As the popularity (and necessity) of online shopping continues to rise, many business owners are choosing to transition their brick-and-mortar stores to an e-commerce model. Running a business online can differ dramatically from running a physical store, however, and it may require new approaches and new mindsets about selling and advertising goods.
To help make the transition easier, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council experts shares the best advice for moving into the e-commerce space. Follow their tips to get your online business up and running the right way — the first time.
13 TIps for Transitioning Your Brick-and-Mortar Store to an E-Commerce Model
- Build a social media presence.
- Optimize your payment system.
- Translate your in-store experience online.
- Focus on select inventory.
- Start with what’s manageable.
- Think about user-friendliness.
- Leverage your existing customers.
- Create a mobile-responsive site.
- Choose tools that can scale.
- Remember to transfer your marketing efforts.
- Include customer service practices.
- Create an SEO plan.
- Spend time on the product descriptions.
1. Build a Social Media Presence
Many businesses struggle to transition from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. They run the risk of losing their physical spaces without being able to make up for it in revenue. So, if you’re considering migrating online, have a presence on social media. Having an Instagram account will help you reach new customers and provide an opportunity for people who might not be able to visit your physical location. — Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
2. Optimize Your Payment System
One major factor to consider when switching from a brick-and-mortar store to e-commerce is optimizing your payment system, which will help you decrease your cart abandonment rate and boost your conversions. So, focus on offering payment options outside of the typical credit and debit cards, such as electronic checks, gift cards, mobile wallets and more. — Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
3. Translate Your In-Store Experience Online
Consider how you can translate your in-person experience online. Do you have sales reps ready to answer questions at every turn? Consider having a live chat messenger window or product explainer videos. Do you have a floor plan that guides users through the store strategically? Think about how your site map could be structured to do the same. You don't have to reinvent the wheel to go digital! — Shay Berman, Digital Resource
4. Focus on Select Inventory
Although your retail store might offer dozens or even hundreds of different items, your online store is most likely to thrive if you focus on selling select products only. That way, you can narrow your target audience, prioritize your marketing efforts and strategically improve your conversion rates to drive meaningful sales. — Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress
5. Start With What’s Manageable
Don’t overinvest in a “digital transformation.” Instead, start with what’s manageable. Try hiring someone to create a Shopify store and invest in eye-catching branding and visuals. Hire a marketer to promote your items online. Take advantage of all the new and inexpensive tools out there. From customer-acquisition to shipping solutions, there’s a right-priced option for every type of store moving online. — Cooper Harris, Klickly
6. Think About User-Friendliness
When transitioning from a brick-and-mortar store to an e-commerce model, always focus on creating a user-friendly website that’s easy to navigate. People will opt out of your store if they can’t find what they’re looking for because of a complicated navigation system. If you don’t want that to happen, make it easily navigable and use clear calls to action to help users understand how to get what they want. — Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
7. Leverage Your Existing Customers
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, build a list of your current customers so they can follow you online. Whether you reach them via email, social media, mobile marketing or another way, you have a head start over brand-new online stores. Of course, you also need to expand and seek new customers as well, but your existing customers can help you make the transition. — Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
8. Create a Mobile-Responsive Site
The one piece of advice that I’d give to a physical store owner transitioning to an e-commerce model is to create a mobile-responsive website. The vast majority of traffic comes from mobile devices, and people expect to find products and buy them from a mobile page as easily as they would from a desktop website. Treat making your site mobile responsive and easy to use as a priority. — Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
9. Choose Tools That Can Scale
Choose tools that can scale with your business, including web hosting, the platform you build your site on (e.g. WordPress and WooCommerce), payment processors you work with (always offer multiple ways for customers to pay), the financial and accounting software you’ll use to track all the money and tools you’ll use to manage customers (e.g., email marketing and customer relationship management). — Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
10. Remember to Transfer Your Marketing Efforts
When transitioning to an e-commerce model, you need to transfer all your marketing online as well. Plan your future online marketing campaigns and determine how social media, email and your website will need to continue to grow your brand and build your customer base. — Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
11. Include Customer Service Practices
If you're transitioning your brick-and-mortar store to an e-commerce model, it's important to also shift your customer service practices. While the general rules stay the same, the logistics change as everything shifts online. You can use live chat, chatbots, support tickets, hotlines, contact forms and more to allow users to reach out with concerns and questions. — Jared Atchison, WPForms
12. Create an SEO Plan
My one tip to anyone transitioning from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce is to create an SEO plan for your business. Around 70 percent of small businesses don't have an SEO plan in place for their websites and, with an increasingly digital world, not having one will hurt your business in the long run. — Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas
13. Spend Time on the Product Descriptions
Spend time on product descriptions by adding decent and updated original photos and videos plus understandable descriptions and how-tos for the products. Don’t get stingy on the FYIs and reviews from real customers that will make the products more marketable and useful. On the product pages, embed the hashtags and posts of your products for people to learn more about your brand. — Daisy Jing, Banish