It's hard to keep relevant when you run an offline retail business.
Having an online store isn't the exception, it's the expectation, and when websites and commerce aren't a part of a business strategy, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain resilient.
For instance, a recent IBM Retail Index report found the pandemic accelerated the shift toward ecommerce by roughly five years.
To adapt, many offline business owners find themselves launching online stores for the first time.
Others are making it easy for customers to order online and do curbside pickup.
And the savviest are experimenting with omnichannel selling, using their website to manage sales on Facebook, Instagram, and the other places their customers already spend their time.
If you haven't done so already, the evidence is clear that it's time to bring your brick-and-mortar store online.
In this post, we'll walk you through everything you need to have a successful transition to selling online.
Table of contents
- Research your ecommerce strategy
- Choose a reliable website builder
- Select a store theme and template
- Add the right products to your new online store
- Choose your online sales channels
- Consider online payment solutions
- Market your new ecommerce site online and in-store
There are a variety of websites and tools you can use to understand consumer online shopping habits. Some sites that provide these insights for free through their blogs include eMarketer, McKinsey, PWC, Comscore, Pew Research, Nielsen IQ, and Think With Google Research Tools.
Take some time to research:
- How do your target customers prefer to shop online?
- When are they most likely to shop?
- Which channels are they most likely to use to discover your site?
For example, your target customers may prefer using a mobile device versus their desktop. Others might prefer to contact your store online through text messages rather than email.
Knowing this will help you to choose the right ecommerce platform to build and host your website, and create customer experiences that meet or exceed expectations.
Install a web analytics tool to learn as you go
Moving beyond third party research, using a website analytics tool will show you how people actually interact with your site:
- How your customers shop on your website after you launch
- What are your most popular product pages
- How they find your site through channels like search, social media, and blogs or traditional media sites
Google Analytics is free and is a popular option for many small business online retailers. To get started, watch this video which highlights some primary uses and benefits.
Ask your existing customers for help
If you already have a social media presence to promote your physical stores, you can also reach out through that channel to ask what your customers are looking for in an online store.
Their comments on various social channels can also give you insights into which products are the most popular and which ones they'd be likely to buy from you online.
Additionally, you can post an online survey on your social channels to find out what they might want in an ecommerce solution. Tools SurveyMonkey or Google Forms are an excellent place to start.
If you already have a customer email database in place, you can also send the survey out through that channel. It's helpful to offer an incentive to get people to answer your questions, such as a gift card giveaway contest or a coupon code to use once your new site is live.
Research competitive ecommerce sites
Finally, take a look at your top competitors' ecommerce websites and social media channels to see how they are targeting customers through savvy copywriting, design, and photography.
Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each site so that you can iterate on what works well for them and improve on what doesn't.
Once you've researched your market, the next step is to invest in the design, build, and launch of your ecommerce storefront.
Select and purchase a domain name
Likely, you'll want a domain name that is an exact match to your business.
If the domain name you want is already taken or is too expensive, try for an abbreviated version of the name, or a different extension, such as .shop or .store for general ecommerce, or get more specific with .jewelry, .clothing and .coffee.
The price to purchase a domain name typically ranges from $2 to $20. However, there can be hidden costs. Refer to our domain name guide for more details on what to expect.
You can play around with different domain name options via this search box:
After you've selected a memorable URL, you'll need to find a reliable website hosting service.
Many services — like GoDaddy's online store — offer tools to build your own website for free.
Some things to look for when researching the best website builders for ecommerce:
Accessibility: Your website hosting and design service provider should offer affordable (free or for a monthly fee), and easy-to-use templates. That's for both an intuitive front-end design for customers and a back-end dashboard for managing orders and inventory.
They should also offer a variety of payment solutions and, preferably, a flat fee for service charges.
Customizability: Since it can get expensive to hire a graphic designer and website developer, the design templates offered by your service provider should be easily customizable and intuitive for anyone without a coding or design background.
Mobile-optimized: According to Oberlo, “nearly three out of every four dollars spent online today happen through a mobile device.” That's why it's critical that you select a mobile-optimized design theme and template for your new online store.
Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant: Since credit card fraud and security breaches are a constant threat to ecommerce businesses, it's crucial to find a service provider, like GoDaddy Payments and Online Store Builder, that comes with PCI compliance built into its ecommerce solution.
The business must also follow proper technical and operational standards, monitored by the PCI Security Standards Council, to secure and protect the data provided by credit cardholders which are transmitted through card processing transactions.
Secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate: SSL is a security protocol that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser. When customers see a tiny lock icon beside your domain name URL in their web browser, they'll rest assured that their online transactions and information are both private and secure.
