Startups

How to Keep Your Brick & Mortar Business Running

All business owners face daily challenges, and you know from experience that, when unforeseeable events happen, you dig deep, adapt, and overcome. That`s what it takes to run a successful business, right?

But of course, the current situation is different, in every imaginable way.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus knew nothing of the future when he penned the quote, “It`s not what happens to you but how you react that matters,” but it’s hyper-applicable to the current situation!

So, what choices are there for brick-and-mortars in light of what’s going on right now?

You can either wait until things resume to something resembling normality—or innovate, react, and adapt.

Here are some helpful ways to do just that.

1. Create a brand to establish an online presence

One thing you should take into consideration when developing an online presence is your branding. A professional-looking brand is essential; it`s a representation of your business and plays a critical part in establishing yourself as a trusted, enduring business.

Some business owners think that branding is only for the big players. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Every business (no matter the size) should strive to develop a consistent brand strategy. The good news is that creating one is not so hard these days; there are several platforms that help you create a logo and other branded materials like business cards, brand books and branded social posts, which you can use to help inform your strategy.

However, your brand strategy shouldn’t only be about the visuals; it’s also about your voice. Together, they set the tone of your business and help you connect and resonate with your target audience. When taking your brick-and-mortar store online, think long and hard about how you want your brand to look and sound for your new online audience.

2. Let your community know you are there

It might sound paradoxical due to the unprecedented decrease in pedestrian traffic, but if you`ve never used free local business listings before, now is the time to start.

Google My Business, Google Maps, and local online directories such as Golden Pages, are ways you can freely advertise your business online to your community.

Using free marketing channels can help you in several ways. A free Google business profile enables you to connect with your customers on Google search and maps automatically—enhancing engagement and giving you a platform to advertise your contact information, possible opening hours, reviews, and any offers or services you are providing.

3. Provide digitally-ordered home delivery options

Giving people ways of finding you can hugely increase your online orders and help subsidize the fall in everyday trade, especially now as home orders grew by 56% over one week in the United States alone.

Developing a digital delivery service can help you meet this unprecedented rise in online orders, and it`s key to ensuring your business can meet the supply.

Home ordering and delivery have been made easier for businesses due to (point of sales) applications. Some POS apps provide a system where your customers can order directly from your website, and if you don’t have a website, that’s not a problem, as you can advertise your products directly on their platforms.

When choosing a POS, ensure it integrates with a delivery service active within your area. This is easy to find out, and most POS providers will have this information available for you.

As the public was already moving towards this service pre-pandemic, companies that provide it now could see continued use after the crisis ends.

4. Connect with your community through social media

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are all platforms from which you can market your brick-and-mortar store online.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a significant shift by social media platforms enabling businesses like yours to monetize their accounts. You can create brand awareness with videos, images, posts, and click-through systems, allowing you to drive traffic to your website.

Use social media to engage with new audiences by posting relevant and helpful content, and in turn, your audience will share them. Social media is the one playing field where you can compete with larger e-commerce stores, and by promoting your local origins, you can help create a loyal and supportive online community.

5. Use e-commerce platforms to move unsold stock

For a lot of store owners who don`t have a website, the thought of having to build one and promote it during the current crisis simply isn`t an option worth considering.  One solution could be using e-commerce platforms such as Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.

Professional seller accounts are easy to set up and usually only take a couple of hours from enlisting to being accepted. Once accepted, you can upload high-quality images of your products, write a keyword-optimized heading and bullet listings, choose your delivery preferences, and start selling.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to competing with established competition and legalities associated with taxes, etc. The good news is, there’s an endless supply of free online tutorials that can help you get started. While it takes time to create a presence, you don`t have to be high-ranking to make sales, and if you have quality products and a well-written listing, it might help you clear any stock you have sitting in your storeroom.

The Last Word

Epictetus was, of course, right all those millennia ago. But in time, like all things, this pandemic will pass, and whatever the outcome, physical stores will always be needed. I hope the suggestions provided here today go some way in helping you dig deep, adapt, and overcome.

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SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. We have been doing this for over fifty years.

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