4 Business Experts Share Their Top Tips to Maximize Online Sales During the Pandemic

Here are top tips from our experts on maximizing your online presence and boosting online and offline sales.


Air Date: November 18, 2020

Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Matthew Rhodus, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Oracle NetSuite, Bunnie Hilliard, Owner, Brave and Kind Books, Chris McCasland, Founder, City Bonfires, Vivian Sayward, Founder and CEO, Vivacity Sportswear

In 2020, small businesses owners have had to pivot or completely reimagine their businesses to survive the coronavirus pandemic. For many business owners, the pandemic forced their business online for the first time. Even businesses that already had a small online presence had to quickly, and completely, pivot into an e-commerce-driven operation. In a CO— Blueprint panel, Content Director Jeanette Mulvey spoke with a small business expert and three small business owners to learn how they have adapted their business strategy to maximize their online sales.

Visibility Is Critical for Maximizing Online Sales

Whether your business is new to e-commerce or you've been selling products online for years, the most important thing you must do is increase your visibility.

"Visibility has to be the first thing that you look at," said Matthew Rhodus, senior director of Strategic initiatives at Oracle NetSuite. "If you do not have visibility into inventory, into cash flows, into [your] supply chain, that has to be corrected."

Rhodus expressed the importance of providing clear visibility into both the inbound side and outbound side of the supply chain. Customers understand businesses do not have as tight of a command over shipping speeds as they had before the pandemic. The key is to communicate any shipping delays and why they occur.

"The consumer is a lot more forgiving today than they were this time last year," said Rhodus. "I think we all kind of have this understanding that supply is strained … it's a very different world."

Brick-and-Mortar Shops Must Recreate the In-Shop Experience

In the digital age, brick-and-mortar stores survived by creating a positive or unique experience for their customers. However, as the pandemic swept across the nation, many physical shops had to close their doors, halting their income immediately. In order to survive, businesses had to invest more time into their online storefronts. The key to a successful e-commerce store is to improve the online shopping experience.

"In our shop, in the middle of the floor, there is a really great and colorful rainbow rug, which people would comment on very often when they come into the space," Bunnie Hilliard, owner of Brave and Kind Books. "I immediately started pulling books from the shelf myself and photographing them [on the rug]."

Hilliard also considered the packaging to ensure it felt "warm and personal." This, Hilliard said, helped her customers translate the feeling of being inside the store from inside their home.

It's Possible to Start a Business in the Midst of the Pandemic When You Have Experts to Guide You

For many people, the thought of launching a business in the middle of the pandemic may seem impossible if not foolhardy. However, for some entrepreneurs, the surge of online shopping presented an opportunity to start an e-commerce business. However, to obtain the amount of website traffic you need to sustain an online business, you need to find the right people for the job.

"Do not hesitate to reach out to a professional and hire [them]," said Chris McCasland, founder of City Bonfires. "That's 100% what we did, and it has been one of the best decisions I've ever made, if not the best in this business is hiring the right person to get us out there."

Understanding Your Audience Is Still the Key to a Successful Business

Even though the coronavirus has changed the way many businesses operate, they must still know the most fundamental element of business: the customer. However, understanding who your audience is takes time and effort and the results are not always immediate.

"Really finding where [your customers] are hanging out, where they are on social media, and understanding that vision [of your audience] does not change no matter what platform," said Vivian Sayward, founder and CEO of Vivacity Sportswear. "Just because you're throwing out some Facebook ads where you think the audience is, that does not equate to an instant audience...It's going to take a little bit of time."