How to move your bricks-and-mortar store online

How to move your bricks-and-mortar store online

Expert advice on taking your business online, and five tips for building a successful store.

BY Business Chicks, 13 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Xero.

Pre-COVID, the ABS showed that around half of Australia’s small businesses considered it worthwhile to have an online presence. In the months since, businesses across the globe have had to rethink the way they operate, and the way that consumers interact with businesses has changed considerably. For many (including Business Chicks!), moving a business online has meant the difference between surviving or going under. If you sell a product, having an online store is no longer a nice to have, it is a must have.

A recent study of over 6000 online retailers showed that online shopping is booming, with online orders seeing a 96% year-over-year growth for April 2020. According to Angus Capel, Xero‘s Small Business Advocate, this trend will not be slowing down. “We see COVID as accelerating a trend towards the remote delivery of goods and services; something that was already flowing through the small business economy organically. But post-COVID, when mandated isolation has finished completely, we expect consumer demand for an online presence to remain. In turn, we also expect that businesses will be more accepting of remote work. In the recovering economy, being online will open the prospect of larger markets of customers, hungry to engage and transact as seamlessly as possible.”

It’s crucial for businesses to have a presence online. Not only does it allow for more productive hours in the day thanks to the automation of administrative tasks, it also provides them with a much larger market to reach and sell to. “And the numbers back it up – with Xero research finding that for businesses that increased their investment in technology, most were rewarded by an increase in revenue three times that of the weakest technology investors,” said Angus.

So you’ve made the decision to move online – what next? Angus and the Xero team recommend working closely with a trusted advisor (accountant or bookkeeper). “Advisors will be able to guide businesses through making the transition to online processes, as well as helping them with a selection of products to underpin the transformation (along with implementation and training).”

Once you’ve enlisted the help of a trusted advisor (accountant or bookkeeper), you may like to consider hiring an ecommerce expert like Megan Winter to help get your online presence up and running quickly. Megan is an ADMA award-winning digital marketer, international speaker, Bond University mentor and Co-founder of Unstoppable eCommerce. Having helped hundreds of online stores come to life, Megan knows what works, so we asked for her tips on moving a bricks-and-mortar store online.

1/ Choose the right platform for you

While there are some great third party marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon, it’s important to consider if you want to build a brand or sell a commodity.  These third party platforms can be quicker and easier to set up but at the end of the day you don’t own the traffic and there is also a lot of competition on the same site.  Invest this time wisely to create a brand and business asset you control. We recommend going with a self-hosted eCommerce website platform. Shopify is the platform that we use and recommend as it’s user friendly so even a novice can set up their own site.

2/ Replicate your in-store sales assistant, online 

When people walk into your bricks and mortar store they can use all their senses to check out your products and decide if they want it… or not. They can pick it up, try it on, touch it, feel it, smell it and/or taste it. When shopping online, people only have what you give them through their screen. You need to replicate the in-store experience as best you can by providing quality images, great product headlines and descriptions and answer any frequently asked questions people may have.

3/ Have a follow up strategy in place 

People are going to be window-shopping more during isolation and work-from-home time so make sure you have a follow-up strategy in place. Although people may not buy from you straight away, not only do you have the opportunity to build a relationship with them, you can also retarget them when they may be ready to buy.

Having a Facebook Pixel installed allows you to retarget people based on the individual actions they’ve taken on your site. For example, if they have window-shopped but left your site without making a purchase, you can target those people with a different message to someone who only visited your home page.

Also make sure you have automated email sequences setup ready to follow people up.

4/ Don’t deter people with shipping

Shipping costs are one of the top reasons people don’t buy from an online store. This is especially true for items that are small in size or low in price. Free shipping is the best so if you can, offer free shipping. Or at least have a free shipping threshold where people have the option of qualifying for free shipping if they spend over a certain amount.

5/ Connect with your audience by strategically producing engaging, unique and magnetic content

This time presents a huge opportunity to become a leader in your niche.  Show up for your audience consistently and don’t be afraid to be real, raw and vulnerable. Pivot your content to be helpful and relevant to where people are at right now.


The five key characteristics of a successful ecommerce site

1/ User friendly

People are time-poor and get frustrated easily. A good website needs to have a clear path to purchase. People need to go from discovering what they are looking for to easily checking out with just a few clicks. Having a menu structure that makes sense and including filters can be a great way to assist customers in finding what they are looking for. 

2/ Mobile friendly

The majority of your website traffic is likely to come from mobile. Although most people build websites for desktop, they really should be built for mobile first. Ensure your theme is responsive and adapts well to any screen size so you’re not putting off customers by making them zoom or rotate their screen just to read things clearly or find the add to cart button.

3/ Fast to load

Even though people may be sitting at home with nothing to do, they are still not going to sit and wait for your website to load. A good website will load in 3 seconds or less. You can test your website speed at here. Ensure it loads quickly on mobile, not just desktop.

4/ Great quality images

Images are critical to the success of an online store. Poor quality images portray poor quality products, whereas high quality images shout high quality product. 

It’s important to use a mix of both product specific images and lifestyle images so people can imagine owning the product and see exactly how it would fit into their life. 

Think about what people do when they walk into a store. If you sell a handbag, for example, people pick it up, try it on to see how long the strap is, look inside to see what the how many pockets there are and what they would fit in them. You need to replicate this process in the images you use. Show photos of the bag from all angles, including the inside. Show someone wearing the bag so they can see where it sits on the body. You can even incorporate videos into your product pages if your theme allows. 

5/ Trust is a must

Trust may be the most important thing on an online store. If a shopper doesn’t trust the store, they won’t buy from it. They need to trust it is a legitimate store, trust that their information is secure and that they will get the products they order. You can add trust to your store by including social proof, trust icons, secure checkout badges, using a SSL certificate and displaying any relevant certifications or awards.

Social proof, the “I’ll have what she’s having” tactic, is a great way to build trust. Like almost all marketing tactics, social proof can be traced back to primal behaviours. We would have once used social proof for survival “If that guy is eating the red berries and isn’t dead, the red berries must be ok to eat”. We now use it to influence our purchasing behaviour. Because a lot of marketing tactics stem from human behaviour, we often don’t even notice that we are being influenced by them.

With social media, every customer is a critic, content producer and influencer. If you have a good product and give your customers a fantastic experience they will talk about it. If you don’t, they will talk about it even more.


Born in the cloud, Xero is a beautiful, easy-to-use platform for small businesses and their advisors. It connects you with your business numbers anytime, anywhere and on any device, and offers features such as payroll, invoicing, payments and bank reconciliation. Xero also provides its subscribers with connections to a thriving ecosystem of more than 800 third-party apps (including Shopify) and more than 200 banks and financial service providers.

Want to elevate your business, expand your knowledge, broaden your network and have a tonne of fun doing it? Business Club by Business Chicks could be for you! Applications for the next intake are now open (at a reduced price point!) so don’t miss out.


©2020 Business Chicks

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