In recent years, e-commerce has grown tremendously and it’s not going elsewhere. It’s not limited to physical goods, either. Individuals and brands are selling all kinds of digital products and services. But what does this mean for brick-and-mortars who are used to selling things at their physical location?
This trend doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortars, SMBs, and local businesses are out of the game. In fact, there are many people who still prefer to shop in physical stores for numerous reasons. For example, they can check the items in person before purchasing and receive them right away. Similarly, they can interact and build connections with the store employees. This kind of face-to-face interaction can’t be beaten. It’s nice for the store, as well, as it sometimes ends up with the customer finding (and buying) more items that they like while in-store.
However, every industry evolves over time, and it’s important to keep up with the trends if you want to survive and thrive. It’s essential for these businesses to take action now and dip their toes in the world of selling online. So, if you’re new to the game, here are five ways brick-and-mortars can make money online — even if the business doesn’t yet have any involvement in e-commerce or selling things on the internet.
How Brick-and-Mortars Can Make Money Online
1. Sell Your Products and Services Online
This one is the most simple and straightforward.
Selling online presents a lot of benefits to brick-and-mortar businesses. It allows you to reach people right where they are (which is online). It diversifies your business’s revenue stream and boosts foot traffic and sales in your physical stores, as some customers tend to search online before purchasing in-store. It’s incredible knowing that you’re no longer bound by geography. It’s quite likely that you can sell to anyone, anywhere in the world. That’s something a brick-and-mortar business who only sells in-person can’t offer.
If you haven’t yet, set up a virtual store or a dedicated shopping page on your website to show people your offerings. Be sure to indicate who you are, what you do, where you’re located, and how to contact you to give them the opportunity to know and reach out to you.
Another option is to leverage the power of social media. With Instagram, you can tag your products in your posts or set-up an IG Shop where people can browse through your feed, explore collections, and purchase within the app. Similarly, Facebook Store allows you to list your products, connect with customers, and make sales through the platform.
Full disclosure: Like with most things in business and life, there will be a learning curve! You’re going to have to navigate the responsibilities of packaging and shipping, including the associated requirements and fees. You’ll also need to figure out what you’re going to do about customer returns and replacements. Give yourself time and space to learn, and it’ll soon become second nature.
Keep in mind that we don’t mean you should abandon your physical space. Rather, brick-and-mortars should complement their store-based operations with online efforts to give the business added exposure and another avenue to connect with customers.
2. Sell on E-Commerce Platforms and Marketplaces
If you’re not keen on building your own website or using social media (though we highly recommend that you at least try), e-commerce platforms are a good starting point. While there are a lot of options available, you might want to consider well-known and more trusted sites like Amazon, BigCommerce Craigslist, and eBay.
They have built-in features that make it easy for beginners to set-up shop, including search features and shopping carts. Plus, they have a massive customer base who shops regularly, so you can be sure that your products do get in front of people. This is one of the biggest benefits of using a marketplace. You don’t have to work as hard to go out and get traffic. The traffic comes to you.
Plus, if you use a service like Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon), then they handle a lot of the grunt work for you. They’ll manage customer returns and replacements, refunds, packaging, shipping, and more. You just need to get your product to their warehouse.
One caveat though when using these platforms is that they can be saturated and competitive. Thus, you’ll have to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s offering better prices, special bundles, or free add-ons, you need to provide the customers with a reason to choose you over others. Don’t forget, too, that SEO matters. Optimize your listing with relevant keywords — particularly if they’re high-traffic and low-competition.
It’ll also benefit you to learn about paid ads. For example, Amazon allows you to run ads on the marketplace. This can increase visibility for brick-and-mortars selling online, and thus your conversions. This is something you can learn to do yourself, or you can outsource it to a PPC (pay-per-click) specialist.
3. Offer Virtual Classes
Another effective way to make money online is by holding online classes/courses, where you charge for sign-ups and enrollment. This allows people to see how to use your products and services and determine what value it can bring to them.
