COVID-19 has been the unlikely disruptor of brick-and-mortar retail. E-commerce was the original disruptor, but many resisted it or only thought of it as a small portion of their business model. Now, e-commerce is a necessity to stay in business. Although retailers are opening their doors, the pandemic isn’t over. Numbers are still climbing in half of the states, and consumers are still fearful of commencing their previous shopping behaviors.
If you haven’t begun to pivot your efforts or aren’t sure how to generate online sales, here are some key ideas to consider.
E-commerce sales have been steadily increasing during the pandemic. For the week of May 26-June 1, online sales were 40% higher when compared to the pre-COVID benchmark of February 24-March 1.
This figure includes all types of online shopping. Leading the way were leisure and outdoor, auto parts and tires, electronics, alcohol and cannabis, collectibles, and home goods. That’s a diverse field of items. As you can see, some of these categories were leaders in in-person shopping like tires and alcohol. New rules force new realities. It seems like these industries understood that to survive, they had to put more effort into online sales.
Small businesses have often lagged in adopting e-commerce, mostly because it hasn’t been profitable or easy. Having an online store means you need an e-commerce site, inventory management, payment setup, and distribution plans.
Streamlining this requires an e-commerce platform and payment integration. Even if you have a solution, you should probably assess how it’s working for you, and if there are better options.
There’s an opportunity but a learning curve on how to leverage technology and platforms to make the sale. There’s also considerable competition and consumer expectations for discounts and free shipping. Plus, there’s still the cost of overhead.
What has often been a small business’s competitive advantage is personalized service and interaction. You won’t get that from Amazon. So, how can you rebuild your business with online sales?
A recent survey found that 70% of consumers plan to increase support of local small businesses, including shopping online with them. Small businesses are getting help from tech leaders with food delivery and gift stickers for local establishments on Instagram and Facebook’s small business grants program.
Your local business can take advantage of this sentiment. Increase your visibility on social media by setting up a shop on Facebook and Instagram — this gives you additional channels for selling. Share your story on how your business is part of the community and tie it to items for sale that consumers need and want. Be authentic — it could win you new business and loyalty.
If you have a social following, continue to cultivate this. Post more and try new approaches like live streaming. These things humanize your brand and allow you to keep that connection. You may also consider investing in social media ads, which are cost-effective and enable micro-targeting. Send out email campaigns based on shopping trends, such as your high sellers, seasonal goods, or overall e-commerce spikes, as mentioned earlier.
Experts warn that a second wave is likely in the fall. It’s essential to have a system in place to manage and thrive online. Having a plan to generate online sales can help you ensure less of a revenue disruption during the holidays.
You and your customers are adapting to this new environment. Ensuring that you can be flexible and take advantage of the opportunities that technology supports could enable you to survive and thrive.
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