Bringing your brick-and-mortar business online

Photo Credit: sweetym/iStock Photo

From clothing boutiques to home goods shops to realtors, many typically brick-and-mortar businesses have been thrust into a period of uncertainty. These are businesses that heretofore relied on customers walking through the front door that now find themselves forced to keep that door closed. But entrepreneurs are nothing if not adaptable, and owners of these businesses have had to quickly determine a way forward that will allow them to serve customers and keep themselves afloat. The simplest way to do that is to bring as many of their operations as possible into the online realm.

How Various Storeowners Can Embrace Ecommerce

Maybe you own a fashion boutique, and you always thought you would achieve your best results by bringing customers in the front door so that your sales staff could entice them toward the sale. Maybe you sell home goods and trinkets that you always thought customers needed to see in person in order to be tempted to make the purchase. Maybe you brew beer and always relied on customers tasting your brew and deciding to purchase on the spot. Regardless of the type of goods you sell, now is the time to invest in bringing the process online – and it need not cost as much as you might think.

The Nuts and Bolts of Your Online Presence

First thing’s first: In order to sell goods online, you’re going to need a way to process online payments. Fortunately, most POS systems also have an ecommerce component. Accepting online payments can be as simple as activating the appropriate component of your cloud-based POS system.

If your system does not extend online, there’s a plethora of online-only options that cost a fraction of that of a traditional POS system. In fact, many companies are discounting their online products specifically to help physical storeowners come online during these times.

Selling Your Products

Whether your products need to be seen down to the most minute detail to maximize sales, or they only require a brief description with a few bullets, online storefronts can deliver. Here’s where an extensible POS system comes in handy. Some allow you to import the inventory of your brick-and-mortar store straight into your online storefront. Choose a website template, snap some pictures with a quality camera, and you can be up and running in a hurry without breaking the bank.

If you’re not an online wiz, no worries; there are several companies that allow you to set up a fully functional ecommerce website without writing a single line of code or getting bogged down with manual data entry. Many are waiving typical monthly fees for the first few months of service.

When it comes to creating an effective website for your shop, it never hurts to take a look at some of the best. This can help you generate some ideas for presenting your products in a way that will help them fly off your virtual shelves.

Market Your New Look

Once you open your online store, you’ll need to spread word of your new paradigm to recurring customers and prospects alike. This is most effectively done through SMS and social media marketing.

If your POS system captures customers’ phone numbers, it should be a simple matter to shoot them a text with a link to a website and perhaps some monetary enticement to check out the new you. It’s simple, and it costs next to nothing. The same is true if you have an email list.

If you sell products that benefit from superior visuals, Instagram should already be your go-to social media marketing channel. Now that you’re fully online, Instagram marketing should be even more effective. After all, customers previously had to actually visit your shop to make their purchase; now they can do so with just a few clicks.

The fact that your store is now online also means you can reach out to prospective customers who are not in your immediate area. Odds are that whatever you’re selling, there are hundreds of bloggers and influencers out there who are passionate about your niche. It pays to reach out to them and let them know they now have another online destination to acquire the products they love.

Realizing Real Estate Sales Online

Even in these times, buying and selling of real estate continues. If you’re a realtor, your entire sales paradigm is based on sitting in an office or other physical location with a prospect to move the sale forward. While this is certainly more challenging with social distancing requirements, there are myriad ways to accomplish the same thing online.

Online meeting applications make hosting those critical one-on-one meetings a snap – whether you’re across town or halfway around the country. Want to answer a prospective buyer’s questions about a particular property? Utilize screen sharing to bring up high-definition photos of the property and to show any documents of interest. This combined with existing virtual tours can keep interest in real estate alive. When it comes time to complete the sale, the tried-and-true fax machine is still an efficient way to move the process forward. Inspections are still a critical component of real estate sales, and at this point there’s no substitute for an inspector examining a property in person.

Regardless of what business you’re in, today’s technology allows you to bring most if not all business processes online. Even if it didn’t make sense for your particular business last year, this year, it is all but essential. However, with some smart planning and by taking advantage of available loans and discounts, most business owners should be able to make a successful transition to online operations.

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