Is it time to launch an online store?

The Hard to Find Liquor store in Ardmore OK is indeed hard to find and there is no online store (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Shopping adventures – the Hard to Find Liquor store in Ardmore, Oklahoma is indeed hard to find, and there’s no online store (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Tourism partners (and a lot of DMOs) need income NOW. Is an online store the answer?

Here is our response – maybe.

Let’s talk about how to approach this issue as destinations try to survive the coronavirus – go here to read our advice about things to do right now to come out of this pandemic in better shape.

Your restaurants and other food-related establishments have probably already scrambled to set up online ordering to support takeout and curbside delivery services. Now some of your other partners (most likely the retail merchants) are wondering if an online store can help get some money into the bank.

Maybe they’ve been considering it for awhile, and now push has desperately come to shove. Maybe they think they need to “do something on the internet” and a store is all they can think of. Maybe even you as the DMO are ready to try it.

A dose of reality – items in an online store do not sell themselves. People have to know about them, want and/or need those particular items, AND have the money to buy them. You must also be ready for order fulfillment – packaging up your products and getting them shipped.

Trying to get people’s attention and money is difficult even when there isn’t an ongoing pandemic and economic crash. If someone is weak at marketing already, he or she is not suddenly going to become a great marketer online, either.

The most likely brutal truth is that no one knows or cares about your thing and they’re too broke to buy it right now anyway.

Still want to try? Okay. We admire your persistence! 😊

Proceed with this approach – build something VERY basic and small to start, devote resources to marketing it, see if there’s demand for what you offer, and don’t expect immediate success. Do it for the long-term health of your business or organization, to diversify income streams.

Here are some ideas for online selling – skip down to the bottom for a few examples of CVB and DMO online stores –

Open a Shop on Your Facebook Page

A simple way to get started trying out ecommerce is to sell items from the business or brand Facebook Page that you already have (not from a personal profile.)

Update 19 May 2020 – new Facebook Shop features, plus Instagram Shop starting in the U.S. in summer 2020.

Your Page needs to be using either the Shopping or Services Page template – if needed, change your current template under Page Settings, then Templates and Tabs.

A Facebook Page shop must:

Here is Facebook’s guide to adding a Shop to your Page, and here is a more detailed post about setting up a Shop.

Add Basic PayPal Buttons To Your Website

There is a lot of rather complex and powerful ecommerce software out there, but again, we are keeping this as simple as possible.

Think of 3-5 products that you think will sell well, and create a store landing page on your website using PayPal buttons. Yes, PayPal will also handle credit cards in addition to PayPal. You pay a small fee on each transaction in exchange for having PayPal handle payment processing.

Here is a two-minute video about how to do it:

Don’t start out with too many products, and do some test purchases with your buttons.

Getting A Little Fancier – Wilderlove Online Store With Square

Rachael and Sonya own Wilderlove in Greenwood, Delaware. They sell a variety of vintage and handmade goods, and recently decided to try selling online by setting up a store through payment processor Square. (Note: this is different than the website hosting platform called Squarespace.)

Here is the Wilderlove online store if you want to see how it’s laid out.

Below is an interview of about 20 minutes as Rachael and Sonya describe setting up their store with Ben Muldrow from Arnett Muldrow, a company that does economic development, place branding, and wayfinding.

An Online Store Partnership Idea

Our colleague and friend Becky McCray with SaveYour.Town and Small Biz Survival has some advice…

“Pair up merchants with locals who already sell on a platform. For handmade and vintage stores [plus clothing, jewelry, toys/collectibles, art, wedding/party, and homegoods retailers] you probably have an Etsy wizard in your town right now, someone who was already selling online but never opened a bricks and mortar. Pair up! Get some coaching from them, or just hire them to help. Same goes for other platforms (Amazon, eBay, Shopify, you name it). Ask around to find the local talent.”

CVB and DMO Stores

Quality tourism organization or Main Street online store merchandise can be very appealing to locals right now, as well as visitors when we all re-open.

A few examples:

Remember that high-quality product photographs are very important in ecommerce, and you’ll need a plan for marketing your store (use your email list, website SEO, and social media including social advertising,) plus a plan for order fulfillment, especially now that it’s trickier to safely navigate the post office.

We hope you’ve found some of these ideas helpful. Down in the Comments, give us any other thoughts you have about ecommerce that can work now, and in the longer term, for yourself or your local small business tourism partners.

(Related post – The 2 Things: online marketing basics.)


PS. Our whole focus is teaching you and/or your partners how to use digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to your town (when the time is right for that.)

Let us know if you need workshop or conference speakers – including virtual/webinars – or would like some personalized coaching and consulting.

If you want to bounce some ideas around about working with us, ping us through our Contact page.

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