For example, if you’re a local café with a community of loyal customers, you can hold live classes via Zoom teaching people how to recreate popular coffee drink recipes or baked goods. People need to pay for access, and the Zoom videos will only be available to those who have enrolled.
You can also create paid online courses with Udemy or monetize your videos with Podia or UScreen. You can charge students for advanced-level sessions or classes with certificates. And you can host live events to promote your brand and teach people something new.
Side note: Online courses like this are a great way to make passive revenue. You pre-record it and make it available for people to enroll in whenever they want, self-paced. After the initial course creation, you spend time promoting and then sit back as the sales come in. Need guidance setting up the technical stuff? Check out something like Thinkific, Teachable, or Kajabi.
4. Digitize and Monetize Your Content
To supplement your virtual classes, you can create digital products for your customers. And we know that doing so can create a lot of opportunities for your brand.
One example is paid courses, which we already discussed. But there are many others. As an example, again, if you’re a local café, consider writing and selling a recipe e-book of your signature dishes and drinks for immediate sales.
Let’s take this one step further. What about free content that still makes you money? Sounds like it shouldn’t make any sense, right? But it does. Here’s why.
You can offer free content to your online followers that still nudges them to purchase something. For instance, you can try sending out weekly newsletters to your email list. In addition to providing amazing value for free (a must), you can also tell them about one of your products or services that they can buy online.
Blogging is another idea. Yes, blogs are free to read. But you can promote your products and services within them. You can also try affiliate marketing. Only do affiliate marketing for brands that you use yourself and have had an amazing experience with. Remember, you’re recommending them to your crowd. So, you’re essentially putting your own reputation on the line when you tell people that it’s a reliable and trustworthy brand.
Similarly, you can create a virtual place where people can get exclusive content and special offers. For instance, if you’re a community daycare, you can sell memberships where parents can receive specialized lesson plans, personalized toddler activities, or discount vouchers for baby products. This is an excellent way to not only diversify your revenue but also have recurring revenue since memberships tend to renew/charge each month.
When doing this, it probably goes without saying, but make sure that your digital content is of high quality, relevant, and useful to your customers. Since they’re paying for it, it has to offer something valuable and one-of-a-kind, not something general patrons can access for free. Think of it as an exclusive club.
5. Get Creative With Your Activities and Promos
Many people love brick-and-mortars because they tend to be more personal with their customers – providing a sense of belonging and community. And that’s exactly what you should also do with your online efforts.
Consider offering services like free deliveries or ordering online and picking it up at the local store. Create custom orders for your clients, curate unique goodie bags, offer a freebie for special purchases, set up a referral program, or share discount codes for first purchases. Most importantly, have a dedicated customer service line — whether through your social pages, website, or phone — that people can reach out to when they have questions.
Essentially, if you go the extra mile and focus on providing value (rather than making sales), you can drive more customers both to your physical store and your online shop.
The Key Takeaway
It’s long been thought that as digital selling continues to skyrocket, brick-and-mortars have no choice but to get left in the dust. Not so. While they do need to pivot and evolve, they can still be wildly successful.
Brick-and-mortar businesses have a community of loyal customers. However, you can apply these five tips in order to compete in the big leagues, increase your competitive potential, and scale your business.
It’s also essential that you’re knowledgeable about Google My Business, which is a local SEO feature and enables a company to be shown on Search and Maps. This will increase the likelihood that your physical store will come up in the local searches, get you additional visits, and offer more opportunities for sales and profit.
Lastly, make sure that your online and offline efforts are aligned at all times. For instance, if you have discount offers online, it should be applicable in-store as well, and vice-versa. This will help ensure consistent customer experience and build long-term relationships.
Do you have other ideas for how brick-and-mortars can make money online? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below.
And if you’re ready to take your business to new heights, e-clincher is here for you. We’re your one-stop-shop for everything digital marketing and social media management. Sign up today for your free trial!