If you are a business trying to conduct business as usual right now, we feel you–we’re all experiencing the same struggle. Entrepreneurs large and small are navigating a new and unknown consumer landscape. Only those businesses deemed “essential” have physical offices open while businesses that are deemed non-essential are looking at new ways to sell their goods and services.
According to Vancouver Economic, 92% of businesses in BC have been affected by Covid-19, with the vast majority experiencing a negative impact. In fact, 73% of businesses surveyed are forecasting a drop of 50% or more in revenues.
This means many small businesses are relying on their online stores to take orders, deliver, and ship their goods to consumers. But if your website isn’t set up for e-commerce you may feel like the ground is caving in beneath you and your business won’t survive.
But wait.. there’s hope!
Setting up an online store to sell what you have in your physical store doesn’t take too much time or money these days, thanks to the comprehensive and affordable web services available. Now just might be the ideal time to take stock of your inventory and see how you can pivot with the times to make the best of a bad situation.
All you need are a few starting points. In this article, we’ll run through the best ways to create an online store that can help you get your products out of the virtual door while the real-life doors stay closed.
Ensure you have purchased and installed an SSL certificate for your website when integrating e-commerce functionality. These certificates ensure that your site is secure and data is encrypted so that the confidential payment information you store from customers is not compromised.
SSL Certificates are often free from your website hosting service or can be purchased and installed for free through Let’s Encrypt, so make sure you do your research and ensure you’re not spending more than you should.
WooCommerce Online Store for WordPress
If you have a WordPress website already, creating an online shop for your site is as easy as a WooCommerce plugin. We’ve talked about the benefits of WooCommerce before, and the reason we like it is its powerful flexibility and user-friendly interface.
Installing WooCommerce for WordPress means setting up currency, payments, and shipping information, as well as pages for cart, accounts, shop and checkout. The beauty of WooCommerce is that it walks you through creating these pages automatically. The plugin also comes with default payment gateway options which we’ll discuss further down.
With WooCommerce, you can add products, details, cart and payment options all to your existing WordPress site. Consider this social distancing time a chance to jump on this opportunity and develop your online shop to feature all your goods, or a select amount of stock–your best sellers, popular items, or older inventory you need to move.
How much? The cost depends on whether you are integrating the WooCommerce plugin to an existing site (free!) or starting a new WooCommerce site with a WordPress theme (thousands of free and paid options).
Shopify for E-Commerce
Whether you want to add a simple “buy now” Shopify button to the products featured on your existing website, or you want to redesign your site on the Shopify platform there are easy options to help you achieve your goals.
The Shopify “buy now” button can be integrated through website platforms that include WordPress and Squarespace. Adding this button allows you to use your existing website without a full design overhaul, and sell the products you may already have featured.
If you think you want to redesign your website on the Shopify platform (we do have extra time these days!) the good news is it is fairly easy and user-friendly to do so. There are plenty of videos online that offer tutorials for beginners that will help you get started quickly.
How much? Anywhere from $29-$299 a month. The “buy now” button can be purchased on the Shopify Lite plan at $9/mo.
Simply put, a payment gateway is functionality your online store utilizes to allow you to charge customers and enables customers to easily pay for their goods and services. This functionality also tracks all payments, status of payments or cancellations, returns and exchanges, and reports back on approved and declined charges.
An advantage of Shopify is that it comes with its own payment gateway. When used over other third-party payment gateway options, the 2.2% transaction fee doesn’t apply. WooCommerce does not offer its own payment gateway but will easily integrate with many popular third-party gateways that include:
Stripe – a well-known and trusted payment gateway utilized by a huge amount of online stores around the world. Because Stripe acts as a white-label, it offers the advantage of not sending your customers to an external payment page and keeps them within your website for seamless payment interactions. How much? 2.9% flat rate +.30 cents per successful charge.
PayPal – still around, and still effective. Paypal is one of the longest-running payment platforms available online. The PayPal dashboard will offer you all the info you need to track customer data while providing complete protection for you and your consumers. Downfall? It’s more costly to use at 9% +30 cents per transaction.
For a full list of other respected third-party payment gateways check out this article by Dreamhost.com that compares the services and fees associated with their top 10 picks.
Tips for Local Online Sales
Once your online shop is ready to launch, you may need to stock up on shipping materials for those out-of-town sales but for local consumers, you might want to consider a few of the tips below for positive marketing in your area.
- Local deliveries – hand-delivering goods to the front door of homes in your area is a personal touch that your customers will appreciate, and makes it that much easier for them to stay safe and indoors especially if vulnerable.
- Personal packaging – for local doorstep deliveries, consider including a personalized note or handwritten card, thanking your shoppers for their support. This gesture might seem small but it will leave an impact and give you a chance to connect one-on-one, which isn’t always easy in our “normal” day-to-day.
- Promos & samples – an alternative to the note or card is a promo or discount for your customer’s next purchase. Or perhaps you want to add a couple relevant samples of other products you sell online, as free giveaways that can act as the “you might also like” functionality of the online shopping experience.
Tips for Local Online Marketing
- Facebook or Instagram ads can be an easy way to spread the word that your products are now online. Check local Facebook groups with threads about nearby goods and services to make sure you’re included in the list of available online stores.
- Post a live video to social media and let your audience know that you’ve moved your store online. Give them an overview of what products you have available, and the options they have to buy, ship, pick-up or receive a delivery. Offer a first-time purchase promo to help personalize their shopping experience.
- Ask for feedback and online reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Find out what’s working and what isn’t and where you can add, remove, or improve shopping functionalities and options.
Good luck, and remember that as tough as these Covid-19 times are, we’ve been forced out of the box so to speak. We’re now learning how to reinvent and adapt in creative ways and by creating an online store for your physical shop you can breathe new life into your business. The bonus? When stores are once more able to open their doors to foot traffic, you’ll be well set-up to make back all that was lost.