We all know why you’re here. This crisis has caused shut-downs of all non-essential workplaces, your store included. So how do you cope? Businesses typically run on very short liquid cash and there’s only so long you can last at zero. A good way to supplement in the meantime — and maybe, best case scenario, create a new sales channel — is to sell your products online. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The pressure is on. Here’s a to-the-point checklist so you can switch over from retail to online delivery and start a new revenue flow as quickly as possible.

Get a rough idea of demand

First, research. You want to know if people locally are even interested in your product. On the one hand, you might be surprised by how genuinely your local community wants to support you. On the other hand, if your product is less than essential, your community may be worried about getting access to more important things.

The easiest thing to do is to create a survey asking your friends, family, neighbors, and customers what they think. Do they want to buy your product? Will it fill a need for them? You can get a better idea of demand by leveraging your audience on social media and asking there as well.

Lock down a supply

Assuming you’ve determined that there’s an audience, you need to move onto how you will get your supplies. The crucial piece here is how easy (or difficult) it is to procure your inventory. Given what we know about COVID-19 delaying (or in some cases shutting down) supply chains, local is better. The more locally-based your supply chain is, the more you will be protected from global supply shocks because of the pandemic.

If your store is normally dependent on imported goods, try to get creative about switching it up to something local. For example, if you run a bakery, consider partnering with a local granary.

Think carefully about pricing

You may decide to keep your pricing model the same, or you may decide to try something new. However, the more recurring income you have, the better, so a subscription model could work well. If you offer a product that people will want on a regular basis, incentivizing customers to set up a delivery schedule will provide you with much-needed cash flow and stability. Delivering on a weekly basis and operating on a monthly subscription model can eliminate waste and make it much easier to know how much to plan on making.

If you’re trying to offload a lot of inventory, you might consider bundling or kitting (if you don’t already). If you’re having more of an issue with product piling up than receiving it then encouraging customers to buy more and save could be crucial.

Ultimately, try to balance your need for cash and meeting your customers’ needs.

Leverage your existing channels

If you’ve been doing this right, you should already be decently well-established on a couple of platforms as a business, and there are probably several more that you have a personal account on. Whether it’s on NextDoor, a local neighborhood Facebook group, or your Instagram page, get the word out as much as you can.

Don’t forget that offline marketing is an option here too, and flyers are still a great communication tool. People may be isolating but they’re still going on walks, and you never know who might come across your signs.

Set up a website

Once you’ve decided on your product offerings and pricing model, you need to update your website to reflect any changes you’ve made. Spend some time taking new product shots if needed, and setting up a landing page that communicates how you’re continuing your business and how customers can purchase from you.

If you don’t already have a website, you should get one ASAP. Thankfully there are a handful of template-style sites that make it a breeze to quickly set up a shopping cart-enabled website, including Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace.

Get creative with shipping and fulfillment

Because you’re targeting an area within a fairly close radius of where you live (and now probably also conduct your business operations), there’s no need to pay for shipping and product fulfillment. Consider delivering by bike to save money and get some fresh air, or offering in-person pick-up. However, you’ll want to be very clear and careful about how you’re taking the proper steps to stay sanitized and healthy and encourage your customers to do the same.

Finally, don’t forget about the packaging! If you’ve sold mostly in-store, this will be a new arena for you. Now, more than ever is a good time to reconsider the norms of product packaging – ditch the plastic! There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to things like poly mailers that don’t cost much more, and the investment is more than worth it.


These times are weird for everyone, individuals and businesses alike. The good news is that people still need products, so if you can figure out a way to adapt your business and still provide a service to your customers, you can weather the storm.