As we continue to adjust to a new way of life amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, brick and mortar retailers are forced to re-evaluate business operations in order to remain open. While many have been forced to limit hours or close the doors, it is now time to consider alternative digital options to deliver products to customers and continue producing sales.
To help our retail members, the Premium Cigar Association has designed the following guide for launching an e-Commerce line of business and implementing over-the-phone orders.
If you currently have e-commerce capabilities, now is the time to ramp things up and develop this as much as possible.
- List your Inventory. Make sure all your inventory is properly listed on your e-commerce site and all prices are up to date.
- Offer Delivery Discounts. Offer free shipping for orders over $50 and/or offer free local delivery and in-store pickup options if possible.
- Promote, Promote, Promote! What good is an e-commerce site if nobody knows about it? Share your e-commerce site as much as possible through every available outlet, including social media, email and text (SMS) marketing platforms. Also, check local online newspapers and media outlets and share with them. During this time, many communities have begun compiling lists of local businesses offering alternative sales options, either through local government sites or online news outlets –take advantage of this!
If you don’t currently have e-commerce capabilities, focus on keeping things simple by offering over-the-phone orders. Because phone orders require more from the customer, you’ll want to offer a bit more in exchange for their time:
- Offer free shipping. Many online businesses are still charging quite a bit for shipping, and with the extensive delays in delivery, you’ll set yourself apart by offering this service free of charge.
- Offer local delivery and curbside pickup. By offering this service to your local community, not only will you strengthen your relationships with your long-standing customers, but you may also gain new customers who will remember this kindness long after we’ve come out of this.
- Promote your services! If people don’t know, they won’t come. Let them know by sharing your alternative sales options on every platform possible —and share it often! Use social media, email, and text (SMS) platforms to let people know what you’re offering and encourage others to share and repost to help get your message out!
If you don’t already have an e-Commerce platform, it may be too much to try to launch on-the-fly. In that instance, it may be much more productive to focus on phone orders. Whichever route you choose to go, it is important you have the capabilities in place and have a smooth process in place to ensure customer satisfaction. Focus on what you know you can do well, what will be beneficial and enticing to your customers, and then, when you’re ready, make sure everyone knows about it!
This guide was prepared as a collaboration between Erin Holland of the PCA and Harris Saunders, PCA Board member and owner of Cigars & More in Birmingham, AL.