With many stores shut down due to the pandemic, it’s time to get creative with selling online. While many store owners have projects that could fill the time that their shops are closed, those projects don’t necessarily pay the bills.
So how can brick-and-mortar shopkeepers get savvy about selling, even if they’ve never sold online? Read on to learn 12 of my favorite online sales strategies for retail store owners.
Before You Sell Online, Shift Your Mindset
If selling makes you uncomfortable right now, I get it. But as business owners, we shouldn’t assume that NO ONE wants to or can’t shop right now.
I am consciously taking a one- or two-day break from social media to give our customers and us some room to breathe. The rest of the week, though, I am engaging with our customers and selling.
Not only do people want to support small businesses, but many customers genuinely like shopping with all of us. Their lives are also disrupted, and shopping with their local stores can provide some normalcy. Give THEM the option.
We owe it to ourselves, our businesses, and all the people that support our entrepreneurial journey to do what we can to keep our stores running during this pandemic. We have NOT worked this hard to let this situation take away all our hard work.
If your store is temporarily closed, if your sales are down, or if you’re a maker and brick and mortar store owners aren’t placing as many wholesale orders as before…well, you’ll have to get scrappy. Here’s how.
#1. Use Email Marketing
Email is a great way to stay in touch with customers and a great way to sell. At a minimum, you should send out one email weekly. It is NOT too late if you haven’t started an email list. Better late than never!
Listen to episode 21 for more on starting your email list and connecting with them regularly.
#2. Offer Free Shipping
If you don’t already offer free shipping, you might be surprised how many consumers LOVE it! Now is the time to offer it.
For some orders, it might dip into your profit margin more than you like, but it’s still revenue!
I can tell through our Facebook communities that many shopkeepers don’t offer shipping services because they don’t know what to do or it overwhelms them. Check out the Savvy Shopkeeper Shipping Guide to learn how to offer shipping in your store!
#3. Offer Delivery
Another convenience that many shopkeepers don’t offer (but totally could!) is free delivery. You can limit this to a certain mile radius from your studio, home, or store.
Often it’s cheaper to deliver than to ship, depending on the size and weight of the package. It’s also more personal! You don’t have to enter your customers’ homes—just ask where you can leave the box for them.
#4. Offer Curbside Pickup
Not all customers will be comfortable with delivery, but they might be in the neighborhood or close enough to swing by and pick up. Keep your phone handy and ask them to call you so you can take their order to their car.
Speaking of your phone, don’t underestimate the power of phone calls. I understand if you can’t afford to add another bill to your list of utilities. But there are phone options, like Google Voice or my favorite phone app, Open Phone.
#5. Take Orders Any Way You Can
Usually, we direct customers to our website. Now, though, we’re telling customers to call us, text us, and message us if it’s convenient. Then, we’ll either get an invoice to them, take payment over the phone, or run the credit card transaction if they stop by to pick up their order. I am willing to take an order in any way possible.
You can do any of the above WITHOUT a website, of course. But if you don’t have a website, you need to be active in promoting and posting about what IS in your shop. I always recommend having a website, but I just want to point out that you don’t need it to sell online right now! If your mindset is telling you that you can’t sell online without it, you’re telling yourself a lie.
Also, most POS systems offer some type of invoicing ability. Even accounting software programs and PayPal offer invoicing. Using these tools is easy if you just get in there and figure it out!
#6. Go Live on Facebook AND Instagram!
This is where I’ll ask you to step out of your comfort zone. If you follow other shopkeepers who inspire you when you see them go live on social media, go back to their pages and LEARN from them. Do they keep the camera stationary? Do they have great lighting?
I’m not asking you to invest in lighting equipment—nope, not now!—but at least note the time of day when you record and position yourself in a room with a lot of natural light.
If other live videos turn you off, then learn from those too. Does the person recording move around too much? Is their camera blurry? Is there distracting background noise?
We all have businesses and business owners we admire on social media. LEARN from them. I’m not saying to copy them, but move forward with doing your own thing and test what your customers like. You don’t know until you try.
#7. Start a VIP Facebook Group For Your Customers
Starting a Facebook group takes a little work, but if your store is closed right now, you might have a little more time to dedicate to it. You’ll want to be very active in the group to start. The more engagement you get from your group members, the better!
You can promote engagement by offering giveaways or posting funny gifs or memes. You know your community best. But just know that this takes some nurturing, so if it fits your personality and community, go for it! You’ll need to pick a name for the group, create it, invite customers in, and promote the group consistently.
