Offline to Online: Why Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Need to Start Ecommerce Amidst COVID-19

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We’re all too familiar with COVID-19. The global pandemic has affected every industry in every corner of the world, virtually overnight. In the midst of a second wave and new lockdowns, it begs the question – is it possible for businesses to simply wait this out?

In March, at the beginning of this crisis, Goldman Sachs polled 10,000 small businesses across the US. 51% predicted that they could not last more than three months. Most big box stores quickly invested in ecommerce and hybrid online-offline systems, but small businesses have been slow to adapt. Nine months later, most of the world is still struggling to control the spread and return to a state of normalcy.

CommerceNext reports that 35.5% of brick-and-mortar locations have seen higher demand for online sales. Ecommerce shopping trends are predicted to change the retail landscape forever.

It’s Not Too Late to Pivot

Turn this challenge into an opportunity by setting up an online shop. As you plan your new online business strategy, consider the following questions:

1. How can I quickly adapt to new restrictions, in-person guidelines, and lockdowns?
2. How can I increase visibility and reach new customers with more sales channels?
3. Does my sales system match consumer shopping trends and preferences?

In-person closures and reduced foot traffic have hit brick-and-mortar businesses the hardest. CNBC analysts predicted that we’ll see more than 15,000 permanent shop closures by the end of 2020. Even with recent, positive news of vaccine breakthroughs, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for several more months, at the minimum.

Dynamic Ecommerce Strategies

Online tools and ecommerce don’t have to entirely replace your offline business. There are many ways to transform your brick-and-mortar shop into a dynamic brick-and-click shopping experience:

-Website ecommerce with shipping
-Online ordering with local delivery
-Buy online, pick up in shop (BOPIS)
-Open by appointment with online booking
-Virtual gift cards and vouchers
-In-app ordering
-Social media ecommerce
-Online content sales
-And more

Magento and Shopify are two of the most popular ecommerce platforms with end-to-end integrations and flexible settings. For online scheduling, consider Acuity, Square Appointments, or Shedul.

BOPIS, also nicknamed click-and-collect, was one of the fastest growing ecommerce trends, even before the pandemic hit. A 2019 Doddle Survey found that 68% of US shoppers had used BOPIS multiple times. 50% made online shopping decisions based on the availability of in-store pickup.

Online Shopping for Every Industry

Some retail categories are naturally suited to ecommerce, like apparel boutiques, hobby shops, and electronics stores, but every
industry can benefit from new online sales. Let’s explore a few examples:

- Restaurants

Increase revenue, even while seating is limited. Innovative bars and restaurants can sell prepared meal kits with recipe cards to recreate dishes at home. Or raise the average price of takeout orders with family-size meals. To-go cocktail mixes and multi-course dinners have seen a spike in popularity.

- Construction

Streamline your client intake process and send quotes more efficiently with an online shop. DIY project kits are trending; match consumer interest by selling pre-cut materials with clear instructions and power tool rentals.

- Auto Dealers

Use social media to list cars for sale and promote your inventory. An online booking tool can reduce overhead costs with an open-by-appointment model and scheduled test drives.

- Education

Hands-on activity kits, experiential learning programs, and crafting projects are the perfect ecommerce solution. For adults, webinars and online course sales are more popular than ever.

- Salons

List your salon products for sale online. You can also monetize your expertise by creating and selling online courses for makeup, massage, hairstyling, nail art, or braiding. Some of the most innovative salons have attracted attention by selling at-home hair dye and nail art kits with step-by-step instructions.

- Fitness

Compete with live-streaming fitness startups and keep local gym patrons coming back. You can sell digital vouchers for online fitness classes and earn affiliate revenue on recommended workout gear. Create curbside pickup options for protein shakes and smoothie kits.

Online sales aren’t just a life preserver to survive pandemic disruptions – it’s an opportunity to scale up and transform. Create an online shop with imaginative ways to serve your existing audience. Innovative solutions may provide access to new, untapped markets.

What’s the First Step? Pick the Right Domain.

A .shop domain will help you stand out. It’s short, memorable, easy to spell, and it instantly signals that you’re set up for ecommerce. Plus, it’s understood in virtually all languages around the world, so you can engage local shoppers while also opening up to a global audience.

A .shop domain can also help you generate free traffic and may rank you higher in SEO. On social media .shop bio links promote trust and clear action to get more clicks.

Embrace More Online Benefits

Despite all of this year’s uncertainty, changes, and disruptions, your brick-and-mortar business can
succeed with the help of online sales. Online shopping gives you more control to adapt quickly, target new audiences, and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

With the ability to operate from anywhere, stay open 24/7, and scale more quickly, it’s time to stop waiting – move your business online today.

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