The current situation is certainly unprecedented. Here in the UK, hotels, bars, gyms and high street shops of all descriptions are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many businesses are “on pause” praying that the lockdown will lift sooner rather than later. With staff still on the payroll and being paid through “furlough”, many companies are waiting on the government compensating the 80% wage bill. Cashflow is a huge issue for some. Where cash reserves are minimal and the Business Interruption Loan applications in some cases being refused or being made difficult to apply for by the banks. Only time will tell on how many businesses who just have to sit this out, will survive.
I have seen a fair bit of innovation by some businesses as they find ways to continue to generate income through these trying times. I’ve seen drinks distilleries switch their alcohol output into hand sanitiser, wholesale frozen foods distributors deliver direct to the general public’s doorsteps and even a local catering company offering home delivery of bundled packs of their wholesale products directly to your doorstep. So for some businesses, and where a product can still be delivered to the (now very different) marketplace, fast response and quick change to how they operate and get their message out is proving that they can still generate income. In many cases, they will also be opening up new opportunities and customers.
I’ve had a few conversations with business owners over the last couple of weeks about how they could possibly take their product line and quickly “get online” and provide a home delivery service for some if not all of their products. This is the time that they are realising that the idea of having some form of “ecommerce” option was something they should have pursued before now.
So, I’m going to list three ways (there are many more) that a business can quickly pivot to an online offering. Each will depend on budget, time available, any internal skills they have and how complex their product line is.
Open A Shop On Social Media
Facebook and Instagram both allow you to quickly open an “online shop”. That’s certainly one consideration as long as you are comfortable promoting Facebook & Instagram as your “outlet”. It might also prove a challenge if your products are prohibited from being sold on the platform. You do need to check the policies before going to the effort of setting up an online shop within the platform.
Add Products Using Simple Forms On Your Existing Website
If you only have a few products that you feel you can offer, then adding some simple forms that can also take payment and delivery instructions is a fast way to keep your business generating revenue.
An example where I have been involved in helping the distribution fundraising sticker albums for community football clubs is with WP Stickers. In the case of the Sticker Album for Dunbar Colts that was interrupted by the coronavirus, by adding in payment options and discount coupons, the service could continue to take registrations and fulfil sticker pack orders. Where initially there seemed to be a problem of sticker pack stock sitting on a shelf and tying up much-needed revenue, there is now a backlog of sticker pack sales to fulfil. You can see the simple form here and observe how some logic is configured into the form to help buyers with their options.
Build A Temporary Online Store
This one is where you have a number of products that you like to list on a link that could be placed on your existing website. The best thing about this is you can brand the online store inline with your current overall brand by using your own colour palette and logo where needed.
In the current climate, I describe these solutions as “emergency popup online stores”.
Services like Squarespace and Wix now all offer some form of online shopping configuration on their platforms. And they also can get you started very quickly with a range of ready to use templates. Some would argue that you still need a decent eye for website design to get the best from these platforms.
If you want to get a bit more adventurous, then Shopify might suit your needs better. This is a much more comprehensive ecommerce solution and can be more time consuming to set up and prepare for trading.
My own personal skill and experience with WordPress leads me to work with Woocommerce as my “go-to” dedicated online sales website solution. Woocommerce, like the others, has a whole ecosystem that can cover just about anything you can think of that you’d want your online shop to do. Like Shopify, Woocommerce has so many options, it’s very easy to spend days and weeks configuring your online shop, so it’s probably not a good option for most right now unless you hire someone and pay top dollar to ave the work prioritised.
The key to this solution is that you want to be up and running quickly. Getting a fast result is imperative since every day you spend trying to work out how a platform configuration works is a day of lost revenue or service to your customers.
In the case of Garraffo Catering, I used Fast Site Builder to get an online store into the hands of the business owner quickly. Within a few hours, this online shop was ready and trading. This is a solution that truly can be used as a temporary “popup shop” since it comes with a free domain name and up to 5 email addresses, so you can pick a new domain that reflects your brand and get started within a few minutes. There are no long term commitments either, so if after a couple of months, things begin to return to “normal”, you can delete your account and the “pop-up shop” is removed from the internet.
In fact, this is a great way to start and run an online shop whilst you perhaps concentrate on building your “real” online shop using Woocommerce, Shopify or something else for when you open your doors back up to the public – let’s look forward to that moment!