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By Debbie Gregory.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic has really changed how the world shops for everything including food, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, large appliances and more. Adding an eCommerce shop will not only expand your potential customer base, it can also help you prop up your business while people are unable to physically shop at your location.  It will lay the groundwork for long-term stability for your company once COVID-19 has passed.

 

In Part 1 of this mini-series, we covered selecting your online selling platform, the importance of the overall look and feel for your online store, how to add your products, how to set your prices, and a few thoughts on payment processing. Below are more tips to help you get your new eCommerce site up and running properly:

 

Set Up Email Notifications:

Automated email notifications will help you build trust, increase customer engagement and generate more sales. You will want to setup at least one, if not all, of the following automated emails:

  • Abandoned cart email – prompts customers to return and purchase items they left in their cart.
  • Confirmation of order email – assures the customer that you received their order.
  • Delivery emails – can consist of more than one email notifying your customers where their orders are in the packing and delivery process.
  • Product review request email – after delivery of their order within a week or two, ask customers to review their order on your site.

 

Shipping & Fulfillment:

You want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to purchase from you in the way that is best for them. There are a few ways you can handle order fulfillment and what you chose depends on how involved you want your physical location to be in the process. Basically there are four options to choose from:

  • Buy online and the customer picks it up in your store
  • Ship the order yourself to the customer
  • Use a shipping provider to ship the items to your customer (such as Easyship, ShippingEasy, ShipStation, and more)
  • Use a drop shipping or fulfillment service to ship the items to your customer (such as Doba, Oberlo, SaleHoo, and more)

 

Test Purchasing from Your Store:

Before you fully launch your new online store, make sure to do a full test run purchase from your own site. You need to be sure that everything is working properly before you start promoting your store to customers. Make sure to add products to your cart, fully complete the checkout process and be sure that all follow-up emails are going out as they should. If there is a hiccup in any of these processes, you need to be sure they are worked out before a customer is trying to purchase from you.

 

Advertise your New Online Shop:

Once you have everything setup, filled out and working properly, it is time to start bringing customers on your new shop site. There are many ways to advertise your new eCommerce site and you can be creative doing so. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Promote the online shop to your existing customers at your physical location
  • Offer incentives to current customers to purchase online or to share your online shop with people they know
  • If you have an email list, send a newsletter out letting people know about the new online store
  • If you have established social media pages, promote your new store on all of them
  • If you have a company blog, write about your new store
  • Reach out to bloggers in your industry to ask them to write about your store
  • This is a great time to start Pay-Per-Click campaigns (if you don’t already use them) with major search engines as well as social media platforms

 

What Else?

An eCommerce store needs the basic pages that every website needs. Items such as:

  • FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages
  • Returns and exchanges policy page
  • Privacy policy page
  • Contact Us page
  • About Us page
  • And more

 

It is imperative during these challenging times to have a solid crisis management strategy for your business.  Using eCommerce can help your business weather this storm and possibly grow a whole new customer base. Setting your eCommerce store up will be challenging and time consuming but well worth it in the end!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically shifting the shopping habits of everyone. With so many people at home, relying on online shopping for most of their current needs, and unable to shop in physical stores, now is the best time to shift your operations online. These tips can help you begin moving your existing physical store to an eCommerce platform to sell your products and services online.

 

Figure Out How to Sell Online:

There are a few options for selling your products online.  Your specific needs will help you to select the best online platform.  If you are a large retailer with a wide variety of products, you need a more comprehensive eCommerce platform than a smaller retailer with only a handful of different products. If you plan to keep your physical location, make sure that the platform you select allows you to track both online sales as well as in-store sales from a single integrated dashboard.

 

If you want total control over your online store, fees, tracking, and more, you will need to either add a store to your existing website or start a new shop site on a dedicated shopping platform. It is a good idea to explore each platform and see what they have to offer before making a selection. Below are a few of the most popular platforms:

  • 3D Cart
  • BigCommerce
  • Helcim
  • Shopify
  • Square
  • SquareSpace
  • Stripe
  • WooCommerce
  • Volusion
  • X-Cart

 

Of course if you do not have any desire to launch your own website, you can setup an account, or seller store, in any of the established online marketplaces, such as:

  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Etsy

 

Design the Look & Feel of Your Store:

Once you have selected how you want to sell online and purchased your platform, it is time to customize your new storefront. You want to make sure that your new storefront matches any existing company branding, colors and the overall look & feel of your brand.  After your design is ready, you can begin adding products.

