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Reply To: Hi, I have a small but successful shop selling Mid Century furniture and collectibles in New Plymouth. I am now shut due to the lockdown. I have a Facebook and Instagram page but do not current sell online. I would like to start selling online but not sure where to start. Any help appreciated, thank you 🙏 😊 NV

Hi Nicola,
There are a number of things which you already know that you need to use in your approach:
– What does your typical customer look like? Where else might they shop? What other interests might they have?
– Based on that start your research phase of looking at other competitor sites locally and abroad. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here but you can find some incredible ideas around interesting content and partners you might want to link with (eg. mid-century interest groups or local businesses you could both start talking about each other’s products because they are related through interest – eg. a beautiful clothing store that has a similar style aesthetic)
– You customers are also potentially interested in content that is related to this style of product. It could be anything from how to care to your products, to how to build a look and essential pieces.
– This is the stuff that can sit on your social pages but also potentially a website. You don’t need a website to sell product but it is a fabulous place to anchor your story and house more content like blog posts. Now might also be the perfect time to try and write your content and build a website yourself (eg. Wix and Squarespace are super easy that even I built one)
– Customers are emotionally engaged with the type of product you like because of the style and aesthetic. So they are going to connect with you through their hearts, minds and wallets. So this builds on what Anna has already posted.
– Now is the time to also start building a database where you can start to share more information, like “exclusives – first chance to purchase before the general public” – you will be able to generate lots of ideas of what to share with your local and engaged followers. Maybe have some events in your store in the future once you are online to get people to come together.
– If you have access to the product now, you might also like to do research on how to set-up a Shopify store on Facebook. It’s very accessible but you will need product imagery and rich descriptions. Customers will want to know dimensions, what the item is made from and all other types of detail which enable them to want to reach in to buy.
– Depending on your price point, it might be something some people want to touch and feel first, and they can’t do that now, so how about getting customers to put their name on a list to “Let me know when I can come and view it” once all this madness is over. They might forget in their digital journey but getting their permission to reach back out to them gives you the ability to reactivate their interest (you could phone them or send an email with a picture of the product and times they can come and see it once you reopen).
– Think about payment terms at the moment. Many people are hand to mouth in these uncertain times, so perhaps you can do the old fashion “layby” where the customer pays it off over the coming 2 months. You don’t need a system like Afterpay or Laybuy to do this – you can set up the system yourself.

Remember that customers buy your type of product with their hearts, minds and eyes – so make your product storytelling both beautiful visually and through copy and you are a good part of the way there.

Write down a plan and set yourself some milestones.
Today might be simply all about desktop research.
Tomorrow might be about understanding how Shopify works on Facebook and making sure when you load products on Instagram you have the right tags.
Eat the elephant bit by bit but don’t be disheartened if sales don’t come once you get going.
Everyone is in a boat they have never been on before and they don’t know when they are getting to their destination – so the purse strings might be kept closed tight for a little while.

PS. You need to give incredible thought to shipping around the country. The integrity of the product is critical and from my experience with clients who ship furniture around the country, this is the single most important part of the journey. The product is delivered undamaged and with care.