The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 has put a lot of businesses in a difficult position. Lockdown orders have forced many non-essential operations to close their physical locations indefinitely. Although most business owners understand how important staying closed is, the threat to their livelihoods is also concerning.
If you have found your business in this situation, you may be wondering what you can do. One option may be to open up a new revenue stream through e-commerce. Even if this can’t fully replace your physical store, it could make the difference between weathering the storm and having to shutter forever.
Closing Your Store Doesn’t Have To Mean No Revenue
Many businesses rely primarily on their physical stores to stay open. This can make shuttering the location very challenging. However, there may be some opportunities to create other opportunities for revenue.
Consider how your business could operate on a delivery model. For foodservice businesses, expanding your food delivery options may be a valuable option. Many restaurants have banded together to offer special quarantine promotions that encourage people who are sheltering at home to order their dinners.
If you run a store selling physical products, you may be able to mail your products to customers. Alternatively, you could start a local delivery service of your own. This latter option is an especially good option for artisanal businesses such as bakeries.
Even fully service-oriented companies such as hair salons can get creative. Consider selling products online and producing tutorials on how to use them. Every business can promote gift cards as an option for customers to show their support. Again, even if such alternatives are not much, they could provide some valuable income during these trying times.
The Power of E-Commerce
E-commerce can be a valuable part of your business even when things are running smoothly at your physical store. There is no reason to limit yourself to selling exclusively to in-person buyers. These are a few of the advantages of e-commerce:
- Operate 24/7: You can keep bringing in business even when your store is shut. Currently, that is most valuable because your store has to remain closed. However, at other times, you could be earning money while you sleep.
- Get Global: In theory, you can create a global reach with your e-commerce efforts. They can extend as far as your shipping logistics will allow (which is pretty much anywhere in the world with modern shipping solutions).
- Do Business With Less Overhead: Currently, you may be understandably lamenting the closing of your physical locations. However, it is probably no surprise that operating online can earn your business with less overhead. Plus, there is no reason not to do both.
The opportunity to keep running your business even when your doors are shuttered is very valuable right now. However, you could turn this trying time into a chance to establish or expand your e-commerce business. It may help you strengthen your business for the future.
How To Start Accepting Payments Online
If you are ready to give this e-commerce thing a try, you will need to set your website up to be able to accept payments online. You will need a merchant account, a special type of bank account that allows you to accept payment using credit cards and similar payment methods. Instabill offers a merchant account intended for e-commerce operations.
You will likely also need some sort of e-commerce platform. This is a feature you can add to your website to allow customers to browse products, fill their virtual carts and checkout.
Many modern e-commerce platforms are very easy to set up and get started. Additionally, a lot of them will integrate easily with your merchant account. However, it is a good idea to research which options will play nicely together before you make any decisions.
Finally, you will need to figure out how you are going to deliver your products to customers. Many e-commerce businesses use a combination of the US Postal Service and other shippers. However, you should choose the option that best fits your product and your logistical needs.
Keep in mind that there will be a processing fee for every transaction you accept. However, if you are already accepting payment cards at your store, you are likely already used to budgeting for this.
Other Tips for Protecting Your Business
Keeping the revenue coming in is the most important part of protecting your business during lockdown orders. In addition to accepting payments online, you should also be communicating with your audience. Let them know what your situation is and how you are taking on the current circumstances. Many may be willing to buy more than they normally would to help out your business.
It is also a good idea to talk to your vendors to see if you can get some extra time to settle your payables. While those businesses may be in equally difficult situations, some may be able to help you out.
Communication is the key to weathering this storm. It never hurts to ask for help.