June 3, 2021
4 minutes

From Brick & Mortar to E-Commerce

Many brick & mortar business owners want to have an online store.  Maybe even dream of it.  But there are too many "buts" to get started.  Let's take a look at some common roadblocks.  

"But how will I manage my inventory?  I have so many products."

Have you heard of the 80-20 rule?  Many businesses find that 80% of their income comes from just 20% of their products.  Begin with a selection of your highest-earning products.  Your customers are more likely to engage with a small catalog presented very well, than a large one that you couldn't put effort into.

"But how will I get photos of all my products?"

If your inventory doesn't change very often, it can be worthwhile to hire a product photographer.  That can cost several hundred, to several thousand dollars, depending on how many products you have.  If you have a smartphone or a decent camera, you can DIY your photos with a product photo booth.   You can get a portable box with lighting for $80 - $150 and take shockingly good pictures (and have fun doing it!).

"But I'm terrible with technology."

"No, seriously, you have no idea how bad I am."  Sound like you?  A lot of people blame themselves for websites or apps that are just downright frustrating to use.  If you can write an email, shop on a website, or pay a bill online, with the right training (and the right platform), you can manage an online store.  If you feel like technology hates you and something is always going wrong with it, you're not alone!

"But people won't buy from my site.  They'll just go to Amazon."

There are a lot of people that would rather buy from you than Amazon.  They just need a reason to.  One of the most compelling reasons you can give a customer is the experience.  If they feel a connection with your brand and you make it easy to shop, they'll stay. If your website is confusing or generic, they'll leave.  Know your customers and craft an experience for them.  

"But that agency quoted me $10,000 for a website design.  I can't afford that!"

It is expensive to have a website custom designed and developed just for you.  But in 2020, it's not always necessary (unless you need something complex or very custom).  When the internet was young, we didn't have much bandwidth (sloooow connections).  We couldn't have a lot of pictures.  But colors and text loaded fast.  So you had to pay a lot of money for a website designer to create a colorful, exciting website to engage your customers.  And then you had to pay a web developer a ton of money to build it.

Now take a look at some modern, successful e-commerce websites. You will see they are heavy on photography, and most have a minimalist white background.  Platforms like Shopify have beautiful, clean templates that you can use for no extra cost.* By the time you upload your logo, change the fonts, and add your pictures - with the right touches, it won't look like a template.  And it can look like a clean, modern website without the hefty price tag.

*On July 23, 2020, the Basic Shopify plan that works for most is $29/month and includes hosting + SSL.

The goal: improve the store over time, and make it pay for itself! Get your online store off the ground, start small, and get it generating revenue.  Continue to invest in tailoring and improving the experience for your customers.

"But will people even find my store?"

Many brick and mortar stores already have a Facebook or Instagram following.  And even if you don't have that, you have loyal customers that love your store.  You have a huge advantage over e-commerce startups, because you already have an audience.  You can add your website URL to your storefront.  You can share your products on social media and link directly to your web-store for purchase.   By adding your web address to Google My Business, people looking for a store like yours locally will find your website.

And with a global pandemic happening, if you offer curbside pickup or free local shipping, customers who are hesitant to shop in person will be delighted!