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How to enhance the online presence of your retail business


Almost overnight, the COVID-19 crisis upended the retail industry in Canada. Many retailers were left struggling to maintain business and operations during mandated lockdowns.

With a second wave already here, it's important to act now to strengthen business resilience—not only to help protect your business during this crisis, but to prepare for future market disruptions and changes as well. The market is still uncertain, but many have suggested that retail and the way we shop will change forever.

While some tactics will vary based on the nature of your operations, a good place to start is with a customer-focused digital and e-commerce strategy.

To help you move your retail business to online shopping and e-commerce, we've outlined what you should be thinking about and next steps to get started below.

If you're ready to get started now on a new strategy, check out our retail service bundles to learn how we can help.

Foundational elements for e-commerce and online payments

Establishing and/or enhancing your ability to service customers with less physical interaction is essential to managing your business in the current environment and in the near future. However, in order to offer your customers online products and services, you need to establish some basic foundational elements.

To assess your ability to pivot to an e-commerce model and efficiently accept online payments, start by cross-referencing the elements that your business currently has with the following checklist:

  • a website with a comprehensive inventory of products/services for sale
  • capability to display images/descriptions of the products/services for sale
  • capability to allow the consumer to select or communicate the items they want to purchase and add to a shopping cart
  • payment processing capability
  • capability to capture billing/shipping information
  • capability to generate an order confirmation and fulfillment process
  • appropriate logistics including the ability to deliver, ship, or offer a pick-up service of the order while adhering to social distancing guidelines
  • capability to handle or accept returns

Processing payments: service providers and platforms you should know about

While most businesses have email and social media, which can provide the basic foundation for online business communications and transactions, there are a number of service providers and platforms that can help you quickly implement your e-commerce strategy. Below is a list of some of these providers and their features.

Offers a variety of simple features including payment gateway, can be inexpensive (basic platform), and offers security and hosting.

Free, simple to navigate, includes payment gateway with upgraded subscription, and provides security and hosting.

Free, simple to navigate, includes payment gateway with upgraded e-commerce subscription, offers additional features such as calendar bookings, and provides security and hosting.

Offers the options of connecting to your current website to accept payment via PayPal or allowing customers to email payment directly, is quick and easy to set up, and is secure and PCI compliant.

Ideal if you have a website and want to be able to quickly offer a form of payment with a payment gateway, and it is secure and PCI compliant.

If you have this already, connecting to your website will require some development if you are not using Squarespace. It's also secure and PCI compliant.

Quick and easy, only requires a valid email address to accept e-transfer payment, and most financial institutions have this feature set up with your account.

Well-known players such as UberEats, Foodora, Instacart, Ritual, Amazon, DoorDash, and Skipthedishes offer a quick and easy way to set up an online sale and delivery service.

Steps to execute your strategy

As a retailer, you need to establish an agile and flexible strategy to be able to change and adapt when the market is still uncertain.

Keep these steps in mind:

  • Assess your current online platforms and available tools.
  • Speak to industry peers about their experiences with the tools mentioned in this article.
  • Develop strategies to establish or deploy a contactless approach, including advanced e-commerce capabilities and utilizing appropriate service providers and options to accept payments.
  • Investigate, implement, and continually optimize how the strategy is working.

How can BDO help?

Implementing new strategies quickly is critical and we understand that adapting your business can seem overwhelming. An experienced BDO digital advisor can help, with services that include:

  • Developing a digital strategy or roadmap.
  • Determining the feasibility, costs, and expected returns from investing in your digital platforms.
  • Strategizing on how to divert budget to support an online presence.
  • Assessing, evaluating, and launching your online strategy.

Contact us

Learn about our customizable and scalable service bundles, designed specifically to help retailers get on a path for recovery and growth.

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