Ways to Build Online Stores for Business During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Tips for Hong Kong restaurants, food distributors, general F&B businesses and retailers for essential goods on how to set up an online store quickly to sell direct to consumers (D2C) during Covid-19

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In light of the pandemic and recent Covid-19 measures introduced in Hong Kong, businesses should look to online channels to reach new and existing customers. In this article, we will cover some ways that businesses can use Shopify, a global ecommerce platform, to creatively deliver their products and services while encouraging precautions such as social distancing. If you already have an online store, the approaches to communicating with customers and arranging delivery logistics may also be adapted for the ecommerce platforms that you may be using.

As a global ecommerce platform, Shopify enables local business owners to quickly create a professional storefront that is beautifully designed and has all the necessary ecommerce features such as managing inventory, taking orders, processing payments, and supporting delivery options. Below, we outline the ways businesses in different industries, such as food and beverage or retail, can make use of Shopify to improve their business.

Shopify Features for Hong Kong

Shopify is a powerful ecommerce platform that enables businesses to set up professional, mobile-responsive online stores in a matter of days. In the sections below, our recommendations for businesses will make use of Shopify’s powerful features, some of which include:

Food and Beverage Brands and Distributors: Direct-to-Customer (DTC) Opportunities

While some in the F&B industry have been hit hard by Covid-19 physical distancing measures, there is also an unprecedented opportunity to leverage online ecommerce solutions to reach new customers. For food distributors, this is a golden opportunity to create a direct-to-customer (DTC) online storefront and share what makes your products different.

Grocers and suppliers can create a Shopify store to better manage orders and take advantage of Shopify’s powerful cloud infrastructure, which has a proven track record of being able to scale and perform while handling high order volumes. Also, Shopify can support social media as sales channels. Having these social media platforms not only drives traffic to a new Shopify store, but they can also be can be easily integrated to give new visitors social proof.

Some businesses may already have online stores and one reason to move to Shopify is because it helps manage inventory and orders on one centralized platform with Chinese-language support. By allowing Shopify to take your orders for you, you can focus on other key aspects of your business such as marketing, online community engagement, and delivery. You can learn how Y’s Recipes migrated to Shopify to better display their product collection.

Retailers With Traffic Peaks Can Manage O2O Customer Expectations

One challenge for many retailers with essential goods, such as masks and disinfectants, is managing stock and customer expectations. When stock becomes available, retailers may announce through channels such as Facebook and sell on a first-come-first-serve basis in-store. Currently, many shoppers may need to line up, only to be disappointed if stock runs out. Other retailers may already be selling from their online store, but face difficulties with server crashes and unsuccessful orders when there are too many visitors.

Integrate Online Marketing and Online Sales to Reduce In-Store Lineups

Retailers that have O2O requirements, such as online stock announcements with in-store purchases, can also use Shopify to integrate their online marketing and sales. E-mail and social media campaigns can drive traffic to an online store when stock becomes available, and Shopify can then process the online orders. Customers can make purchases from the comfort of their homes and reduce the Covid-19 exposure risk of lining up. Since Shopify allows users to set inventory, sold out items will automatically become unavailable, removing the chances of order errors and staff overhead. Only shoppers who have made successful purchases can make in-store pickups (or receive deliveries).

This online solution both improves customer experiences and reduces stress for your staff to manage crowds. By moving purchases online, retailers can easily manage stock, customer expectations, and safety.

Choose an Ecommerce Platform With Proven Support for High Volume Traffic

If you are selling high-demand essential goods, choosing a platform that supports high traffic volume is essential for customer shopping experience as well as order management. Shopify is a cloud ecommerce platform that can manage over a billion sales in a day and every Shopify plan enjoys the same cloud infrastructure support. This means that when your stock becomes available, you can rest assured that the traffic generated from your social media campaigns will reach your store.

Use Your Online Storefront for Limited Items

While Shopify as a platform can manage thousands of products and variants, businesses can start by offering limited items. Businesses with existing stores can set up a separate Shopify store to test new products or retail styles, such as how Peppertint created a store to introduce their Home Try-On O2O sales. Brands can integrate e-mail or SMS marketing and send notifications to the online store.

Online Retailers Can Adopt Delivery Drop-Off and Pickup Locations for Safety

Finally, all businesses can benefit from using an online storefront for sales and an integrated drop-off service during Covid-19 to reduce contact in stores. In addition to offering door-to-door delivery, online stores can offer pickup-options to customers at convenience stores, locker locations, as well as in your retail store. The easiest way to integrate Hong Kong’s 1000+ EF Lockers, SF Express service centers, and convenience stores (such as 7/11 and Circle-K) is to use our Shopify app HK Pickup Options (available in English and Chinese). The app allows merchants to also choose which locations they drop off to, supporting any district restrictions your team may have. However, if you would like to offer only SF Express delivery without an app integration, you can also follow these steps to make your Shopify store collect the required information for courier services.

Restaurants and Food Businesses Can Offer Customers What They Love at Home

Finally, restaurants can also use the current Covid-19 situation to reach customers more directly. In addition to using food delivery services such as Uber Eats or Deliveroo, F&B businesses can consider how to deliver essential favorites to loyal fans.

To start, the storefront does not need to offer your full menu. Instead, focus on items you can deliver on:

  • Takeout and order pickups
  • Prepared ingredients for easy home cooking dishes
  • Vouchers*

Offering takeout direct from your store is to have better control of customer experience. Shopify allows you to take an order and receive payments online, so that your staff can still be employed to deliver to nearby locations. In your online store, you can create a sticky banner to clearly communicate which areas you may deliver to and manage customer expectations. Customers doing takeout can pay via Shopify and claim their orders with a QR code, making the process contactless (without requiring even a tap for a credit card). Having your restaurant storefront also enables you to retain higher profits.

*Note that Shopify does not have a built-in voucher system, but it does have discount codes. You may want to explore using discount rules to generate coupon codes that can be redeemed in the future.

Next Steps

In the past, setting up an online store required significant upfront investment. Shopify allows merchants to launch a working online store the moment they sign up for their 14-day free trial.

To get started you can download our free Shopify Guide for Hong Kong, which will walk you through key considerations including store themes, Chinese language support, uploading products, choosing payment gateways, and setting up delivery.

If you have already set up your Shopify store, you can add these 5 Shopify Store Must-Haves or check out the 9 Shopify Apps for Hong Kong that we recommend including. This is the time to help customers get the products they love without having to go out into the grocery store or other retail channels.