Keep in mind that a robust, templated ecommerce store building solution should be available in one quick install, and should include:
- An affordable website template/theme
- Product pages
- Shopping cart
- An encrypted payment processing solution
- Secure hosting for your site
Once you've selected your URL and platform, you'll need a theme to suit your online store's functionality and branding needs.
GoDaddy Online Store Builder offers multiple solutions to accommodate a variety of businesses — from selling goods and services to allowing customers to book appointments online.
If you're on a tight budget, start with a free theme or basic paid package (starting at $14.99/month) and re-evaluate your needs over time.
If you already have a managed WordPress website, you can also integrate WooCommerce themes and extensions to build an ecommerce storefront for your brick-and-mortar store that processes transactions using GoDaddy Payments.
Once your visual design is sorted, invest heavily in product descriptions and photography to appeal to as many of your visitor's senses as possible.
While you already sell products in-store, you'll need to decide which products to sell online. Between shipping, packaging, and a number of other factors, the margins on selling your products online can be very different than what you're used to.
In those cases, you might want to take customer payments online but offer curbside pick-up, instead. You can also offer bundled solutions like the example below.
Other product and shipping considerations
When putting together your online product sales plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will you feasibly be able to package your products yourself, or will you need to employ someone to help you with it? If so, then budget that cost into your shipping fees.
- How are you going to store and track your inventory? You'll need inventory-tracking software — ideally built into your ecommerce hosting and design solution. You can also use your stock room if you already have a physical storefront. Otherwise, you'll need some sort of product storage solution.
- How, when, and why are you adding new products to your website? Be strategic about adding the right items and consider seasonal sales items and discounts.
For example, you might want to sell and ship products exclusively online. On the other hand, you might want to offer customers the option of buying your products online and then coming to your store for curbside pickup.
In fact, “85% of shoppers have increased curbside pickup” since the pandemic started. And many of them want that pickup process to be completely contactless.
You can also offer contactless payment and other online shopping solutions in-store for customer convenience and safety.
Of course, the reverse can also be true where you can also have "online exclusive" products which can be used to encourage your in-store customers to shop online.
Select ecommerce payment providers
There are many options to choose from when selling online. The most common way is to sell your products via an online store or to add ecommerce functionality to your WordPress blog using WooCommerce.
In either case, you need a domain name and checkout page where customers can complete their transaction via their credit or debit card or using their preferred third-party payment provider like PayPal, Apple Pay, or GoDaddy Payments.
Many small businesses prefer to use a third-party payment provider. That's because it minimizes your security risks by storing customer credit card data through an encrypted service via the payment provider and not on your site.
GoDaddy Payments lets small businesses sell via all major credit card and debit card providers, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. It comes with advanced online encryption while maintaining the strictest payment card industry (PCI) compliance standards.
Likewise, your payment product questions and issues are managed 24/7 by GoDaddy's customer support team.
GoDaddy Payments also offers the lowest fees (2.3% + 30¢ per online transaction) compared to other leading providers, and the money arrives in your account by the next business day. As a bonus, there are no long-term contracts, monthly minimums, or surprise fees to worry about.
It's easy to set up your account in minutes, and you can manage all of your orders, inventory, customer reviews, and email in one place using the GoDaddy Online Store dashboard.
Editor's note: Need help sifting through payment options? Compare the top payment processors on the market right now.
If you don't have the time, money, or resources to launch an ecommerce store right now, you can still sell online to customers using other sales channels.
GoDaddy Payments recently launched a variety of online sales solutions for small businesses.
Sell anywhere with shareable pay links
If you do most of your business with customers via text messages, email, social media or over the phone, you can process transactions using a customizable GoDaddy Payments Online Pay Link. Simply add your store branding and the cost of the transaction, then easily create and share a pay link with customers in minutes.
You can even transform a pay link into a scannable QR code with one click. Then post it or let customers print it anywhere to scan and pay in person quickly.
Via your GoDaddy Payments dashboard, select Pay Links and enter the price, description, and image for your payment request. Then, send your newly created payment link to your customer (through your preferred sales channel), and it'll take them to a secure checkout page to complete their purchase.
After your customer completes the transaction, you'll get paid by the next business day.
Turn your phone or computer into a virtual terminal
It's a simple, secure way to get paid when your customers aren't standing in front of you (e.g., collecting credit card info over the phone). And you don't need any extra hardware like a card reader to complete the transaction.
Simply log in to your GoDaddy account and open Virtual Terminal on your Payments dashboard. Then, take your customer's credit card info, type it into Virtual Terminal, and confirm the charge. Again, you'll receive your payment by the next business day.
Get a point-of-sale (POS) system for contactless payments
The global pandemic has also influenced a dramatic shift away from in-person cash payments to contactless payments. As a result, small businesses should look for innovative point-of-sale (POS) systems that allow them to evolve with their customers' in-store payment preferences.
