How to run a retail business from home is a journey that many retailers have been navigating over the past year. Some owners are clamoring to get back into their stores, but others are considering different paths forward, like shuttering their brick-and-mortar locations for good.
If you’re going all-in on retail e-commerce, here are three tips to help you build an online retail business plan in 2021.
1. Set a Clear Vision
If you’re considering a permanent pivot to a digital retail business, don’t make the decision alone. Get opinions, get advice, get approvals. And get them early! This will set you up for success.
“We communicated the transition of a more digitally-focused business model to all relevant stakeholders,” says Brian Bianchetti, director at People’s Choice Beef Jerky. “We expressed the importance of the transition. We then got buy-in from all relevant parties — customers, vendors and employees — through a collaborative discussion.”
Your employees’ roles will likely shift and evolve. Customer service employees may now answer emails or calls instead of working face to face, and floor staff may be packing orders from their living rooms and making frequent trips to the post office. Help everyone understand the concept of your evolving model so they feel connected and engaged.
“Setting a clear vision from the beginning helped maintain everyone’s focus,” says Bianchetti.
2. Improve Your Website
Alexa Allamano, founder and jeweler behind Foamy Wader, reimagined her business during the pandemic. She decided to close her physical storefront and move business operations to her home — and the worldwide web. She explains that focusing strictly on digital sales often requires a strong investment in your online platform.
So, Allamano focused on improving her website, SEO, product reviews, and social presence. If you’re a retailer moving to digital-only operations, ask yourself the following questions:
- How is your website’s digital shopping experience, including payment processing?
- Does your SEO promote discoverability?
- Should you set up a newsletter or a different communication funnel for online buyers?
- Are your social media channels active and engaging?
3. Keep Your Customers Informed
One of the biggest challenges home retailers experience is managing shipping production. It’s important to have a plan for where you’ll store inventory and how you’ll handle shipping after you close your storefront. Allamano mentions that after she closed her shop, she moved her jewelry studio into her garage. You can imagine how this created a few shipping speedbumps!
However, online retail benefits from open communication. Customers like frequent updates about their order’s status from the shipping floors to their own doors — even when an unexpected delay arises.
“We doubled-down on communication with the goal of as much transparency as possible,” says Bianchetti.
“From production delays, shipping issues, and the opening and closure of our retail shop, we faced a range of problems that were out of our control. What we could control was the flow of information,” he explains. “We found that as long as we kept our customers informed on the status of their order, they were understanding, patient and even supportive.”
Have It All
Taking your business entirely online is a significant decision, but don’t be afraid to reinvent your online retail business plan so you can master how to run a business from home.
Allamano’s new location has some unexpected benefits, including the flexibility to better align her work hours with her family schedule. “Quiet early mornings and after bedtime production leaves the daytime hours for me to be a mom. I was somewhat heartbroken to close a store I loved but soon found I traded in a dream job for a dream life.”
Running your small business digitally gives you the chance to do what you love on your own terms — perhaps even in the comfort of your own garage.
Need funds to grow or pivot your business for success in the coming years? Check out National Funding’s small business funding solutions or fill out our contact form to contact a representative.