This article is specifically for my fellow business owners in Trinidad and Tobago, however, I don’t see why the tips shared won’t work for most other countries, especially in the Caribbean.
There have been numerous lockdowns since 2020 and now we are forced into a 3 month long State of Emergency, causing many businesses to fail. The traditional brick and mortar style of retail simply can’t work if non-essential businesses have to close their doors. We need an alternative to remain in business and keep the dollars coming in. The reality is that the $1000TTD grant can’t do a thing for most if not all of us business owners. We need to fight to remain open and this strategy will work.
Your business needs to be online.
What do I mean by online? Some of you have an IG page, you post on Facebook, TikTok might be a place to post, maybe Twitter right? These are all good but it is not what I mean. The analogy I tend to use in consultations is this. Your online business is similar to a brick and mortar one. You need to create signs to tell people you exist. You need to create a display that will attract customers and bring them in the door. You need to organise the store in such a way where people can easily find what they are looking for. You need to collect the payment from the customer. You need to give them their items.
Your online store has the exact same process.
- You need to create signs (create advertising).
- You need to create an attractive display (your social media profiles).
- You need to organise the merchandise (product categories, menus etc).
- You need to collect payment (payment gateways).
- You need to give them their items (delivery).
The list above is your strategy. Now let’s discuss execution. Sorry to say but too many of you don’t even execute the above effectively in your physical stores but doing this right online is even more crucial since you don’t have the advantage to correct the issues face to face with your customer.
Proper branding is very important in order to stand out. Many of the products you sell can easily be sold by someone else. I don’t care that you have a special patented print on your t-shirt because every man jack and their mingei dog sells t-shirts. What is it about your brand, your store, your products that stand out? Figure that out and emphasise this in order to stand out.
Create advertisements that target the right customers. I’ve heard too many business owners say “anyone can buy my product” and yes that might be true, however not everyone is going to buy the product. You need to be as specific as possible with these ads. Figure out who this ideal customer is. You need to know their location, their gender, their hobbies, their age and even what other brands they follow. The more specific the better your results are going to be.
Your social media isn’t the place to sell just the same way your mannequins don’t actually do any selling in your storefront. Your social media is where you post content to engage the potential customers to get them to enter the store. Use the images/videos to showcase the product and the captions to tell your customer how they can buy it.
Once they enter your store, can they easily find what they are looking for? Do you have items sorted into categories? Are the categories easy to find? Do the categories make sense? eg. are socks classified as bottoms or footwear? Are they sports socks or work socks? Remember your website can act as a 24/7 store and be its own sales clerk if you design it that way.
Collecting payments from customers can be tricky. Can you accept credit cards? Do your customers have credit cards? This is one of the reasons for knowing your customer. You’ll be able to determine at this point what the best method to accept payment is.
Finally, we come to delivery. We need to get the items into our customer’s hands. There are many delivery options available. The top three are TTPOST and UPSL and yourself (I’ll get back to that). The courier option you choose depends on your business model and who your customers are. eg. If your customer is comfortable paying online with a credit card then TTPOST is your most cost-effective option, however, if your customers prefer cash or card on delivery then UPSL can work for you. Or, if you have the time or the manpower then do delivery yourself. Jump in your car or van and go meet the customer. Maybe some of the employees from the store can be utilised to handle deliveries for you.
Running an online store can be extra work and honestly it is. This is literally another store outlet with the potential to reach a global audience. This store has the potential to create more income for you than your physical retail outlet ever did but it is going to require some time, adjustments, redirecting labour/energies towards it and putting a budget in place for making it all work!
Your online store has the ability to create repeat customers and referral customers if you are able to follow the strategy above. Who really knows how long the current global climate will last. The one thing we can do is put things in place to adapt rather than allow our businesses to be closed down due to circumstances beyond our control.