9 min read
Aug 31, 2020
ECommerce

From Offline to Online: How to Quickly Add New Delivery Channels

Learn how to grow your business using offline strategies (including local pickup and delivery) to support your digital offerings.

A.K.
Amanda KennedySenior Content Writer

Are offline delivery channels outdated? It’s all about the tech, right?

Not so fast. While upgrading your tech and focusing on digital is important, offline and online pivots actually go hand-in-hand. Companies need both strategies in order to be successful for a business model pivot. 

Incorporating eCommerce is now essential for businesses to stay afloat, especially if you’re a retailer or restaurant owner. Once customers hit “purchase” on their shopping cart, however, your business is still on the hook for figuring out how to deliver their goods in a low-contact way.

And if you want to add offline delivery channels to allow for that, such as curbside pickup and/or delivery, you need an eCommerce or point-of-sale (POS) software platform first.

If you’re curious to know what your peers are doing in this area, GetApp talked to more than 577 business owners in June 2020. To pivot their businesses during COVID-19, 58% of small-business owners we surveyed added a new online delivery method. *See our survey methodology at the end of this piece. 

No surprise there, since digital transformation has been top-of-mind as the pandemic forces people to stay at home. However, we also found that one in three business owners added a new offline delivery channel when updating their business model, including curbside and delivery. 

graph showing business leaders who have added offline and online delivery channels

In this article, we’ll share:

  • How to add online tech to support your offline revenue stream additions (delivery and curbside pickup)

  • How to ensure your offline activities support your online ordering (eCommerce and point of sale)

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1. Get online with an eCommerce or point of sale platform

If you’re a business owner and want to add curbside and/or delivery options, the first thing you need is an eCommerce or point of sale (POS) tool that meets those needs. 

With an eCommerce platform, you can manage your inventory and sell products on your website. It’s also easier to set up curbside and delivery through your eCommerce platform.  

Alternatively, you could use a point of sale platform, which handles sales transactions and operational processes, including inventory management and customer and employee management. 

When it comes to curbside pickup and delivery, an eCommerce platform will usually have a full suite of online sales options. You can also add an eCommerce or online ordering integration to a POS platform. However, if you have a POS platform that does not have native online ordering capabilities, it might be easier and more cost-effective to switch to a new POS platform that does. If you try a workaround using an API to add this feature to your existing platform, it could cost you more in the long run.

Do you need any new hardware in your physical store to go with your new eCommerce or POS software? The good news is, these software platforms are most commonly purchased in the cloud, so they will work with any device. Restaurant POS software usually runs on an iPad. Many cloud-based platforms also have mobile apps so you can access your stats on-the-go. If spotty internet at your location is a concern, many platforms have an online/offline mode so they can still function without the internet.

Typically, eCommerce or POS software is priced on a monthly subscription basis per terminal. Vendors often offer volume discounts if you have more than two or three terminals, and different pricing tiers are based on premium features or the size of your business.

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2. Curb contact, not revenue, with curbside

Once you have an eCommerce or POS platform, you’re ready to get started with curbside pickup. Curbside gives your customers the peace of mind that they can still make purchases with a lower risk of getting sick or putting others in danger by shopping in a physical store. That’s a win for your business that helps keep revenue up during economic uncertainty. 

Many platforms allow you to add shipping options to your online store, so you can simply select local pickup as an option. This allows customers to make a purchase online, then come to the store to pick up. You’ll be notified of their order and preference for curbside or local pickup (also known as BOPIS, or buy online, pickup in store).

However, when it comes to an offline business strategy, you’ll need to figure out how you plan on marketing this to customers, as well as how you will implement your curbside pickup.

  • Will you designate certain parking spaces for curbside? 

  • Do you need signs to let customers know what to do when they arrive?

  • Do your customers need to call or text to notify you of their arrival on premises? 

  • Will you have a table outside so customers don’t need to come into your store?

  • Is it easy for customers to update their order at the last minute if they need to make an addition?

You’ll want to think through these details and then include instructions for customers on your website, in your order confirmation email, on marketing signage at your location—or all of those things. 

screenshot of Shopify

Local pickup confirmation screen on eCommerce platform Shopify (Source)

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More resources

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3. Don’t let delivery snafus plague your bottom line

Many brick-and-mortar restaurants, cafes, and retail stores are also beginning to offer local delivery. 

If you choose to go with in-house local delivery, it can be an easy addition to add this online purchase option to your eCommerce or POS platform.

Contactless online ordering for delivery on Toast POS (Source)

Similar to adding a curbside option through the local pickup option in your shopping cart, many platforms allow you to add local delivery as an option.

However, once you make this change online, you also need to ensure you have an offline process in place for executing on orders, as well as a good marketing plan.

For instance:

  • Can you train current staff to make deliveries, or do you need to hire additional staff? 

  • Do you need to update your inventory to accommodate additional online orders?

  • Will you designate a separate area of your store to manage orders ready for delivery?

  • How do you plan on marketing this new service to customers?

Having answers to these questions will help ensure your online customer experience is backed by a solid offline plan. This will minimize customer frustration due to poor delivery execution, and help improve their experience with your business, ultimately increasing the likelihood they’ll purchase from you again.

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More resources

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Without an offline strategy, your online presence may suffer

Even though digital transformation is all the rage, don’t neglect your offline business processes in favor of an online presence. The two must work together for a company to successfully meet consumer expectations. 

The backbone to any solid offline to online plan is an eCommerce or point of sale platform that allows you to add online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup options for your customers.

The next step is to make sure that your marketing strategy includes digital and offline tactics to communicate these new options to your customer.

If you're starting from scratch and need an eCommerce or POS system, or your current system doesn't have the functionality you need, check out our eCommerce or point of sale pages.

Methodology and note

Methodology: The business model survey referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp from June 18 to June 23, 2020 among 577 respondents who reported executive leadership roles at small businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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