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How to Get Your Business Online Fast and Survive COVID-19

15 min read

Respecting social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines is crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But while there’s no denying that these guidelines are good and even necessary, it does little to support the small businesses who’ve been left to shoulder the burden. Fortunately, there are still several great ways for small business owners to respect these evolving guidelines while still continuing to serve and transact with their customers.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can take your offline business online to adapt to these changes and continue operating your business while you strive to protect your customers and yourself.

In this post:

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Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
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Advantages of Having an Online Business

Every day your doors are closed without a website to pick up the slack is another day without needed profits to carry your business through the pandemic. So getting business online is the first step to adapting to this new environment. An online store will help you stay on your customers’ radar and grow your sales, even in the context of social distancing. And even when the pandemic makes it to our rearview mirror and we begin the long transition back to normal life, having an online presence will continue to be a valuable tool to grow your business.

Here’s why you should get your business online:

  • Your business is available for customers anytime. While physical locations operate on fixed hours, online businesses can take orders all day and night.
  • An online business is less expensive to set up and operate.
  • Online business offers needed support in the event that you need to close a brick and mortar location for any reason in the future. For example, you may decide to move your business to a new location. Having an online channel means you won’t depend on your physical location to keep operations running during the transition.

We know transitioning from a fully offline business to fully online at the current rate of change can be more than a bit overwhelming — especially if you’re not a digital native. Fortunately, we understand the struggle. With Ecwid, you can take your business from offline to online and be ready for your first order in just a couple hours — no prior experience needed.

Ioesco Restaurant is one of many Ecwid merchants who’ve taken their business online during the pandemic:

How to Take Your Business Online

To start accepting orders online, you need an e-commerce-enabled website. If you’ve never dealt with websites before, no worries: you can easily set one up on Ecwid all by yourself.

If you don’t have a website, use Ecwid’s free one-page Instant Site, a free one-page website, to build and design your first website from scratch and be ready to receive your first sale in just a couple of hours.

Corners on the Way’s Instant Site

Instant Site is super easy to set up and edit — no coding required. All you have to do is:

  1. Add products or services.
  2. Add business information, contacts, and location.
  3. Enable payment options — make sure to include online payment to avoid contact with cash.
  4. Set up curbside pickup and/or local delivery.

Still have questions? We put together this detailed guide to store set up to walk you through the steps and answer some of the most common questions we see during the set-up process (remember to bookmark this page, so that you have it on hand when you need it).

If you already have a website for your business, but it doesn’t have an online ordering option, you can add an Ecwid store to your existing website in minutes. It doesn’t matter which site builder you used to create your website — just connect your Ecwid store and you’re ready to go. You can add an entire store, categories, or single products to your website.

Ecwid store on the AMW Group website

After you set up your store:

  • Place a test order to make sure everything’s working.
  • Add information about your COVID-19 operations. Share your business hours, and let your customers know if you have local delivery or curbside pickup.

Accepting orders

When a customer buys from your online store, the order will appear in your Ecwid Control Panel → My Sales → Orders. The Orders page is where you can view and manage all your orders. You’ll have access to all of the details, like payment and shipping information, items ordered, a customer name, contact information, and billing address.

Here’s how the Orders page looks:

And when someone buys from your store, you’ll receive a notification email, so you don’t miss it:

If you use the Ecwid Mobile App (for iOS or Android), you’ll get a mobile push notification when someone places an order in your store.

When an order for physical products is placed, you’ll need to fulfill that order and change order statuses accordingly. For example, if you’ve shipped an order to a customer, you need to change the order status to Shipped.

If an order status is Paid, it means that your customer successfully paid for the order via an online payment provider. Now you need to prepare the order and deliver it to the customer.

If an order status is Awaiting Payment, it means that:

  • A customer selected an offline payment method. Now you need to contact them to arrange payment.
  • Or, a customer’s online payment was not processed. To learn why the payment failed, open the order details page and go to the Payment section.

After you have received the payment and you have all the necessary details, you can change the Order status to Processing and start preparing the order. Don’t forget to change the status when you deliver the order or prepare it for pickup.

If you sell digital products or gift cards, you don’t need to process these orders — they’re fulfilled automatically. When a customer purchases a digital product or a gift card, they receive a link to download the file or a gift card code by email.

Read more about managing your orders in our Help Center.

How to Do Business Online During the Pandemic

Getting an e-commerce website up and running with Ecwid is pretty simple, but shifting from offline to online doesn’t stop there. Here’s a couple more ideas to protect your existing customers and attract new ones during COVID-19.

Add high-demand products to your store

Shopping lists all over the world now include more shelf-stable goods, sanitizers, medical masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies. So it might be a good idea to add some of those products to your store.

