The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of shopping, increasing the demand for eCommerce experiences. McKinsey & Company research shows that to keep up, businesses are quickly moving to online channels, accelerating the digitization timetable by as much as seven years.
Yet moving a brick-and-mortar business online isn’t simple. It requires strategic planning, analysis of your customers’ needs, and a long-term vision for your brand. From optimizing your website to fine-tuning your marketing goals, business owners need a holistic plan to jump into eCommerce.
Here are five steps you can take:
Assess what customers need
According to the PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey, safety is top of mind for 49% of urban consumers. The same survey shows that 86% of consumers are likely to continue shopping online even after pandemic restrictions lift.
Consumers are prioritizing both health and convenience. To remain competitive, more businesses are offering services like click and collect and curbside pickup. In fact, by August 2020, 70% of Square sellers were offering contactless payments and 40% were accepting online payments. A survey from Incisiv shows that:
- 85% of shoppers have increased curbside pickup.
- 79% of shoppers say contactless pickup is important.
- 80% of shoppers expect to use contactless and curbside pickup more in the next six months.
A smart move for business owners is to repurpose part of your premises to make it easier to facilitate these new services. Incisiv says on-demand delivery is popular with 90% of shoppers. Thankfully, there are solutions for expanding your delivery and pickup options, a number of which integrate with Square.
Fine-tune your business plan
Next, it’s time to see if the goals and deliverables set out in your original business plan still make sense and help you retain your brand value. Figure out who your customers are now by checking your website and social media analytics for demographic and interest data. This will help you decide if you’re focusing on the right target audience.
Consider how customer needs and demands will change if you’re moving from a physical to an online store. Your customers’ purchase habits may change. Your customers may be located across the country, rather than just in your city. This might mean adding new distribution channels like an online store, shoppable social posts, pickup and return locations outside physical stores, on-demand delivery, and regional or nationwide shipping.
You’ll need to think about how you allocate budget. As you move from a brick-and-mortar store to an online one, you’ll need to spend more on website and platform improvements, digital marketing, and fulfillment, and less time on upkeep and staffing at store locations.
Plus, you’ll need to think about issues particular to online businesses, such as handling data privacy, taking online payments, sales tax in different locations, protecting yourself from eCommerce fraud, and how you communicate your value to customers.
Strategize about your product range
Evaluate your product range and see if what you offered before still makes sense in the current context. For example, shipping and logistics issues may affect whether everything that’s available in-store is also available online.
Use your sales data to figure out what’s sold well in the past and what’s selling well now. That could provide direction on inventory. You could also think about changing your product positioning. With more people concerned about health and safety, emphasizing those aspects of your product range can make a difference in sales.
Additionally, consider changing or diversifying your product range. For example, some restaurants pivoted to help customers cook at home, selling family-size meal kits and grocery items like flour, which at the time was in high demand. Not only did it meet a market need, but also the pivot helped some restaurants stay in business. Other examples include:
- A photo booth rental company started selling gift boxes from local small businesses.
- Skin care and beauty professionals moved to selling skincare tools online.
- Clothing designers used extra fabric to make outfit-matching masks.
Update your marketing plan
When you’re moving online, digital marketing becomes even more important, so identify the right channels to attract your ideal client. People have been researching products online for a while now, but recent events have accelerated the shift to a digital-first approach.
You’re probably already using social media and email marketing, but these will become more important if people aren’t leaving home because you won’t have the opportunity to build rapport with potential customers in person. Some great examples of using social media for community building include:
- Wineries around the country offering virtual tastings on social media and via Zoom
- Beauty businesses offering makeup and hairstyling tutorials online
- Yoga studios and other fitness businesses teaching classes online
- Food purveyors teaching cooking classes online
As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out, driving people to your online store and delivering an excellent service there can build a long-lasting community of potential customers.
Optimize your website
According to McKinsey & Company, digital interactions are now twice as important as they were before the pandemic, so you need to deliver an excellent user experience on your website. That means it has to work seamlessly. Your customers will abandon your site in a heartbeat if it doesn’t load on their mobile device or there’s a glitch at checkout. To make this work, you’ll need to:
- Choose the right platform for eCommerce services.
- Use best practices for SEO so people find your online store.
- Make sure navigation and search help shoppers find the products they need.
- Optimize your store to maximize online sales.
On your website, clear product descriptions are essential since people won’t be able to have in-person conversations with staff to get their questions answered. How-to videos are also an engaging way to show your products in action. Make product information and reviews easy to find to drive more sales.
By taking a strategic look at customer needs, your business plan, your product range, and your website and eCommerce platform, you can position your business to successfully transition from brick and mortar to the click and order experiences customers now expect you to deliver.
Square has the tools to run your business — even when it’s not business as usual. To help businesses make the shifts they need, we partnered with Forbes to assemble a team of expert advisors. By sharing firsthand experience, our advisors are helping businesses build skills and plan for what’s next. See how Square works, and learn more about the Small Business Advisory Team.