These are challenging times for retailers, to put it mildly. Every establishment is different, but for many boutique shops and other small businesses that depend on foot traffic, the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating. Manassas businesses are no exception, with practically every one of them feeling the pressure from COVID restrictions.

So, what now that walk-in traffic has dried up for the foreseeable future? To the extent possible, businesses must make the shift to selling online. Though difficult to get started, restrictions have been loosened to allow most every business to operate online—even craft breweries that are only allowed to sell on premises are allowed to sell online for curbside pickup or delivery.

Though a scary step, embracing online selling and advertising will have many long-term benefits. It doesn’t take a programmer, either—many tools are made specifically for small business owners with little or no online experience.

Quick note: The following list are ideas for our local business owners, not endorsements. There are many other options available; do a bit of research, ask your friends who have already committed to the digital landscape for advice, and find out what works for you!

Build A Better Website

If you don’t have a website, you have a lot of catching up to do. If you do have a website, but you haven’t looked at it in five years, you may as well be in the same boat. Consumers today expect a site to be easy to search, quick to load, and appealing to look at.

Luckily, there are quite a few options to make sites like these easily! Squarespace and Wix are great options for websites intended to drive phone calls, form submissions, or make a small number of purchases, and Shopify works very well for businesses with quite a few products to sell.

All three of these options are easy to set up, come with templates that you can modify, and do not cost an arm and a leg.

Allow Online Purchases

Once you have your site up and running, you will have to set up a way to accept payments. Fortunately, each of the website builder options mentioned in the previous section can be combined easily with a payment processor. Square and PayPal are two of the simplest options, and there are many articles providing an overview of the pros and cons of each.

Setting up e-commerce can get tricky, but don’t make it more difficult than it has to be. Make it in the simplest way you can so that everything works and you can receive payments for the products you sell, and make adjustments as you get more comfortable with the system.

To Sell Online, Advertise Online

So by this point you have a great website with a great e-commerce platform that allows you to sell your great products… Now what? Well, for most of you, nobody really knows you are online. If you have social media pages with decent followings, great! Post regularly about your updated site and e-commerce offerings, but don’t stop there. Boost your posts on social media to reach all of your audience, or your audience and their friends, to make sure you’re getting the word out.

Depending on your product or service and how much you’d like to spend on online advertising, you can also make a Google Ads account for further exposure. Google Ads can get very, very complicated, but Google offers easy ways for beginners to get started, including a checklist and tons of resources to help you on your way.

Commit to the Digital World

For these new systems to take hold and make an impact, you have to really commit to them. If you play your cards right, your new strategy will be a saving grace during the COVID-19 pandemic and a welcomed new revenue stream once things return to normal.