You can also adjust your current products to better suit your customers’ needs. For example, if you sell food, you can offer meal prep or family meals. This way you’ll reduce your customers’ need to shop and help minimize their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Remington-Lott Farms offer family packages in their online store


Sell gift cards

Gift cards encourage customers to continue shopping and supporting your business during uncertain times. You can set up gift cards with Ecwid in less than 10 minutes. When a customer purchases a gift card in your store, they’ll get an email with a unique code, with the email acting as their “gift card.”

Offer curbside pickup and/or contactless delivery

Now that avoiding contact whenever possible is our new lifestyle, pickup and delivery have to change too. Here’s how curbside pickup works:

  • A customer arrives to pick up their order and lets you know by a phone call that they’re at your location
  • You carry out the order
  • The customer opens their trunk from inside the car, and you place the order in their trunk.

Ruggie’s shares instructions for curbside pickup right on their main page

Contactless delivery means customers can get their orders without coming face-to-face with couriers. For example, orders can be left at the customer’s door. Couriers can send a photo of it or call the customer to let them know it’s been delivered.

Sell digital products

No matter what you sell, digital products and remote conferencing services can provide additional support for your business. Plus, you won’t have to deal with shipping and inventory, which makes selling digital products and services contactless and safe for you and your customers. A few examples include:

  • Selling ebooks, checklists, guides, how-tos, and video courses
  • Giving online lessons or consulting
  • Creating online conferences for your customers, like hosting online master classes.

More: 11 Digital Products That Fit Almost Every Storefront

Register on Google My Business

People turn to Google to verify open businesses and their hours, so make sure your customers can find the information they need. A Google My Business account allows you to display your business hours, address, posts, photos, and reviews across Google search and Google Maps.

If you already have a Google My Business account, make sure to update any information that’s changed as a result of COVID-19.

People that search for businesses on Google can see which of them are closed temporarily

Partner with other local businesses

Partnering with businesses in your community is a solid way to attract new local customers. For example, you could create special offers or even host online events.

Brookside Poultry Co. and Brookside Sushi teamed up to offer take-out from the same location so their customers could pick up orders from both restaurants at once.

Stay in touch with your customers

Use social media or newsletters to connect with your customers and let them know about changes in business operations. Announce new products, share how they can support you, and explain changes to your pickup and delivery options with respect to COVID-19.

Read more about communicating with customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Collect donations

People understand that COVID-19 hasn’t been easy on small businesses, and many loyal customers would be excited to support their favorite stores and services. So make that easier by adding a PayPal Donation Button to your store:

    1. Go to PayPal’s website to set up your Donate button by choosing country, language, and your button style.
    2. Add your organization details: PayPal account email and purpose of donation.
    3. Set a donation amount, and press the “Finish and Get Code” button.
    4. After that, just copy and paste the button’s HTML code:

    1. To add the code to your Ecwid storefront go to your Control panel → Catalog → Categories → Store front page. In the Description field, click on the HTML mode icon and paste your code, and then save your changes.

After that, you’ll see the Donate button in your storefront:

Customers will be able to donate money to your PayPal account by clicking the Donate button

You can also offer to let your customers support non-profit initiatives together. For example, Ecwid store Dan the Man accepts donations from customers on their website, and every donation goes towards free meals for healthcare workers.

Donations category on Dan the Man’s website

Take Your Business Online Today

While selling at a physical location is on pause, setting up an online store allows you to resume operations and keep sales rolling while your doors are closed. So the faster you can take your business online, the sooner you can start accepting new orders. And with Ecwid, you can do it all in just a couple focused hours.

But don’t overwork yourself: remember to take some time to rest too. Here’s how you can build a comfortable home office and here are some tips from Ecwid merchants to prevent burnout.

And don’t worry if we didn’t cover everything in this article. We’re gonna be sharing more tips to help keep your business up and running during COVID-19 over the coming months. Wanna learn about something specific? Share your ideas in the comments, and we’ll be happy to add them to our future posts.

Do you want to learn more about launching an online store?

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Sell online

With Ecwid Ecommerce, you can easily sell anywhere, to anyone — across the internet and around the world.

About the author

Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.

Ecommerce that has your back

So simple to use – even my most technophobic clients can manage. Easy to install, quick to set up. Light years ahead of other shop plugins.
I’m so impressed I’ve recommended it to my website clients and am now using it for my own store along with four others for which I webmaster. Beautiful coding, excellent top-notch support, great documentation, fantastic how-to videos. Thank you so much Ecwid, you rock!
I’ve used Ecwid and I love the platform itself. Everything is so simplified it’s insane. I love how you have different options to choose shipping carriers, to be able to put in so many different variants. It’s a pretty open e-commerce gateway.
Easy to use, affordable (and a free option if starting off). Looks professional, many templates to select from. The App is my favorite feature as I can manage my store right from my phone. Highly recommended 👌👍
I like that Ecwid was easy to start and to use. Even for a person like me, without any technical background. Very well written help articles. And the support team is the best for my opinion.
For everything it has to offer, ECWID is incredibly easy to set up. Highly recommend! I did a lot of research and tried about 3 other competitors. Just try ECWID and you'll be online in no time.

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