If you run a retail store, get ready for a very rough ride over the next few months. The techniques deployed to prevent the spread of Coronavirus are becoming more severe.
As more businesses encourage, or make employees to work from home, they’re likely to stay at home, not go out and shop. If you become infected with coronavirus, or are identified as being at risk after being near someone found with the virus, you’ll spend 14 days in self-isolation.
As the number of people staying at home to avoid social contact, retail business will feel the hit financially as customer numbers fall dramatically.
For those businesses who have an online presences and sell products and services through the web, they have a real opportunity to leverage that side of their business to continue to make income during this difficult period.
For those businesses that have no online storefront, it could mean the end of their business. If you’re in that position and do nothing but hope and wait it out, you’d better have a massive cash reserve to ride out the storm.
A better approach is to take action now. Building a website in 2020 is easy and there’s a mountain of online guides, all for free, to help you out.
My advice would be to start with a great web host, personally I use VentraIP. Creating a website can be as easy as pulling out your credit card, buying web hosting and using their cPanel apps installer to get WordPress installed in a few clicks.
Domain name and SSL
Next step is to add a domain name, which are conveniently also available at VentraIP. Once you buy a domain name (usually some variant of your business name), you’ll then want to add SSL. Again there’s great FAQs and help online to help you set this up.
An SSL certificate will secure the connection between your customer’s device and your server, ensuring the details transferred between the two are encrypted.
With a site established, you’ll want to decide on a WordPress Theme, there’s lots for free, or pay a little bit and grab a premium theme. Again this can be a next, next done experience and make your new site look professional.
Finally you’ll be ready to start setting up your website content. The theme you selected will likely guide you through setting up widgets to configure how your front page looks.
If you’ve got time (you don’t) you could spend a lot of time having your site look unique, but that’s not incredibly relevant when things are urgent. You want to ensure the site features your company logo and branding to give customers confidence that it is an official site.
Pages vs Posts
You can use Pages in WordPress to create content pages like About and Contact pages, while Posts provide you with a great way to post news items, like new products, announce sales etc.
Now for the commercial side of things. You’ll need to install a Plugin to enable you to configure your products and services. The best free option here is WooCommerce. This installation is a few clicks, but you will need to spend a decent amount of time here on settings like payment and delivery options, as well as entering product images, prices etc.
Once all this is done, you’re ready to start selling products and that means dealing with the logistics of distribution. You may want to consider repurposing your retail outlet as a warehouse for online distribution. You can then organise couriers to pickup / deliver from there, assuming courier companies continue to operate.
Registering your site on search engines like Google is critical to having your site be indexed and shown to people when they search for the product/services you provide.
Google announced some time ago that they rank sites that change frequently over ones that don’t, which is where your blog/news posts count.
Use services like IFTTT to connect your blog post feed http://websitedomain.com/feed to social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc. This will enable you to automatically post news to an audience of millions and drive traffic to your site.
I would suggest adding Google Analytics to your site, pretty early on. This will help you see the results of your efforts in sharing your site with the world.
Organic traffic is one thing, but if you have the resources and need results faster, you can pay to buy advertising on Facebook Ads, Google Adsense etc to drive traffic to your site.
If you configure these Google Adsense and Analytics correctly, you can see the conversion rate of every dollar spent vs every dollar made form sales on your site. This will help you plan your future ad budget.
This is the most customisable, configurable path and yes, there are plenty of steps involved, but nothing here should take you longer than a weekend.
If these steps feel too hard, then don’t forget, you started a business, that’s bloody tough and you could also reach out to your networks of friends, family, employees to get help from those with web development experience.
If you’re keen for a straight up click and play experience, check out services like WordPress.com, Squarespace, Wix etc. There is a reason why WordPress is the largest Content Management System on the planet.
If all goes well, you may survive, if it goes badly, you may just delay the inevitable.