invoices makes sending detailed estimates, tracking, paying, and scheduling simple, so there is one less thing to manage during this time.

Stay flexible

You’ll need to adapt your day-to-day operations if your business becomes more heavily dependent on eCommerce for retail. Don’t be afraid to try new ways of working, ask your staff to work differently, or update your product offering. Be creative, and see what works and what doesn’t.

Connect with your community

Using this time to reach out to your local (and virtual) community is a great way to get involved and stay in touch with your customers. A few of our favourite ideas:

Get active on social

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great, free ways to grow with social media while keeping your customers up to date on business operations, product and service offerings, sales, and more.

Go live

Live streaming on Facebook or Instagram provides a chance to connect face to face with followers even if you have gone from brick-and-mortar to online. Take advantage of this to stream regular offerings (like yoga or dance class), or create unique experiences (like bringing your star bartender online to share how to make a signature cocktail) for your online community.

Offer a helping hand

If you’re able, consider getting involved in COVID-19 relief offerings in your community. Whether you donate products or services, volunteer your time, or can keep your doors open as an essential business, your assistance is greatly appreciated.

London–based Work for Good makes it possible for small businesses to donate to charities legally. They even have a list of charities your small business can support during the coronavirus lockdown, and with built-in legal permissions; Work for Good’s team solves the issues that surround business giving and enables them to start donating within minutes.

Stay in touch with staff

Even if you don’t see your employees in person each and every day, it’s important to stay in touch. Some aspects of going from brick-and-mortar to online is to keep in mind at this time:

  • Communicate early and often: It’s important that your staff is as up to date on the business as possible. Make an effort to communicate your plans with employees clearly and regularly.
  • Have some fun: Set up regular virtual coffee chats, happy hours, or pub quiz game nights.
  • Learn something new: If business operations have slowed, it may be a great time to learn something new as a team. Consider offering a workshop or virtual skill share membership session with other local businesses.

Keep it real

These are challenging times for everyone. Share your learnings and your current struggles with transitioning from brick-and-mortar to online with your customers. A recent trust study by Edelman shows that the more open you are as a business, the more you can cultivate trust and confidence with your customers. Don’t be afraid to let customers know that you’re still learning, adapting, and changing, and you’re open to suggestions.

To get more guidance and tools for your business during this time, check our resource hub.

Alise is an editor at Square, where she writes about how to start, run, and grow a business, highlighting our sellers around the world.