GoDaddy's POS system offers a variety of payment hardware solutions, including contactless payments, with the lowest transactional fees (2.3% + 0¢) per in-person transaction.
It allows you to quickly and easily take credit and debit card payments, plus contactless payments with Apple Pay and Google Pay. Then you can track it all in your GoDaddy dashboard.
Additionally, you can connect GoDaddy's POS with your GoDaddy Online Store to help unify and expand your selling and enable customers to buy online, pick up in-store, or book online and pay in-person.
You'll also benefit from the following hardware solutions:
Dual screens: GoDaddy's dual-screen POS makes checkout a breeze. Plus, the all-in-one terminal includes a built-in payment processor, scanner, printer, and security.
Tap, dip or swipe payments: You can use the included charging dock to go hands-free. One single battery charge keeps your sales going longer, and you can connect your Card Reader to your GoDaddy Mobile App to start taking quick and easy payments.
Peace of mind: Every GoDaddy POS checkout is PCI secure, and every device comes with a one-year limited warranty and thirty-day refund.
Once you're ready to take your brick-and-mortar store online, it's time to let your customers know about it.
There are several ways you can do this affordably — all of which will require an investment of your time at a minimum.
Encourage customer ratings and reviews
Consumers have always trusted opinions and product recommendations from their peers over advertising or PR messaging.
That's why you should encourage your ecommerce customers to provide ratings and reviews on your product pages and learn how to appropriately respond to all online reviews — both positive and negative.
To use positive reviews and ratings as a promotional tool for your ecommerce business, refer to our comprehensive guide, which includes some helpful case studies.
Boost your social media activity and presence
Whether or not you already have a social media presence, it's crucial to start boosting your online social activity and brand profile to drive traffic back to your new ecommerce website.
Creating and sharing valuable social media content is both an art and a science. Luckily we have created lots of content with tips and advice to help you do it properly.
You can start by watching the video below to learn how to think like a digital marketer to reach, engage, and convert customers on social media:
Next, read through our time-saving social media tips for business owners, and learn about other best practices to expand your reach and grow your business.
Build an email marketing database
Email is a highly targeted and effective way to increase ecommerce traffic and sales to your new ecommerce website. Start by gathering customer email addresses both in-store and online once you launch your site (if you haven't done so already).
To incentivize customers, consider offering a 10% to 20% discount on their first order in exchange for their email opt-in to your newsletter. Then you can contact those customers whenever you're doing a seasonal promotion or new product launch.
It's equally important to set up an email report in analytics to help you track how your email campaigns perform in driving new sales transactions and site visits. To learn how, refer to our beginner's guide to starting an email list.
GoDaddy Online Store Builder comes with built-in email marketing functionality. Have a look at this walkthrough to get started.
Use search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is a highly effective yet often time-consuming traffic-driving strategy for your new ecommerce store. More than 80% of consumers frequently search online before they purchase a product or service. Likewise, “SEO drives ten times more traffic to a site than organic social media.”
Your best bet is to start small by creating engaging and educational content through a blog or through online videos, and work on building links back to your website through other websites.
Once you've begun to build up your site traffic and are more aware of the most popular and highest-rated products on your site, you might want to invest in paid advertising.
Take a look at your website analytics to see which sites drive the most organic traffic to your online store. Then invest in advertising with those sites to drive even more targeted traffic back to your top product pages.
Watch this video for tips on how to get started with paid online ad spending.
Promote your ecommerce site in-store
Be sure that customers who frequently visit or pass by your brick-and-mortar store know about their new online shopping options.
Promote your new domain name on your retail storefront window or awning, shopping bags, receipts and anywhere else that they might see it when they shop in person.
Prioritize customer service
A happy customer is always your best word of mouth marketing tool. If you can't hire someone to help you with online customer service, then set aside time each day to answer customer emails and phone inquiries, update order statuses, and enter their shipping details.
Before you take your brick-and-mortar store online, ask yourself:
- How will you send shipping confirmations to customers?
- Who will handle phone and email inquiries, how, and when?
- Do you need a separate business phone line?
- How and when should you answer social media questions and comments?
You can save some time by developing and posting an FAQ section on your website, and creating templated email responses to your most common customer inquiries.
It's time to bring your brick-and-mortar store online
Ecommerce sales are soaring, and customers have accelerated their online shopping habits and preferences because of the global pandemic. As a result, brick-and-mortar stores must re-think their sales strategies.
Even if your retail store sales are solid, it's time to offer online and contactless payment solutions to satisfy your customers' evolving shopping needs.
With the right online and in-person sales strategy, using a PCI-compliant provider like GoDaddy Payments, you can rest assured that your customers' privacy and security are in good hands.
For even more ecommerce tips and strategies, read our post: “How to start an online store.”