Do you run a bricks and mortar shop? Thinking about making the leap to online? In the age of COVID-19, we continue to see online brands build momentum. Everything from swimwear to paint for your home can now be purchased on the world wide web.
Here are some examples of online brands that, despite not having a physical storefront, are killing it in the virtual world (this also shows you how well the ad algorithm understands my shopping behavior haha):
With “For Lease” signs on every other storefront in downtown cores, it’s difficult to ignore the indication that the world is changing. For small business owners, it’s terrifying to say the least. From a glass-half-full perspective, many businesses have the opportunity to pivot their shop online, and with great marketing – there’s business for everyone.
Above photo taken by Moments by Lauren.
Creating an e-commerce leg of your business also doesn’t need to mean you’ll never return to having a storefront, but it could mean (for some) either taking a pause or completely pivoting into the virtual world of e-commerce. As a business owner, you know your customers better than anyone. What’s important is to keep your customers top-of-mind and making authenticity the priority when making this leap.
Let’s consider this for a moment. If you have a bricks and mortar business that’s been operating for a few years, you most certainly have the following mix of customers:
THE FIERCELY LOYAL: They believe whole heartedly in your brand, product(s) and/or service(s), they often act as brand ambassadors (unknowingly). These customers send their friends and family to your business and spread brand awareness for you like a freaking fairy godmother.
THE FRIEND WITH BENEFITS: Get your mind out of the gutter, people. These customers come into your shop to see YOU, talk to YOU, and (really) feel like they know you personally. Some might, but some are truly customers with whom you have a great relationship with and who believe in what you’re doing.
THE WALK INS: Depending on your business, these customers either strolled in to browse or came in with intent to buy your products/services based on… well nothing, they are like unicorns. They might come back, they might spend money, they might not. They are however, where “the magic happens” from a sales and growth perspective as the unicorns you want to convert to any of the above.
THE REFERRAL: These customers have either heard about you from a human or a media source (social, print, online, etc.) They bookmarked a visit to your store somewhere in their brain. Sometimes it can take a year for the referral customer to finally step foot in your shop, sometimes they are so intrigued that they make a point of visiting in the not-so-distant future.
In keeping authentic, the key here is ensuring your Fiercely Loyal and Friend with Benefits don’t get left in the dark. You need to think about how these customers can continue to feel valued at a distance. You also need to think about how you can transfer elements of your store to your online shopping experience (i.e. things like personal notes and gift wrap with packaging).
Other ways to keep these essential customers invested is through personal communication, exclusive loyalty offers or custom shopping experiences, but whatever you do – don’t leave them behind. The Walk-In customer base will disappear. This is a reality one has to accept as a small business owner, HOWEVER – and perhaps the largest opportunity lies with The Referral. By pivoting your business online and investing dollars in a healthy digital marketing campaign, you can grow your Referral customers – and sometimes, that can mean making a dramatic increase to your bottom line.
My Checklist for Making the Jump to a Successful Online Brand
Making a pivot online might be the perfect opportunity to re-brand (and evolve) your business. Your brand might be looking tired and need to join the rest of us in the 21st century. Check your ego at the door and be open to the winds of change!
This might seem obvious, but if your website isn’t look fresh AF and/or doesn’t support e-commerce, this is ground zero. The platforms you can use to support your site are now very easy-to-use and intuitive. I’m personally a fan of Wix but I’ve also heard great things about Square and Shopify (of course).
Take a critical look at your social media pages, especially Instagram. Does your grid properly represent your store, voice and who you are as a brand? Source of opinions from people outside your social circle and be VERY OPEN to criticism. Another great exercise here is to jump on your competitors social pages and compare theirs with yours.
If your social media pages and/or website need some TLC, do this before launching your e-commerce store. Think of this as a virtual spring cleaning before a big sale or event in your shop.
One of the ways to spruce up your online presence is through investing in proper photography
If you want to take your social media pages to the next level, video is king and can be used in multiple channels for your business.
Do you have a newsletter? If not, you’ll need one! I would recommend Mail Chimp, another easy-to-use platform.
Give yourself some basic SEO training if you don't have the ability to hire someone to do this for you. There's plenty of resources that can be found by doing a simple Google search or watching how-to videos on YouTube.
Once all the above is organized and you’re ready to be “Open for Business” online, consider an advertising campaign on social. Depending on the size of your business, putting money into ad dollars on Facebook and/or Instagram can go a long way in reaching new customers – this is where you can drum up business from “The Referral” shoppers.
Don’t be afraid to show yourself on camera on your Instagram stories – especially when it comes to those “behind the scenes” moments of your business. This is a great way to stay authentic and build your brand’s voice on social media.
Most importantly, try to set realistic goals for yourself and remember that your sales aren’t going to happen instantly. Celebrate your wins (even the small ones). Be open to continuous feedback and improvements. With the right foundation and consistency both in brand and in effort – you will achieve your goals.