Transitioning from a retail, face-to-face, physical location business to an online business can be really tough. For most business owners who go through this, there are some big hurdles when trying to sell online for the first time.
We asked business owners all around the world, in all different industries, what their biggest hurdle is, and how they are dealing with it. We hope it will help you get some direction or inspiration.
The biggest hurdle in selling online is building trust. Buyers have a built-in BS detector and this detector works very well in person (for the most part) and body language is a huge part of that. Since the buyer cannot interact with the seller as usually occurs, it makes developing the trust necessary for a sale much more difficult, takes longer to establish, and may not be in the wheelhouse of traditional sales people.
Valerie Koenig, The Alternative Board Hawaii
Wine and Spirits Store
I brand develop for small family-owned wine and spirits businesses and I have placed them online on DTC sites as well as retail stores across the country. The biggest hurdle is competing with the big brands, everyone is buying Patron Tequila however, Aguamiel Tequila is not a household name. We have pivoted and done the following:
- We are placing brands on more Direct to Consumer sites
- We have retailers digital focus to feature small brands on their delivery features
- More social media-driven campaigns
- The Master Mixologist-Home Bartender Influence reach
This may be a bit more of an indirect type of online sales than what you are asking for but thought it might make for an interesting perspective. I hope this assists you with your feature and thank you in advance for your consideration.
Alicia Vargo, Speakeasy Wine & Spirits, LLC
Hi, I am the owner of Top This Chocolate, a premium customizable-on-the-spot chocolate store in Ventura, CA.
I opened my retail store just this past September and it was going well. I had to quickly pivot to online sales and cut my shipping charge in half. Most people are not accustomed to buying chocolate online so it’s been a big hit. Plus I was already losing money on shipping and now I am losing more.
However, it has been a great marketing opportunity to reach those who were not previously aware of my business. I am finding that people with more time on their hands are reading my emails and social media posts. They are also trying very hard to support small businesses.
I’ve posted that I am open on several listing site and received online orders through those. I have learned that people really want to pickup instead of having their chocolate shipped and so I’ve had to set pickup hours. It may be because they want to get out to my beautiful harbor location or maybe just that they really do not want to pay a shipping charge (even reduced). I got a lot of Easter orders from people who usually buy from Sees Candies and am hoping to do well for Mother’s Day as well.
Shana Elson, Top This Chocolate
Health and Wellness
Hurdles to selling online: As a result of COVID-19, our company was required to pivot to selling entirely online. The biggest challenge we faced arose from the need to ensure prompt shipping worldwide to our consumers in an environment where it was becoming increasingly difficult to work with shipping partners to have items delivered quickly.
Although it initially appeared that we had secured a stable shipping provider, this changed a few days later when San Francisco instituted a mandatory shelter in place order. In response, our shipping provider indicated its belief that it was included in the shelter in place order and could not continue to fulfill, which would have been very problematic.
We ended up surmounting this problem by working with our shipping provider to study the terms of the shelter in place order and sort out uncertainty with the local government. In the end, we managed to ensure that our shipping processes were subject to an exemption, with the result that shipping could continue as normal.
Rebecca White, Prana Brush
Remote Job Board
We run a remote job board and have seen things been almost flipped upside down.
The number of new jobs coming in decreased by 50% but the number of candidates coming increased by 50%
We’ve now shifted from pushing our hiring services to now selling remote job-seeking services.
Since we have so many new candidates, we’ve added new services to help them including resume services as well as sharing more job search resources to help them during this difficult time.
However, we still need lots of great remote jobs. We’re looking for more positions to post, so we are offering new clients their first job listing for free.
To find these jobs, we’re doing lots of outreach and trying to set up partnerships to let companies know about this free trial. For certain companies that promote us, we’re offering to help them as well by promoting them to our audience.
Everyone seems to be offering what they can during this time and trying new things. It’s pretty exciting!
Alexander Harling, Dynamite Jobs
Hair and Beauty Products
The biggest hurdle we had is that since we sell hair and beauty products, they aren’t that much of a priority among consumers today. But we had to adapt and come up with ways to continue earning.
So what we did was offer generous discounts to some of our products of up to 25%. It is part of our easter promo, but we’ve extended it as a way of helping our customers through these hard times. Recently, we also offered free KN95 masks upon every hair extension purchase.
Jack Wang, Amazing Beauty Hair
Personalised Wedding Gifts
My name is Esther Meyer. I’m the Marketing Manager of GroomsShop, a shop that is providing high-quality personalized gifts for the wedding party. We’ve been selling online even prior to COVID, but we’ve been beginners before, so I think I can share my thoughts on hurdles when it comes to selling online.
The biggest hurdle when selling online is being able to write a good description that will make the buyer imagine, see and feel the product through the screen. You need to provide a good copy so that they wouldn’t want to physically inspect the product. This is because 87% of modern consumers want to see and experience a product prior to buying them, and that’s just not a possibility with online shopping.
We were able to overcome this by providing a photo of every personalization detail and color available for our products. This way, customers are not left guessing how each color looks like, or how the prints are going to turn out.
Esther Meyer, Grooms Shop
The biggest hurdle business owners have to face when selling their product online is making sure it’s unique. With the amount of competition out there, it’s critical that you find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Not knowing your competition is one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make.
For instance, we’re in the vaporizer industry, where most businesses’ focal points are e-cigarettes and nicotine. Our advice would be to open a herbal vaporizer shop. By putting our attention and focus on the herbal vaporizers and away from the alternative nicotine delivery systems, we definitely stand out from the rest.Having a modern and updated website is also critical when wanting to sell your products online.
