Now more than ever, it is important for business owners to provide as many outlets as possible to sell their products and services.
When COVID-19 forced non-essential businesses to shut their doors to foot traffic in March, those that already had an e-commerce function incorporated into their sales model had an advantage. They already had access to their customer base 24/7. For these businesses, the unexpected closure still stung, but not as badly as it could have otherwise.
Many others were forced to seriously look at selling online as an option for the very first time. Santorini Mediterranean Grill in Napanee was one of many businesses that quickly adapted to these changes to make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase their product.
For owners Harold St. George and Nilojini Paramanathan, the crisis created an opportunity.
"Initially we had a traditional method for takeout orders. When COVID hit we started getting so many phone calls we couldn't keep up with it," mentioned Harold during a recent interview. "Customers were calling to pay with their credit cards and our bank told us we really should have a more secure platform."
While there are many e-commerce websites to choose from, they ultimately chose Shopify, as they found their web templates were the most user-friendly to maneuver. Once they optimized their menu for takeout it became easy for customers to order their products and for staff to process the orders.
Adopting their new website has been a game-changer.
"It's been a huge shift for our business. In the past, takeout was maybe 20 percent if we're lucky," says Harold. "And now it has shifted, where dining in is maybe 30 percent of our total sales and 70 percent is coming through our takeout."
Having a functioning website is important, but you also need to market it effectively so people know it's there for them to use. Facebook and Instagram are key for them in promoting their business.
"It's not just having a site, its also having a strategic marketing plan to use social media and other elements that are part of a business's online presence and create that together with your website." emphasizes Harold.
As fall and winter bring with it more uncertainty, they feel more prepared for unanticipated changes now than they would have been without their new e-commerce website.
"We're not sure what will happen. We're focusing on what we have and what we've developed," Nilojini explains. "We went through the emotions of the uncertainty, the fear, but at the end of the day you've committed, you've invested in this business and you have to move forward."
If you’re a business owner looking for assistance with your online footprint, please contact the L&A Economic Development Office. Digital Specialist Steph Brown will assess your business’s online presence and work with you to enhance your digital capabilities. She will help you get started or upgrade your online selling features, assist you with social media marketing and much more.
This is a free service offered to all Lennox & Addington County businesses. Learn more about the program.
Click on the image below to view Santorini Mediterranean Grill's new e-commerce website