Overnight, the pandemic quickly highlighted the retailers who had invested in their online presence and those that had completely overlooked it. The latter is no longer an option as online is now essential for small business survival.
Now that shoppers of all price points have migrated to the digital-first mentality, your business must respond strategically to this pivot in consumer behavior.
So right now, small business owners are tasked with not only adapting to new in-store safety measures–be it adjusted store hours, in-store social distancing, and curbside pickup services–they’re also tasked with revamping their online stores (or in some cases, launching their first ecommerce site altogether).
An online shop offers customers a contact-free shopping experience, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a personalized shopping experience. Retailers realize that an online presence is the starting point in the customer journey. Your business website serves as a key platform for capturing people’s interest long before they ever physically interact with your product or service.
As COVID-19 made online shopping essential, shoppers are looking for new ways to connect with brands online. Whether it’s your shop’s charming interior or your staff’s exceptional customer service, there are ways to transfer the magic of your physical shop to your small business website. This is a great time to review your multi-channel store experience (online and offline) to make sure they complement each other and strengthen your overall brand:
- Starting an e-commerce shop might be easier than you think, especially if you already have an existing website. If you already have an established site, check whether your web hosting company already has an e-commerce plug-in. Ask your web host manager if the plug-in can be connected to your point-of-sale system. If so, you’re several steps ahead and closer to launching your online store. Starting from scratch? The first step is reserving your domain name, and then check out an easy web site builder with pre-made templates to make getting online quick and painless.
- Think through your shipping and fulfillment operations. Are you able to handle the packaging and shipping yourself? Or are you better off outsourcing this to a third party company that can store, pack and ship orders to your customers? Calculate what your monetary and time budget can handle.
- Keep your inventory organized. Distinguish between your online inventory and in-store inventory. Overtime you will get a sense of which products tend to sell more online versus your brick-and-mortar. Also, note which products might be prohibited from digital sales, or are difficult to ship due to shelf-life or size.
- Remember that the general online experience will set new expectations. Allow your customers flexibility such as offering buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) service, or allowing online returns in-store and vice versa. Remember that your goal is to make the customer path-to-purchase as seamless as possible and that now includes offering an omnichannel experience to meet your customer’s needs.
- Don’t underestimate staff training for in-store and online. Your employee’s are trained for customer service during store working hours, and you should carry this support over to your online footprint. Just as any business owner finds their days filled with bookkeeping and store management, the same is true for online customer interactions. Don’t try to do it all, train your existing staff, or designate one member as the online specialist and ensure they are trained in answering emails, phone etiquette, and fulfilling online orders. Your staff’s interaction with customers in-person and online is the most intimate expression of your brand.
- Create more than a transactional experience. Retailers must develop clear messaging and responsive customer service to leave the best first impression on their shoppers. Beyond keeping your brand positioning, messaging, and overall tone intact online, use your website to go in-depth about your brand history and your passion for your small business category. In addition to a compelling About Us page, consider adding a Blog tab to your website. Create and distribute content that would interest and educate your shoppers, be it about cars, boutique fashion or food.
- Make sure that your brick-and-mortar and online experiences continually complement each other. Review both physical and online store experience regularly.
This means never letting your in-store experience fall by the wayside. Think about offering service for your products, expert consultations, creating a branded community space, free and seamless returns, BOPIS and ensuring speedy delivery times. While ecommerce may be the future, your brick and mortar will still play an essential role, especially if you’re a small business bringing a beautiful storefront and value-add to your community.
Ready to join the ranks and get your shop online? Get started and reserve a .US domain for your small business venture today.
Written by our partners at .US domains.