The number of visitors that come across your site but leave without making a purchase because your website looks dated would definitely surprise most business owners. However, your priority is to ensure your site is user friendly. In today’s digital age, it’s all about providing the best possible customer experience.
If your website’s information is all mixed up and visitors never know where to go when looking for a product, you’ve done something wrong. The entire process should be a fairly quick one. From the moment the user enters your site to the time they make their purchase, only a few easy clicks should be required.
Damon Inlow, Vaporizers.ca
Bespoke Window Blinds and Shades
We’re designers, manufacturers, and retailers (both B2B and B2C) of bespoke window blinds and shades. By its nature, decorating a home and choosing soft furnishings and accessories is a very highly-loaded and personal process for buyers, and they take a long time over such purchasing decisions to ensure that they make the right pick.
We put a lot of money and resources into our showrooms, encouraging people to come and immerse themselves in our themed series of interactive sets to envision our blinds and shades in different environments, settings, and contexts, and we support this with a full sensory experience including sound and scent.
However, now that we’re only able to retail remotely and online, we’re unable to do this; one of our sales team described it as like trying to sell cologne to someone by describing it but not letting them smell it. In respect of this, we’re currently shaking up our pre-sales process to do everything we can to allow prospect to take the experience home.
We freely send out fabric and materials samples, provide interactive website tools to enable people to upload shots of their windows and rooms and experiment with our various product options, and have added extra personnel to our phone and email support teams to guide buyers on their choices, measuring, and fitting.
This has been time and labor-intensive and has increased our operating costs; but this has been countered by an uptick in leads and prospects as a result of people being forced to stay home turning their minds to redecorating and home improvements, and so while it is early days, I would cautiously say that so far it is paying off.
John Moss, English Blinds
Customer retention is the most challenging task for us because of the over saturated e-commerce market. We want to retain the customer to get a stable stream of income and to run the business operations successfully. Strategy: We have devised our digital marketing strategy and hit all the leading social media channels. “Out of sight, out of mind,” So we want to remain in touch with our customers through email letters, social media channels, and SMS marketing as well.
We have used the previously gathered emails of our clients and add the new client email address in the customer database. It is an effective way to stay in touch with the customers and to make our company for them. In our emails, we add the handlers of our social media accounts to drive traffic.
Our marketing team is also doing the paid advertisement on social media and practicing the A/B testing strategy to come up with the most effective way of driving sales. In the end, SMS marketing is cheap but has generated encouraging results. The significant portion of traffic on our social media is referred through SMS.
Jessica Chase, Premier Title Loans
Toys and Bookstore
The World of Epi is a successful line of books and toys focused on empowering and encouraging youth through representation. As a toy maker, Dr. Williams is also currently faced with supply chain challenges and is leveraging her methods of success to address and overcome them during this unprecedented time.
More specifically, she is combating COVID by focusing more on forming local partnerships. In doing so, she has revamped her supply chain. This allows customers to have a more innovative products and receive them faster. From an online perspective, as a business reliant on big box sales, she has pivoted to increase the online presence of Fresh Dolls. Dr. Lisa is focusing more so on direct to consumer engagement- building and maintaining relationships with her customers through awareness campaigns which include: the development of engaging content (e.g. blogs), launching of contests and targeted promotions and campaigns to further engage parents and their children.
The current environment poses a unique challenge for the toy industry, and also a unique opportunity. Children specifically are needing more creative ways to be engaged and occupied while at home. Dr. Lisa is also in the process of launching an official Fresh dolls fan club, which will engage her customers and help them to have a pleasant diversion playing with their dolls doing this devastating time.
Dr. Lisa Williams, a supply chain academician and scholar, earned a PhD in marketing and supply chain management from The Ohio State University. She is an award winning author on the subject and has presented to the Clinton White House as well as Congress. In addition, Dr. Williams is an entrepreneur, CEO and founder of The World of Epi.
Dr. Williams’ real-world experience and expertise would allow for a unique perspective to share with your audience. I would be happy to coordinate an interview at your convenience or have Dr. Williams answer any questions you may have to inform potential upcoming coverage. Please feel free to advise if you would be interested in speaking with Dr. Williams or have any clarifying questions with regards to how she is pivoting to focus on online channels vs. big box retailers during this time.
In a time when the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting supply chains around the globe, manufacturers are being hit hard. In a recent NFIB Research Center survey on the current impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on small business, research found 76% of small businesses are negatively impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus and of those businesses negatively impacted, 23% are experiencing supply chain disruptions.
Dr. Lisa Williams, The World of Epi
Team Building Company
The biggest hurdle for us selling online was creating virtual events that the current market was most hungry for. We vowed early on that these new product decisions would have to be data-driven. What we did was start with a free tool to see what people were searching for the most (we used trends.google.com). With this tool, you can enter keywords related to your business and see which related terms are trending upward.
For example, if you type in cooking classes, you’ll see a massive decrease in Google Searches with this term. However, “Virtual Cooking Classes” is seeing a surge like never before. Once you have the data specific to your business, see how the emerging search terms could align with your mission and brand. In addition to creating new products or services, this data will also inform your online ads and SEO efforts as well.
Michael Alexis, TeamBuilding.com
Do you have a hurdle for selling online you need advice on? Leave a comment below.