You could even create a “pop-up” or temporary group. This causes a sense of urgency which is effective when selling. You’ll open the group but announce it closes in one month (or whatever time you specify), and in the group is where you’ll be sharing daily deals, clearance items, or whatever other fun ways you plan to sell.
#8. Offer a Deal of The Day or Get Creative With Bundles
Whether you do this on a Facebook/Instagram live or send in emails is up to you, but this provides daily content for social media and could create anticipation with your customers.
I’ve seen many shopkeepers offer “happy boxes” or bags where they are bundling products and presenting them at an attractive price. Customers are getting a deal, customers get to support you, and you’re bringing them a moment of JOY! There’s nothing wrong with that.
#9. Gamify Your Selling!
You can have fun with this option! For example, you can turn a Facebook Live into a blowout sale event (you could also do this in the pop-up group I mentioned earlier).
Let me add that you must protect your profit margins on newer merchandise and the majority of your product line for as long as possible. But if you have old and overdue inventory for sale, this is a great way to get rid of it.
This type of event will take a little work, but it IS doable. I recommend taking the time to map out the process on paper and think through any issues that might arise. For example:
- Create a Facebook Event to start promoting this event with the date and time listed
- Share the rules.
- For example, you’ll go live at 7 pm, show one item at a time, the first person to comment SOLD with an email address wins the item, and then you’ll invoice. The invoice must be paid within 24 hours, or the product goes to the next person who comments.
- Post daily in the event and email about it to create excitement about it
- Get your products organized.
- Decide on the sale price for each item.
- At the time of sale, have the products ready nearby.
- Share products one at a time, and give the price.
- Have some help if possible.
- This could be a family member with you or someone who is online and prepared to help. Live Facebook and Instagram videos are usually recorded. Still, we all know technology, so even if you can’t have someone with you, maybe ask a friend to monitor the sale and track each item on a spreadsheet, like the name of the buyer, what they bought, the amount, and their email address so you can send them an invoice.
- Send invoices and track information in the spreadsheet.
Writing out the process and how you’ll resolve issues ahead of time will help your sale be more efficient.
#10. Teach a Class Online to Your Subscribers
If you teach a class or tutorial via Facebook Live, it’s open to the public. But if you’re looking to offer a paid creative class, then Zoom allows you to share a specific link with them so they can join the class after they pay and register for the course. It’s another potential source of revenue!
Check out the Resources page to learn more about software programs and tools I love and recommend.
#11. Sell Gift Cards
Gift cards are a great way to get a bit of a cash injection.
Remind customers that you don’t plan on going anywhere, and they can shop with you when you open again. Give them hope and the ability to support you. And be sure to remind them how fun and personal it is to shop at your store!
If you use Square, their POS system has a link you can share so customers can purchase e-cards at your store. You’ll find this under the gift cards category when you log in to your dashboard.
If you don’t have something like this, get scrappy! Have them call you, mail them a paper card or printed certificate—just get it done! It does NOT have to be perfect. Number your paper cards or certificates and track this information on paper or in a spreadsheet.
#12. Add Products to Your Online Shops!
If you have an Etsy shop or website with an online shop that’s been sitting dormant because you just didn’t have the time…well, NOW is the time! Start adding those products.
If you’re a maker and you’ve been wanting to make a line sheet, now is the time, too. Wholesale orders will pick up again, so this is the perfect time to prepare for those future inquiries.
No matter how the pandemic affects your business, you need to protect your profit margins (if you can) and keep selling. By no means am I telling you to guilt your customers into shopping, nor am I telling you to spam them with constant offers. But you run a business, and no matter what is happening, that hasn’t changed! To get through this as a business owner, you will NEED to generate revenue.
If you have an emergency fund and need an emotional or physical break, then, by all means, take a break. Everyone’s business and circumstances are unique, so do what works best for you and your business.
- [04:12] Before You Sell Online, Shift Your Mindset
- [06:45] Use Email Marketing
- [07:11] Offer Free Shipping
- [08:51] Offer Delivery
- [09:34] Offer Curbside Pickup
- [10:52] Take Orders Any Way You Can
- [12:28] Go Live on Facebook AND Instagram
- [15:11] Start a VIP Facebook Group For Your Customers
- [16:37] Offer a Deal of the Day/Bundles
- [17:13] Gamify Your Selling
- [19:27] Teach a Class Online to Your Subscribers
- [21:06] Sell Gift Cards
- [22:56] Add Products to Your Online Shops
Until the next episode, be savvy, boss up & stay healthy!