Martin Luenendonk February 12th, 2021

How Brick & Mortar Businesses Can Transition Into Ecommerce in 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions on movement and physical interaction have led to increased demand for online shopping. 

With people restricted from leaving their houses unnecessarily, it has become imperative for brick and mortar businesses that want to survive to take their operations online.

However, transitioning a brick and mortar business into eCommerce is not a matter of simply starting a website and listing your products on the website. To successfully transition a brick and mortar business into eCommerce, you’ll need to approach the process strategically.

If you own a brick and mortar business and are looking to take your operations online, here are the things you need to do in order to make your transition successful:

1. Adjust Your Business Plan Accordingly

Once you transition your brick and mortar business into eCommerce, your business is going to experience several changes.

First, your target market might change. For instance, let’s say your biggest customer segment was older people who enjoy going down to the block to purchase things in person. 

Once you move online, however, your biggest customer segment might change to a younger demographic who are more comfortable with making purchases over the internet.

In addition, as a brick and mortar store, you probably only served the market within your city. Once you transition into eCommerce, however, you’ll have customers from all over the country, and sometimes, from outside the country. You have to know how to handle these customers and meet their needs.

Second, your customer needs and preferences will also change once you transition into eCommerce. Your customers will now be looking for things like fast delivery, a favorable return policy, and so on. These are things you didn’t have to deal with when running a brick and mortar business.

The switch to eCommerce will also make new options available to you, such as dropshipping, allowing you to save money on things like inventory costs and storage space. With such changes, you might find your business switching to a totally new business model.

Your budget allocation will also change. You will find yourself spending more on things like website maintenance and improvement, order fulfillment, digital marketing, and so on, and less on things like rent and staffing.

With all these changes, you might find that your original business plan no longer makes sense. Therefore, you will need to make adjustments to your business plan to ensure it is aligned with these changes.

2. Perform An Audit Of Your Product Range

After moving your operations online, you might discover that it might not be possible to offer all the products you had in your brick and mortar store on your online store.

For instance, you might discover that the costs of shipping some products might make these products too expensive for your customers, making it impossible for you to offer these products at profitable prices.

You might also discover that some of the products you sold in your brick and mortar store have restrictions that prohibit them from being sold over the internet.

For instance, in states like Utah, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, and Alaska, there are restrictions prohibiting the sale of alcohol over the internet. If you have a brick and mortar liquor store in these states, you won’t be able to transition your business into eCommerce, unless you change your products.

Sometimes, it might just not make sense to sell some products online. For instance, if you have some impulse buy products that you would normally place near the checkout counter in your brick and mortar business, it might not make sense selling some of them online.

Due to all these considerations, before transitioning your brick and mortar business to eCommerce, you need to perform an audit of your product range and see which of them can be successfully sold online. In some cases, you might have to change your product offerings in order to make your shift to eCommerce successful.

3. Choose A Suitable Ecommerce Platform

Before you can start offering your products online, you will need to choose a suitable eCommerce platform that you are going to use to create your online store. The good thing is that there are several great eCommerce platforms that you can use to build your store.

Generally, there are two kinds of eCommerce platforms. The first one is SaaS-based platforms. These are done-for-you platforms that allow you to set up your online store within a couple of hours. Examples include BigCommerce and Shopify.

These make the process of setting up your shop quite simple, allowing just about anyone to build an online store, even with minimal technical skills.

The second type is open-source platforms. These require more technical skills to set up. On the flip side, however, they give you more customization options and allow you to set up a unique online store that meets all your requirements. Examples include WooCommerce, Magento, and PrestaShop.

The most suitable eCommerce platform for you will depend on your unique needs. Some of the things you should consider when choosing an eCommerce platform include:

  • The size of your online store and the number of products you intend to have on offer
  • Whether you have plans to scale your business
  • The functionalities you want on your online store and the kind of shopping experience you want to offer
  • Your technical know-how and whether you’ll maintain your site by yourself or outsource the maintenance
  • Ease of use
  • Your budget
  • The kind of analytics and reporting supported by the platform

Aside from choosing a suitable eCommerce platform, you’ll also need to invest in the right eCommerce automation tools that will make it easier for you to run your eCommerce business more effectively. 

4. Think About Shipping And Fulfillment

With a brick and mortar business, order fulfillment is easy. The customer pays for a product, you bag it for them and hand it over to them, since they’re buying in person.

Once you transition to eCommerce, however, you’ll have to think about how products will get to your customers, who are making the purchase from home. Remember, the effectiveness of your shipping and fulfillment process affects their customer experience, and therefore, you want to make sure that it is as effective as possible.

When it comes to shipping and fulfillment, you have two options. The first one is to handle shipping by yourself. This means that you will be in charge of packaging products, dealing with couriers, sending out notifications to your customers, tracking the order, and so on.

The second option is to have a third-party handle shipping for you. With this approach, after an order has been made, you just need to deliver the product to the third-party service provider. The shipping service provider will handle the rest for you and make sure that your product gets to your customers on time.

5. Choose A Payment Method

Since you’re going to be selling your products over the internet, you’ll also need to figure out how you’ll collect payments over the internet. To do this, you’ll need to set up a payment method on your online store.

You need to be very careful when it comes to choosing a payment method for your online store. Your chosen payment method affects your site’s shopping experience, and therefore, if you choose the wrong payment method, this could lead to decreased conversions on your online store.

Actually, reports show that most shoppers abandon their shopping carts due to issues relating to the provided payment method. 21% abandon their cart because the checkout process is too long and complicated, 17% due to lack of trust in the payment method provided, and 6% because their preferred payment method is not supported.

To avoid negatively affecting your eCommerce conversion rate, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure your chosen payment method is safe and secure.
  • Ensure that your chosen payment method offers a simple, fast, and smooth checkout experience. A long, complicated process will lead to cart abandonment.
  • Make sure that your chosen payment method allows checkout from different kinds of devices.
  • Go for a payment method that offers support for the most common payment channels, including credit and debit cards, bank transfers, PayPal, Google and Apple pay, and so on.

6. Adjust Your Marketing Plan

The marketing strategy that worked for your brick and mortar business won’t cut it once you transition into eCommerce. Therefore, you’ll need to update your marketing plan to make it better suited to a business that is purely online.

Once you transition to eCommerce, you’ll need to put greater focus into digital marketing strategies like content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, PPC marketing, search engine optimization, and so on.

Here, you’ll need to get creative if you want to stay ahead of your competition. Your focus should be on building a community around your brand and getting repeat sales from this community and turning them into brand ambassadors, rather than relying on one-time sales.

You’ll also have to invest in website monitoring tools and services to help you track the performance of your eCommerce business and identify opportunities for optimization and improvement.

Wrapping Up

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues holding the world hostage, most brick and mortar businesses have been forced to transition into eCommerce. If you want your transition into eCommerce to be successful, however, you will need to do it tactfully.

In this article, we have provided you with 6 key tips that will help you make a successful and seamless transition into eCommerce and ensure that your business continues thriving, even as the world continues navigating these uncertain times.


Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

Martin Luenendonk

Data-Driven Business Innovator, Startup Expert, Serial Entrepreneur

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