In order to prevent the spread of COVID, customers are hunkering down and not leaving the house except for emergencies. Additionally, some state governments have even forced the closing of bars and restaurants. All to say, in-person traffic to small businesses has plummeted in recent days.
However, there are ways that you can bring in additional revenue to support your business during this tough time. This guide walks you through setting up online gift cards, creating a Swag Store, setting up an ECommerce website, and advertising all of your new offerings.
If you are a local restaurant or small business, put yourself on the Centralized Baltimore Business Database. For an interactive database of all funding opportunities, resources, and support for small business in Baltimore, go to our COVID Business Resource Dashboard
One of the best ways for customers to support your business right now is to purchase gift cards. With gift cards, you get the cash now, while customers know that they can use the funds at a later date. This works especially well with your regular or repeat customers, since they know they are going to spend money with you regardless.
There are multiple online sites that let you set up either eGift cards or regular gift cards in just a few minutes. Two options that the EcoMap Team have found are listed below. GiftFly offers exclusively eGift cards, which Gift Up! allows you to set up either online gift cards or have them shipped to your customers.
Another way for customers to support you is to set up a Swag Store online. With Swag Stores, customers can buy a variety of items that are covered with your logos/ideas/designs, such as t-shirts, pillows, phone cases, posters - you name it.
Many businesses sell branded t-shirts, but often consumers have too many t-shirts to count. That's why its a good idea to set up multi-item Swag Store, which lets you offer the same design across multiple products. This way, a customer can buy a product that they actually need, and you get to benefit regardless.
RedBubble is a great service for this. Originally intended as a one-stop marketplace for artists, it can also be used by businesses to sell their designs across thousands of items. Printful is another service that offers this, but is tailored to small businesses and integrates with your existing eCommerce site. Here is an article outlining even more similar services for you to choose from!
Since customers are largely homebound for the next few weeks, the best ways to continue to sell your products is through on online E-Commerce website. There are many websites that allow you to sell products, and which online tool you use depends on your desire for customizability and ease of use.
After using all four platforms, EcoMap's rankings in order from easiest/least customizable to higher learning curve/most customizable is: Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, and Webflow. This means that Shopify is the easiest to set up, but not very customizable, and it comes with high fees. Webflow is the most customizable and powerful tool, but has a slightly larger learning curve.
To set up an online shop, you'll need a few hours to design your store online, a bank account to link payments to, and photos of your items.
A local design firm, Urban Harbor Media, has offered to build 3 Baltimore businesses an E-commerce platform or website for free (you'll only be billed for the annual hosting). The EcoMap team knows the UHM team well, and can vouch for their work.
Once you have set up your online offerings, it's time to let your customers know! Customers are getting hit left and right with online media right now, so you'll need to convey the message across all platforms.
First, send out a mailing list email with all of your new offerings. Don't be afraid to let customers know that you need their support during this time - many consumers are itching to support small businesses during the COVID shutdown.
Then, post about all of your new offerings on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can use Canva, an online design tool, to make beautiful announcements that can be posted to multiple platforms.
Finally, email or text some of your best customers personally. While many people ignore email blasts, most customers will respond to a personal outreach. You can ask them to help you out by sharing the announcement on social media and telling their friends.
As always, if you would like EcoMap Baltimore to share your announcements, just tag us! We're @EcoMapBaltimore on all social media accounts. Likewise, you can always email email@example.com for advice or support.