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Selling Online: Doing Our Shopping Online is here to Stay

Online sales have increased exponentially since the pandemic. It’s a phenomenon everyone is aware of with every click that places a grocery order, a cooked meal delivery, or yet another package brought to the door. Sean Stephens wants everyone to know these changes to our consumer habits are permanent.

The Treefrog CEO has seen his customers benefit by being ready for this shift in consumer behavior.

“We built a web site for a company in Mississauga two years ago and they were about $10,000 a month in sales,” Sean shared during a telephone interview.  “Just last month, they did $1.2 million. The reason for their success? They were there, selling online, before everyone else was.”

Disruption to come

The huge spike in online sales has seen companies change their business operations and their focus. In the same way that remote work is becoming permanent and disrupting the market for office space, the rise in online sales may disrupt commercial real estate. 

“A small business we were working with a year ago, one that was struggling to get online orders, has done so well during the pandemic that they are now considering closing their retail location,” Sean said.

Treefrog no longer considers itself a web site developer, even though they still build web sites. The company now finds themselves acting as a full-service digital transformation agency.

“We’ve moved restaurants online and helped people find their niche in the online marketplace,” Sean said. “It’s not exclusively building a web site. You can build a web site and drive all the traffic to the site or you can adopt an omni-channel strategy and sell everywhere the customer can find you, whether that’s through social media, via mapping apps, or through Skip the Dishes or another third-party seller.”

Take time to strategize

Depending on what your approach is, Sean maintains, will depend on what you’re selling and to whom you are selling it. These details will determine how a company is digitally transformed.

“The mentality is not just a shift anymore,” Sean said. “Now it’s a forced shift.”

Treefrog’s biggest challenge right now is helping their clients connect their point-of-sale systems to their web sites and other sales channels. Some clients are scrambling to get online sales happening while others are trying to maximize their presence before the competition gets there.

“With the speed of change right now, it’s very difficult for entrepreneurs to wrap their heads around their new strategies and figure out what the next step is,” Sean said. “There are all sorts of different platforms available for online sales depending on what kind of company they are running and how you communicate with customers about your products and services.  There is no doubt that doing business is different now, but selling online is one of the things that everyone has to learn to stay in business today.”

This ‘re-think’ of how business happens has created some very deep changes with businesses now selling different products, selling alternative products, or changing their product lines altogether. Sean says his local pub had to change their whole menu to dishes that would stay warm and still taste great upon delivery. They also implemented a canning system to send their beer out to customers. The company didn’t re-open their restaurant under the limits set by provincial health, they are now just running online out of their commercial kitchen.

Big questions

There are interesting questions that arise from these situations.

“After that business has been running online only for a year, will they still be a restaurant?” Sean asked. “People working from home changes all the dynamics of business too. Gas stations are selling less gas with less commuting. What people buy and how they buy it has changed personally. Buying groceries online is one example of a huge shift in behavior because COVID made grocery shopping risky. Now? Why would you go grocery shopping when having your online order brought to you is so easy? A huge number of people probably aren’t going to go back to the weekly shop at the grocery store. So what will the grocery store look like when that is established?”

The Treefrog CEO expects to see more opportunity to move sales from every market online over the next quarter than ever before.

“There is no reason for any business not to embrace this opportunity to transform. Think of consumer behavior like an elastic band. It’s been stretched out and it’s not going to snap back to its original shape. There’s opportunity in gathering up the slack.”

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