 

Adding Products:

High quality, attractive, fully filled in listings are essential for your online store to be successful. Polished and well laid out pages will help establish your store and keep shoppers interested in your items. Every product listing needs to include:

  • A product title or name
  • A detailed product description
  • High quality photos
  • Any information about sizing
  • Shipping and tax information

 

Set Your Prices:

Your prices may need to change a bit in your online shop from what they may be in your physical location. You will need to consider the “overhead” of selling online before you set your prices. Your online shop has new fees for you to take into consideration, such as:

  • Packaging costs
  • Shipping costs
  • Taxes
  • eCommerce platform fees
  • 3rd party application fees
  • And more

 

Make sure make a list of all of your new fees and remember to do some research on items similar to your offerings to make sure that you are pricing your items competitively while at the same time covering all of your costs.

 

Checkout  & Payments:

The ability to accept payments online is essential to every online store. Most eCommerce platforms come with built-in payment processing or a merchant account.  If you decide to go it alone, you may need to sign up with a third-party platform to secure payments. Just make sure that whatever payment processing platform you select, that there are safeguards in place for your customer’s sensitive banking data. Protecting this sensitive information is the seller’s responsibility, so choose carefully.

 

Be on the look-out for Part 2 that will cover email notifications, shipping & fulfillment, advertising your new store and other pages you will want to include when building your new eCommerce store.

Can eCommerce Boost Your Sales During COVID-19?

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By Debbie Gregory.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic is changing how the world lives and does business. Workers in every industry have been faced with difficult changes that include reduced hours, changing to working remotely, total job loss and more.

Small businesses have been doing an amazing job adjusting their overall business models to engage their customers who are now mainly in their homes.  Rather than sitting around waiting for the pandemic and its aftermath, many business owners are revamping how they reach people and how or what they sell.

 

Now Is The Perfect Time to Shift To eCommerce!

Everyone is at home and relying on online shopping for most of their current needs. Adding eCommerce will help you prop up your business right now while people are unable to physically shop at your location.   Additionally, it will lay the groundwork for long-term stability for your company.  By setting up this new revenue stream, you may discover a whole new customer base. Current clients are cognizant of the harm to small businesses during this pandemic and want to help and support them.

 

Step 1 – Determine What You Can Sell Online:  

We know that you have something that to offer for sale online. Even businesses that typically do not sell physical goods can start or they can offer services over the internet such as tutoring, coaching, or digital downloads. The key is to align whatever you sell online with your current brand and/or product offerings.

Examples and ideas:

  • Do you sell food or drinks in a brick and mortar place? Consider selling offerings such as to-go orders, meal kits, freshly roasted coffee beans, or baked goods.
  • Creative branded merchandise such as hats, shirts, cups, etc. allows your customers to show support of your business.
  • Try entering the subscription trend by creating packages that you can promote and sell online that enhance the lives of your customers while social distancing measures are still in place.

 

Step 2 – Know Who Is Your Target Audience:

Once know what you will sell online, consider how the target audience might differ from your current customer base.  You know who your preferred customers are, so you need to learn how do they shop online. Do they use their phones or a desktop computer? Do they prefer to buy from a company’s site or social media?  You will need to know their online shopping preferences to grab their attention and secure their business.

 

Step 3 – Determine How You Will Sell Online:  

Now that you know what you want to sell and where you need to promote it, it is time to set everything up. Are you going to utilize eCommerce only for the short-term or will you add this as a long-term expansion of your business?

If you only plan to use eCommerce in the short-term to keep your business afloat while the pandemic is going on, there are a few simple options you can explore such as:

  • Take orders via phone or email, asking customers to pay at pick-up or upon delivery
  • Sell online using one of the popular selling sites such as Etsy or eBay

However, if you plan to keep eCommerce ongoing once the danger has finally passed, you will want to take this opportunity to create a more robust long-term strategy which includes:

  • Setting up a true eCommerce store
  • Setting up ways for customers to pay directly on your site

If you opt for the long-term strategy you will need to create a webpage on your current site or a totally new website devoted to your new eCommerce store. If you have the skills, you can create a new page or site in platforms such as WordPress utilizing the proper eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce.

If you do not have web building skills, or access to someone who does, you can opt to use template drag-and-drop platforms such as Shopify, Volusion, and SquareSpace. These platforms include everything from your website design, domain name, shopping cart, credit card processing, and more.

You know that having a solid crisis management strategy for your business is crucial during times like these. Using eCommerce can really help your business weather this storm and grow a whole new customer base generating new revenues.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Recap:

Part 1 of our holiday preparation series went over the days you should focus on and preparing your holiday deals. Part 2 will cover planning deals for your past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials ready, and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush.

 

Prepare Special/Exclusive Holiday Offers for your Current/Past Customers:

People who have purchased from you in the past are very likely to purchase from you again. Target them with an exclusive deal! Special discounts, free shipping, or other perks offered to past customers shows them that you appreciate their business and loyalty counts with in your business.

