The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed operations for many companies over the last few months, and many expect these changes to last far into the future. Small businesses have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, especially if they didn’t already have plans in place for what to do if their brick and mortar locations couldn’t stay open.

April saw retail sales in the U.S. fall a record-breaking 16.4 percent. Despite this, many companies that had already invested heavily in eCommerce actually saw their total sales increase during this time.

eCommerce isn’t just for major retailers. To be better prepared for the future, small businesses should also consider how they can take more of their sales online.

Greater Convenience With More Options

Even as certain parts of the company have begun to reopen, the prevailing consensus is that in-store retail will not return to normal for quite some time. Many customers, particularly those in at-risk groups, are reluctant to return to their normal shopping habits over COVID-19 concerns.

But even those who aren’t at risk are increasingly turning to eCommerce, simply because it is more convenient. Shopping online saves the time of driving over to the store and browsing the shelves. Many people find it easier to compare items when shopping online, as opposed to going into the store — especially if reviews are available to help them judge a product’s quality.

Better yet, an eCommerce store is “open” 24/7 — most brick and mortar stores are not.

While you can expect customers to gradually return to your retail location, giving them more ways to shop will only help you make more sales.

Expand Your Reach & Understand Your Customers

An eCommerce store will help you expand your online presence, which could allow you to reach customers who might never have found you otherwise. With smart use of SEO and PPC marketing, you can increase your search ranking in your local market, allowing you to become the go-to retailer for your niche. You could even start selling to customers on the other side of the country.

Your website also offers a unique opportunity to better understand your customers. eCommerce platforms make it easy to track your best-selling products. Digital analytics tools can help you see how much time customers spend on a particular page, or which pages they click away from right away.

This information will help you more easily identify which products or services are the most appealing to your customers. You will also learn which items are not selling well. This could help you make smarter decisions when deciding to introduce a new product or discontinue a less popular item. The extra data will help you make smarter marketing and product development decisions so you can be more profitable than in the past.

Preparing For an eCommerce-Driven Future

While taking a more online-heavy approach to your business operations may require a bit of work, it will certainly pay off in the long run. COVID-19’s influence will undoubtedly cause more people to do more of their shopping online than ever before. By putting in the work now, your business will be able to generate greater revenue now and in the future.