We’re tired of hearing how COVID-19 affected the retail industry, but it’s a reality. Even if the threat of the virus wanes soon, as we all hope, retail sales trends will be forever changed. Mandated closings forced comic shops and other “non-essential” retail businesses to close, restrict hours, alter procedures. Customers who never before considered online ordering began browsing websites. Now that these reluctant online customers have discovered the ease of ordering favorite items with a few clicks, most will continue to do so. They will likely still visit local businesses, including comic shops but will increasingly often seek merchandise not found locally, online.

That means comic shops must provide efficient means of conducting online sales. The consensus is that all merchants must “adapt or die”. If your store doesn’t embrace online sales, your chances of surviving the changing retail landscape due to the pandemic will be highly uncertain.

The response by smart merchants

When their doors closed, merchants reacted by reaching out to loyal customers and cultivating new ones from the world-wide population by ramping up their websites and signing up for sites like Shopify that make online selling for small businesses simple.

Both large and small businesses benefited from increased online sales in 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau’s quarterly E-commerce retail sales report includes a chart that illustrates the skyrocketing rise in retail E-commerce sales in 2020. E-commerce is expected to grow 18.0% overall in 2020 following a 14.9% gain in 2019.

There is no question that, though some retail channels experienced difficulties in 2020  – people are embracing online selling and the trend is predicted to continue.  Signing up with simple to navigate sales sites should be a priority for every merchant who has not yet entered the E-commerce market.

For those already online, this is the time to tune up your site, and dial in your processes so that you can provide hybrid sales between online and offline sources.

The comic industry is a perfect fit for online commerce

Comic books and merchandise have long been sold online. Sales platforms provide an easy way for customers to find sought after items. They also enable comic shops to reach more extensive markets.

The hybrid approach

Online sales aren’t killing retail. Rather, the ability to reach a world market can help keep local shops from closing. Local retail outlets today focus on providing unique customer experiences to promote brand loyalty. Hosting events at your shop can spur online sales. Even if a customer doesn’t make a purchase in person, they may later remember something they spotted during the event, click on your website and purchase it online. The hybrid model shows definite promise as a key to keeping small businesses from closing.

Will fall bring new restrictions, due to flu season and the lingering pandemic?

There is no question 2020 has seen a massive upheaval in the retail sector. In March and April lockdowns kept customers out of stores in many states and provinces. In May, many re-opened under modified rules.  The summer months saw retail generally adapt to a “new normal” instituting mandatory face masks and other measures to protect store staff members and customers.

However, as fall begins and transitions into winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season can be expected to arise in earnest. With it could come increased measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Retailers without active online sales would be at great risk of being forced to close their doors permanently.

On the other hand, stores which have adopted a hybrid model, may likely have set themselves up for long-term success, by embracing the digital transformation that eluded retail giants like Sears and Toys R Us, which eventually fell by the wayside.

Econsultancy.com shares statistics of worldwide trends toward digital purchases, expectations for the future. The report states that, though consumer budgets have been affected by the pandemic, most hope to spend approximately the same amount as in the past on Holiday gifts. Retail shops must prepare their websites, promote digital sales during the Holidays.

Why not try Shopify?

Not sure how to build a great digital sales platform? Shopify is a tool for small business that’s touted by websitetooltester.com as very powerful but still user-friendly. Technical experience is not at all required yet there is still full access to code. The designs are mobile-friendly, a necessary feature as more and more shopping is conducted and orders placed via smartphones. Add ons are available and experts and developers are accessible to help with inquiries.

The Manage Comics team can help you make the most out of Shopify, and build you a custom website storefront that has you ready for the future, and prepare you for the holiday shopping season.  Learn more about Manage Comics and Shopify, and book a meeting today.

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