Navigating COVID-19: Shifting From Retail to E-Commerce

Step-by-step guide to help small businesses set up their e-commerce footprint and leverage digital commerce.

The COVID-19 crisis has upended businesses across various sectors, with countries implementing stay-home mandates and businesses forced to shut their physical operations or drastically limit their offerings. With consumers unable to head out to physically purchase what they need from brick-and-mortar stores, having a digital presence becomes more important than ever. During these unprecedented times, having an e-commerce platform can help to provide some much-needed revenue to continue operations and retain staff employment.

Read on for 5 tips to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and transition from an offline to online platform:

1. Set up your digital platform

The best part about transitioning to a digital platform is that it usually involves little to no cost. Instead of building your own website from scratch, make use of existing marketplace platforms so you can generate revenue as quickly as possible. Start with online marketplace platforms like Carousell, Shopify, eBay or Etsy - all you need are photos and descriptions of your products and services, and you should be able to get your shop up and running in no time.

2. Let customers know you’re open for business

Once you've got your online store settled, your priority is to inform shoppers that you're open for business. Here are a few ways you can make the announcement:

  • Update social media
    If you have an active presence on social media, include your store's URL to your Facebook and Instagram description for increased visibility and store traffic. If you don’t already have social media presence, it’s never too late to start!
  • Add signage to your storefront
    Despite decreased footfall, a signage on your door directing consumers to your online platform can be an effective way to create awareness.
  • Email customers
    Do you have your customers' email addresses collected via an existing website, in-person or through point-of-sale system? Take this opportunity to stay in contact with them and send them an electronic direct mail straight to their inbox. Begin by letting them know about your brand's recent changes and how they can continue to support your business.

3. Adjust offerings based on customers’ needs or wants

To maximise sales, keep an open mind and retool your business to fit the needs of an online model. When selling via a marketplace platform, it's a good idea to check out which items are most popular and prioritise the trending items in your inventory. For example, eBay has a landing page set up for high-demand products, which you can benefit from.

4. Deliver with third-party couriers

While your small business might not have the capacity to personally deliver to your customers, consider partnering with third-party couriers to get your goods sent to your shoppers in a timely and efficient manner. Couriers like Lalamove, Pickupp and Grab can be a lifesaver, offering delivery of groceries, clothing, books and convenience items, among others.

5. Keep costs of shipping and packaging low

When pivoting from physical to e-commerce, follow these tips keep shipping costs as low as possible.

  • Keep your items light
    Consider the packaging of your products - is a box necessary? Instead, you could consider using affordable poly mailers, which is feasible for packing a variety of items including clothings.
  • Consider pricing strategies
    You may wish to offer free shipping with a certain spend, flat-rate shipping, or simply pass the entire cost of shipping onto the customer. If you're trying to attract new shoppers, offering complimentary shipping would work best.

The coronavirus outbreak has certainly resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour, with many opting for time saving and convenience by turning to e-commerce and online retainers. Weather this storm and set yourself up for future success with the bright future of e-commerce. Good luck!

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