During the pandemic, businesses have really had to pivot and adapt, and the local businesses in Little River we interviewed are no different.
With many people staying home, online sales are up as Organic Search continues to be the highest return on investment for many (source). On top of that, ecommerce 2020 holiday sales are expected to surge by 25% to 35% (source).
That means if you want your brick & mortar business to compete this holiday season, you want to start making some online sales.
No, I don’t expect you to become an ecommerce business competing with Amazon.
But I do think you should get your business online and start adding some sort of online sales to your revenue stream.
Here’s some ways you can sell online that compliment your regular business:
These ideas should be simple enough for you to run with, but we include some paid recommendations for how to make it happen in case you don’t already use a similar service.
Sell gift cards to your business online.
You want your customer to be able to immediately receive the certificate. This makes a great last-minute gift for many that they just have to print out or screenshot.
Check with your payment processor or merchant bank first to see if they offer a low-cost gift card program.
Otherwise, you can create digital & mobile gift cards with GiftFly.
Create specialty packages or baskets and offer curbside service or low-contact pickup in store.
A great example of this is when Wine & Design had to cancel classes and started creating paint kits.
No matter what you offer – pick-up only, shipping, delivery, or curbside service – I would make sure it’s clear before they start adding stuff to their cart.
You should also create a streamlined process or use technology to help the experience is efficient for both staff & customers.
Sell just your most popular items.
You can still sell wares online but can reduce your load by only offering your most popular items you know you have in stock.
If you are selling only a portion of your wares online, I would let people know. Even just a simple sentence like “For more great options, visit our store at [address]” on your store webpage or checkout can let them know they’re not seeing everything and help drive customers back into your store.
Check with your website provider first, as there are many low-cost plugins might could be compatible. Otherwise, you might try AmeriCommerce to start your own eCommerce shop.
If you’re not ready to create an online store your website, you can try out setting up a Facebook Shop.
Design digital products that are available on-demand.
Think of information or other things that are valuable for your current customers that you can use as an upsell. You can create digital products like printables, videos, online courses, etc. that help your customers when you’re not available.
- A restaurant or gym can publish a recipe eBook.
- Printers can sell a video for how to make your logo print-ready.
- Many marketing companies sell templates for branded social media posts.
- Have potential ‘customers’ that would rather do it themselves for ‘cheaper?’ Sell them the how-to.
There are a thousand ways you can create & deliver your digital product.
For printables & PDFs, you can create your product in Microsoft Word, Canva, etc.
Then you’d set up an online store or other delivery system. I’ve seen many bloggers use SendOwl to deliver their PDf, track orders, and create their own affiliate program.
For videos, don’t be afraid to record content on your phone – just make sure the audio is clear.
You can upload your video into YouTube or vimeo and set it to ‘unlisted’ and include the link in your email auto-responder or receipt.
Or you can create a series of videos and bundle them into an online course that fills a specific need through tools like Thinkific, which is free to start.
Monetize your content.
Just like we do on this article, you can add affiliate links to your blog posts.
In this article we share the what, and then we use tools like Shareasale to find an affiliate program that offers the how. We were going to share the information anyways, but this helps us see a more solid return on investment.
You could also find other local businesses that compliment your service and offer to trade promotional links with each other. That way you both get the client that the other doesn’t want.
Offer online payments for regular services.
If you didn’t before, here’s your sign to offer online checkout. Even at the chamber we’ve set up ways for members & event attendees to start paying online without having to visit us or worry about mailing a check. This can help retain some of your customers like me who don’t even know where their checkbook is.
If you create invoices for your clients, give Freshbooks a look, which offers online payments & late fees.
Serve your customer online.
Even if you’re not selling online, you can still help (and reach) more customers online by finding ways to serve many at once. This might be a video recording of a home tour, a live Q&A of what you essential or popular items are now instock, or a video answering your customers FAQs.
You should also make sure you’re available & responding online in a timely manner. Most customers expect you to reply to online messages (like Facebook Messenger) in less than one hour.
Tools like Freshdesk allow you to streamline customer conversations across multiple channels including email, phone, chat, and social media.
Attract New Customers Online
While you should promote your online products to your current customers, I’m sure you also want to attract new customers online that haven’t been in your store yet. To do that, I’m going to give a brief overview of organic search and SEO.
As I mentioned before organic search is a top source of traffic in digital marketing. It’s basically when people find you online without you running paid ads for it.
If you want people to find you, you need to be findable. You can achieve this through a combinations of having your business listed online, SEO, and content marketing.
SEO = search engine optimization. Basically, you’re strategically editing your website & content to make it as easy as possible for people to find you on Google.
SEO has many facets, and includes everything from keyword research to making sure your site is fast. I won’t go over everything here since it’s so vast, but here’s some simpler things you can work on:
- Make your website easy to use & understand for people
- Have a keyword-rich description of your business
- Use images & optimize them
- Create separate pages for different products or services
- Link to other pages on your own site when & where it makes sense
- Have & show customer reviews
Next, I think content marketing pairs well with SEO. This is basically when you create & distribute strategic, valuable, and relevant content to your target audience.
If you’re publishing things your customers are looking for, then it’s making it easier for them to find you.
Some articles or pages you might consider publishing on your site include:
- Have a contact & location page
- Publish an article describing a customers pain point & why your type of product/service fixes it
- Create tutorials or tips on how to make the most of your product/service
- Write about things you wish customers knew before they called you
- Share videos & photos that showcase work behind the scenes
And once people are on your site, you can get their contact info, sell to them, or retarget them later.
No matter what you decide to do, you need to:
- Figure out what you want to sell online
- Choose what platform you’ll use to sell it (and deliver it)
- Use SEO & other best practices to drive traffic
There are a million and one ways you can get started online. These were just a few ideas, but I hope they got your brain going and you realize you can do it!
Don’t worry about trying to compete with Amazon. Don’t try to do all the things at once.
Just pick one thing to start with.
And move forward.