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 can be a big change, there are a number of steps you can take to ease the transition. Here’s how to get started bringing your brick-and-mortar business online.
Set up selling online
If you aren’t already online, you don’t need technical skills to get started — 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 for how to set up your online store.
Strategize fulfillment and beyond
Before the online orders come in, you need systems in place to sort and count products, manage packaging, and ship and deliver orders. You should create an omnichannel retail strategy that includes the following:
- Online inventory prep: Fulfilling online orders may change the way you manage inventory. 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 delivery or pickup. 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 fulfill online orders? You may also need to train staff in new fulfillment procedures.
Stay Golden, a Nashville-based bar, restaurant, and coffee shop, has adapted to its community’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic by setting up an online ordering page with Square. The team provides “survival packs” — family-style dinners, reheatable meals, cocktails, and pantry staples from wholesale inventory like flour, butter, and toilet paper — that customers can order online and pick up curbside.
The online offerings and curbside pickup have been so widely utilized that co-owner Jamie Cunningham says they’ll continue to offer it when operations shift long-term.
You’ll need to adapt your day-to-day operations if your business becomes more heavily dependent on eCommerce. Don’t be afraid to try new ways of working, ask your staff to work in a different way, or update your product offering. Be creative, and see what works and what doesn’t.
Lemon Laine, a Houston- and Nashville-based brick-and-mortar beauty retailer added a text-to-order operation after shuttering its physical locations. With over 400 SKUs and 20 product lines, owner Laura Lemon said it was crucial to keep her knowledgeable employees on staff.
Now customers can text to order their favorite products and chat with employees for recommendations by phone. Once an order is confirmed, customers are sent an invoice, and orders are shipped for a flat fee, fulfilled by staff in Lemon Laine’s retail shops.
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 favorite ideas:
Get active on social
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great, free ways to keep your customers up to date on business operations, product and service offerings, sales, and more.
In addition to posting new product offerings on Instagram, Lemon Laine has shifted its regular educational wellness events online, which allows it to continue to provide some of its favorite events for customers but at a healthy distance.
Live streaming on Facebook or Instagram provides a chance to connect face to face with followers. 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.
Tutu School, a children’s dance school with over 40 locations nationwide, has shifted to streaming online classes to clients and providing families with activities to keep little ones entertained throughout the day.
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 are able to keep your doors open as an essential business, your assistance is greatly appreciated.
San Francisco–based coffee and roastery Andytown is encouraging customers to purchase coffee and pastries that its staff delivers to healthcare professionals working at hospitals and senior care facilities. The revenue from this program is helping Andytown keep afloat.
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 remote working 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 game nights.
- Learn something new: If business operations have slowed, and you have the means, it may be a great time to learn something new as a team. Consider offering a workshop or virtual skill-share swap session with other local businesses.
Keep it real
These are challenging times for everyone. Share your learnings and your current struggles with 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.