 

Prepare All Holiday Mail/Email Messaging:

Make sure that you pre-setup all holiday-related emails and newsletters. Make sure your auto-responders are setup and ready to deploy when the holiday season begins. Put together template responses to commonly asked questions so replies are quick and easy.

 

Make Sure You Will Have the Inventory & Shipping Items:

You not only need to make sure that you have enough products to sell, you also need to make sure that you have all of the packaging materials, promotional materials, and gift wrapping materials you will need to process and ship out your orders. Trying to scramble to find these materials when orders are waiting to go out, can add a lot to your holiday stress not to mention cost business.

 

Make Sure You Have These Items:

  • Packaging materials: boxes, labels, tape, envelopes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Promotional materials: business cards, inserts, flyers, discount cards, etc.
  • Gift wrapping materials: gift boxes, cards, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc.

 

Plan Out All Holiday, Website, Newsletter, Social Media & Blog Content:  

Customers spend a lot of time shopping around for the best deals from trusted sellers. Creating and sharing holiday-specific content helps your exposure, helps build trust, and can showcase your expertise and products. Schedule your social posts to go out more than once to ensure they are being seen. It is important to repeat your message without being annoying.  Create content that helps your customer gain interest in your upcoming deals and products.  You might consider telling your story regarding various products.

 

Content Ideas to Help Get the Ball Rolling:

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Stocking stuffer ideas
  • Last-minute gift guides
  • Coming soon landing pages for your holiday promos or products
  • How-to to make life easier, more productive, or more enjoyable
  • Product comparisons
  • Customer review compilations

 

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series – we will finish out the series with the graphics you will need to create, your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns, updating your holiday policies, and preparing your site ready for buyers.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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If you own and run an eCommerce business, you should have your holiday plan in place well before Halloween begins. As the holidays close in, we all have more demands on our time with the stress, preparation, and activities that the holiday season brings. It will make your life exponentially easier if you prepare and plan for the holiday season well in advance of it starting.

 

The more you can have created, planned for, have in place and are ready to roll in advance, the better off you will be as the holiday season unfolds. The holidays, as you know, are where retailers make the bulk of their entire yearly sales.  If plan for the season correctly, you can more easily grab a significant piece of the holiday spending pie.

 

Areas of Focus to Increase Customer Sales for the Holiday Shopping Season:

  • Put together your promotional calendar
  • Plan out any promotional codes and bundles you will be offering
  • Prepare special/exclusive holiday offers for your current/past customers
  • Prepare all holiday mail/email messaging
  • Make sure you will/do have the inventory
  • Plan out all your holiday website, newsletter, social media, and blog content
  • Create the holiday graphics and imagery you will need
  • Plan, write and review your holiday PPC (Paid Per Click) campaigns
  • Review and update any policies and procedures that may be impacted by the holidays
  • Test and update your website security and performance

 

Put Together Your Promotional Calendar:

The first step is to put together a detailed holiday plan including a calendar of what you want to promote and when for the coming season. You will want to jot down the important shopping days and what promotions you would like to run for those days.

 

Popular Online Holidays for 2020:

  1. Cyber Monday –  November 30, 2020
  2. Black Friday – November 27, 2020
  3. Thanksgiving –  November 26, 2020
  4. Small Business Saturday
  5. Green Monday – December 9, 2019 &
  6. Christmas Eve – December 24, 2020
  7. Christmas Day – December 25, 2020

 

Some of the Most Popular Online Shopping Days: 

  1. Cyber Monday – December 2, 2019 & November 30, 2020
  2. Small Business Saturday –
  3. Black Friday – November 29, 2019 & November 27, 2020
  4. Small Business Saturday – November 30, 2019 & November 28, 2020
  5. Thanksgiving – November 28,2019 & November 26, 2020
  6. Day Before Thanksgiving – November 27, 2019 & November 25, 2020
  7. Saturday After Thanksgiving – November 30, 2019 & November 28, 2020
  8. Sunday After Thanksgiving – December 1, 2019 & November 29, 2020
  9. Green Monday – usually the 2nd Monday in December 9, 2019 & December 14, 2020
  10. Christmas Eve – December 24, 2019 & December 24, 2020
  11. Day after Christmas – December 26, 2019 & December 26, 2020
  12. New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2019 & December 31, 2020

 

Don’t forget to use December 26th as a great day for post-holiday clearance sales. This day really appeals to gift card recipients and people hunting for deals.

 

Plan out any Promotional Codes and Bundles to Offer:

On your calendar, you should have a clear plan for all promotional codes or deals. Write out what they are, when they start, and when they will end. Create catchy promo code names that will be easy for customers to remember. Put together bundle deals to entice customers and up-sell your other products. Announce all sales, bundles, and promo codes on your site and in newsletters, and social media content.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series – we go into planning deals for past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials ready, and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush.

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