Many brands are finding themselves having to switch focus from their brick-and-mortar stores to relying on ecommerce to reach their customers.
Although it’s always disappointing to have to close your brick-and-mortar’s doors — even if just temporarily — this is a good time to be online.
Currently, U.S. retail sales online bring in about $400 billion — expected to rise by 50% to $600 billion by 2024. And, as current world conditions are keeping people home, that trajectory could become even steeper due to evolving shopping habits.
Take this time to increase the visibility and effectiveness of your online presence, and when you’re able to reopen your store, your business will be stronger for it.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BRICK-AND-CLICK
A brick-and-click approach refers to a business model that integrates brick-and-mortar and online sales channels in one single, streamlined strategy for selling.
A strong combination of both offline and online channels can help expand your reach and increase your sales volume.
PERFECT YOUR ONLINE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
One big reason brick-and-mortar shops have retained their popularity even as ecommerce grows is that it’s difficult to replace the experience of being able to touch and feel a product. And people like the shopping experience, too.
That makes it all the more important to focus on the customer experience of your website. It seems like almost every day we hear of new ways to virtualize parts of the in-person experience to make it more informative and interactive.
- 01. Keep it personal.
Do your best to maintain all those personal relationships you had in person. Keep open lines of communication and engage with your loyal customers on social channels. You may even want to create a loyalty program or a special promotion to reward return visits.
- 02. Support your shoppers.
Since shoppers won’t be able to ask questions in person, make sure they have multiple ways to get in touch:
→ Include your phone number in the header or footer of your website, along with hours of availability.
→ Clearly display your email address, or make your contact form easy to find, so customers can reach out via email.
→ Consider using a chatbot to help answer frequent questions in real time.
- 03. Adjust your supply to their demand.
In a world where people are necessarily spending more time at home, their shopping needs and preferences are going to be different than before. Your ability to pivot in response can help make your business more resilient.
Consider your ideal customer profile and determine their current attitudes and pain points. Can you adjust your product offerings slightly to better meet their needs? For example, shoppers may not need a new pair of summer sandals, but they may be interested in freshening up their home decor.
POLISH YOUR WEB PRESENCE
If your online storefront played second fiddle to your brick-and-mortar, there might be some room for improvement now that you’re focused on digital.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, with one related, overarching suggestion: You can make these improvements incrementally. Your biggest priority is basic functionality. If you are able to transact sales and ship product — that is the most important thing.
- 01. Make sure you have all the necessary integrations.
You know this already, but it bears repeating — there are a lot of moving pieces in a successful ecommerce operation. Having the right integrations for payment, shipping, analytics, marketing, and more, will help keep those pieces moving in lock-step so you can focus on the bigger picture.
- 02. Answer customers’ Frequently Asked Questions.
As mentioned before, one thing some shoppers miss from the in-store experience is the ability to ask questions and get immediate answers. The more questions you can answer for your online shoppers before they have to ask, the better. Some of the most important topics to cover on your website are shipping information and your return policy.
- 03. Refresh your copy, content, and design.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you’ve probably thought about how welcoming your store appears to passers-by, and the way they experience the products inside. You should think about your website in the same way.Your homepage is your window onto Main Street. Now is the time to make sure it’s ready to shine visually. Consider engaging outside assistance to refresh your site’s branding and usability. But now is not the time to start from scratch. You want to build on the brand equity you have, not replace it.
PROMOTE YOUR ONLINE STORE
If your customers are used to seeing you in person, you’ll want to make sure they know about your online store.
One important note before we go too far, though: be conscious of your tone in any promotions and communications. People’s priorities have narrowed due to concern over the global health situation, and overly salesy tactics can fall flat — or worse. This is a time to have human conversations, not salesy marketing messages.
- 01. Maximize your email marketing.
Your email list is the first place you should go. Send an update to all your current customers and let them know that you are open for business online. Then, keep a steady cadence of email communications. Keep building your list via a sign-up on your website, and refine your email marketing program to engage your customers and keep you top of mind.
- 02. Increase your social media engagement.
If you’ve been letting your social media channels fall by the wayside while you focused on your brick-and-mortar experience, now is the time to up your game. First, assess your platforms — identify the most important channels for your target audience and put your energy there. Once you know where you’re posting, come up with some content ideas and increase your posting frequency. Find ways to include rich visual content and engage your audience. And finally, encourage participation. User-generated content can be a huge asset, so try prompting customers to share photos of their purchases. The results will both improve your social presence and broaden your reach.
- 03. Tell your story.
Above all, this is a time for human conversations, not transactions. A well-executed communications strategy for connecting with your long-time customers and new community members can make your brand far more resilient in the long run.
PREPARE FOR YOUR BRICK-AND-MORTAR’S REOPENING
Take time to prepare for a return to business as usual in your physical shop. This is a great time to step back and evaluate your goals for the store and what you can do to reach them.
- 01. Take time for improvements.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to reconfigure your store’s layout, apply a fresh coat of paint, or make repairs, now is the time.
- 02. Seek financial assistance, if needed.
There are a number of both private and government-led efforts to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on small businesses. Identify programs for which you may qualify and start the process as soon as you can.
- 03. Use data to inform your strategy.
While your focus is online, watch your store analytics closely. Take any learnings from that data — for instance, customer profile or most popular items — and use them to inform your plans when you reopen your brick-and-mortar.
In these uncertain times, it’s easy — and understandable — to be anxious. But if you’re forced to temporarily shutter your physical store, take it as an opportunity to refine your brick-and-click strategy.
As you’re focusing your attention on ecommerce, remember these four key actions: perfect your customer experience, polish your web presence, promote your online store, and prepare your brick-and-mortar for reopening. With that, and a little bit of positivity, your brand and your business may come out of these turbulent times more resilient than ever.