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Four Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Merchants Selling Online

Two brick-and-mortar merchants selling online

Let’s imagine that not so long ago you were running a local store and making most of your sales in person. You had a website that you updated now and again, but the lion’s share of your revenue came through the door.

Then the coronavirus hit and shut down stores everywhere. In the blink of an eye, the concept of selling online changed from optional to non-negotiable.

Now, even as stores nationwide begin to reopen, selling online remains critical to your success. What should your next steps be? Here are four simple tips from Giovanna Fariello, of global commerce company Shopify, on successfully selling online while operating a brick-and-mortar store.

1. Fast: Use Shopify to Launch your E-commerce Website

If you need to get your site up and running quickly, focus on the basics. “The faster you can make your online store available, the sooner customers will be able to continue making purchases from you,” says Fariello. “You don’t need to worry about the frills."

The first step Fariello suggests is to visit Shopify.com to start your online store with a 14-day free trial. Here you can select your website name and pick a theme that helps customize your brand. Consider choosing an online theme that is complementary to your physical store presence.


Think of your home page as your digital storefront. Enable a notification bar to share important information with your site visitors, such as local delivery options together with promotions and discounts.

  • Think of your home page as your digital storefront. Enable a notification bar to share important information with your site visitors, such as local delivery options together with promotions and discounts.
  • Write compelling product descriptions, and shoot good looking product photography with the tools you have available and share those on your product and service pages.
  • Software tools can speed up the process of uploading product catalogs, which is helpful if you have a large inventory.

2. Faster: Sell Digital Gift Cards and Support Cash Flow

At a time when shoppers are not coming to your store in the usual numbers, small businesses must prioritize cash flow, says Shopify’s Fariello, speaking in a webinar hosted by UPS.  

One great way for merchants to maintain cash flow is to sell digital gift cards. Gift cards help local customers to support the businesses they would normally frequent in person.

"Offering digital gift cards is one of the fastest ways for brick-and-mortar businesses to start selling online," Fariello says.

3. Marketing and Communication is Important

While your physical store is closed or operating with reduced hours, you need to let your customers know you're still available online. Going quiet is not an option.

Email is a great way to share updates with customers, says Fariello. You may have collected customers' emails in person, through an existing website, or through your point-of-sale system.  Email provides a direct line to their inbox. You can start by letting customers know about recent changes, and how they can continue to buy your products or support you with gift card purchases.

If you’re active on social media, add your store’s URL to your Instagram bio, pin a Tweet with your new URL or domain name, and share a status update with a link to your store on your Facebook page.  If you’re running any special offers or promotions, consider posting to social media.

Don’t forget to add signage to your physical storefront informing customers—and curious passersby—of your online store.

Your customers are likely feeling as isolated and disconnected as you are.  Communicate with them proactively and make it easy for them to get in touch with you.

4. Make your Shipping Strategy Affordable and Convenient

Shipping is a critical strategy for all online businesses, says Fariello.

Your customers may have questions about your e-commerce shipping policy. A Shipping FAQ in a visible place on your website is an effective way to provide customers with shipping related information.

When devising your shipping strategy and the policies that flow from it, questions to address include:

For further advice and practical resources, watch the webinar and get actionable tips on how to successfully combine brick-and-mortar retail with online selling.

Watch the Webinar Now

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