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How to Take Your Brick-and-Mortar
Retail Business Online

See also: Writing a Business Case

Online shopping is vastly different from shopping in person. If you have a brick-and-mortar retail store you’re hoping to transition to the internet, you’ll definitely want to keep these differences in mind as you make the update.

The following is a primer on how to successfully take your brick-and-mortar retail business online:


Begin Collecting Current Customers’ Email Addresses ASAP

It is not easy to drive traffic to an online store – but if your retail store already has loyal customers, they’re likely to follow you online. To facilitate this, let your customers know that you’re starting an online store and ask if they’d like to opt in to your store’s email newsletter.

Your email newsletter has the potential to become a top traffic driver to both your online store and (if you’re keeping it open) your retail store.

Consider Whether You’ll Need Warehouse Space

One of the main differences between brick-and-mortar shopping and online shopping is where the merchandise is kept. In a retail store, the merchandise is typically displayed on the sales floor where customers can browse. Fancy displays are not a necessity with an online store; but if you aren’t keeping your retail store open, you’ll need some sort of warehouse or storage space in which to store your merchandise.

On the other hand, if you’re keeping your retail store open, it may not be necessary to take on any more space, because you may be able to pull merchandise that sells from the sales floor and ship it out to your online customers.

Figure Out the Logistics of Packing and Shipping

You’ll need a dedicated area for storing packaging and shipping supplies. Ideally, a nearby space should be usable for packing up your sold merchandise to prepare it for shipping.

You’ll need to set up an account with at least one shipping company such as UPS, Fedex, DHL or your country’s postal service.



Decide Whether to Build Your Own Website or Use an E-Commerce Platform

You have many options for where and how to open your online store. The most affordable way tends to be buying a domain name, paying for hosting and building your own site. However, that option isn’t viable for most online store owners, because it requires some technical know-how. If you don’t know a proficient coder, and you have no idea how to code or integrate a shopping cart into a website, this option is probably not the way you should go.

In that case, you’d want to choose between using an existing e-commerce platform or using an eCommerce website builder such as Zyro to build your site.

If You Don’t Already Have a Domain Name, Buy One

If your retail store is located in the United States, it would be ideal if you could buy a .com domain name that exactly matches your store name. If you’re outside the United States, it could possibly be more advantageous for you to buy a domain that makes use of your location’s most popular top level domain extension such as .com.au for Australia or .co.uk for the UK. This could be beneficial for helping you to attract local search traffic from the search engines.

Arrange a Photo Shoot

Your retail store customers have the luxury of examining your merchandise in person. Your online customers will not have this option, so it will be crucial for you to show them excellent photographs of the products you want to sell them.

Ideally, this means you would arrange a photo shoot with a professional photographer. However, that isn’t strictly necessary if you are talented enough at photography that you could take the pictures yourself. You’d need to own or rent a camera and lighting gear for this to be a viable option.

In either case, you’ll need an attractive location for staging the photo shoot. Some photographers have their own studio space that could possibly be suitable.

Write SEO-Friendly Product Titles and Descriptions

You will need to write interesting product titles and descriptions so your customers can better understand the products you are selling. When you compose these titles and descriptions, think about the words a potential customer might use to search for such a product online. Include as many relevant keywords in each title and description as you comfortably can.

For example, let’s say you have a pale purple sweater to sell. Some customers might enter the keyword phrase “pale purple sweater” into the search bar – but others might use different words, perhaps “lavender sweater” or “light purple cardigan”. It’s to your advantage if you can work all of these phrases into the description in a way that sounds natural and not keyword-stuffed.

Be sure to thoroughly describe fiber contents and design details, even if your photos clearly show these things. If the fabric an item is made of feels soft or luxurious, be sure to say so in your description.

One successful eBay seller on the eBay forums gave fellow sellers the following advice: “Take your photos as if you didn’t write a product description, and write your product descriptions as if you didn’t take any photos”. This is wise advice, because your customers cannot personally inspect the items you’re selling. They have only your photos and descriptions to go on when they make their buying decisions – so make them thorough.

Build Your Site With SEO and Conversions in Mind

Create a logical navigation structure for your website. Consider using product categories for displaying similar products.

Be sure to cross-promote your products. For example, if you sell clothing and accessories, when a customer views a skirt, you can also cross-promote a matching top and sweater from the same product page.

Configure payment methods and ensure you’re complying with legal requirements for collecting sales tax.

Open for Business

Email your customers to let them know your store has launched and that you’d welcome their business. Hopefully the next step is to collect orders and fulfil them.

Manage Your Online Presence

You may wish to start a blog and / or social media accounts for marketing your online store. If done well, these things can sometimes help to drive additional traffic and sales to your site. However, maintaining them takes time, so you’ll want to carefully track the time you’re spending on these activities to be sure you’re getting an acceptable return on the time you’re spending.

See our page: Managing Your Online Presence for more information.



Further Reading from Skills You Need


The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business

The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and
Running Your Own Business

If you are thinking about running your own business, or already do so, but feel that you need some guidance, then this eBook is for you. It takes you through self-employment in easy steps, helping you to ensure that your business has more chance of success.

The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business is the guide no new or aspiring entrepreneur can afford to be without!

Based on our popular self-employment and entrepreneurship content.


These are the steps you take for creating and running a successful online store. It’s a different business model than the retail store you’re used to, but it has the potential to greatly expand your customer base. Making the transition could potentially empower you to enjoy significantly increased numbers of sales and much greater profitability.


About the Author


Andrej is an entrepreneur, a digital marketer and an avid internet technologist. Throughout his career, Andrej has combined his passion for cutting-edge technology with a keen eye for emerging industry trends to deliver customised marketing solutions to businesses and clients around the globe.

He believes that the key to modern marketing excellence is a constant willingness to learn and adapt to the ever-changing digital world.

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