3 Tips for Launching Online Direct Sales

In February of 2020, Kingston Bread + Bar opened its doors in Uptown Kingston. Then, less than two months later, they were forced to close by the pandemic. Like many brick-and-mortar businesses in the Hudson Valley, they were faced with how to keep sales flowing without a steady stream of customers visiting their space. The short-term solution: launch an online ordering system.  

At the end of March, the team began offering online pre-orders for bread, pastries, beer, and a few other offerings for local delivery. “We took a week and a half off and realized we could go back in a limited fashion, offering pre-orders. It was once a week at first, then two times a week from the end of March until almost June,” says Aaron Quint, who co-owns Kingston Bread + Bar with Rough Draft Bar & Books owners Amanda and Anthony Stromoski. 

The platform they used for pre-order, which was hosted on Squarespace, was based on the same one that Kingston Bread + Bar co-owner Aaron Quint—a former software engineer-turned-baker—had built during his three years operating on weekends out of Rough Draft as the Kingston Bread Lab. 

After over a year of successful online orders—on bagel Saturdays, over 50 percent of sales come in online the night before—and a platform change to Square (which has online ordering built right in), the bakery and bar now has a direct sales interface that serves their needs and is easy for their customers to use. While the pandemic may have accelerated the massive shift to online sales, “I think online ordering is here to stay,” says Quint. “People see that it’s so convenient and they’re just used to it now.” 

 

Below are three tips from Quint if you’ve been thinking about launching online direct sales for your business.  

1. It’s totally okay to use an out-of-the-box system.

The homepage of Kingston Bread + Bar's website gives priority placement to its online ordering.

For small businesses just getting started with online direct sales, Quint recommends searching for that sweet spot of effort and reward. “The reason we picked Square was entirely because it worked with our POS system,” he says. “As a person who has worked on the web for so long, it works, and that’s what matters. It’s a super good compromise for us.” 

Especially for newbies, he advises against investing a lot of money into software or paying for someone to design a custom app. The plus side of using an out-of-the-box system like Square is that it allows you to “see if there’s an appetite for your business to even do online sales,” he says.  

2. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

The images on Kingston Bread + Bar's site help customers see what they're ordering before they commit to a purchas.

Kingston Bread + Bar’s online ordering system is filled with photos of luscious looking pastries and crackly breads for a reason. During the height of the pandemic, customers couldn’t come inside to see what was on offer so they were making purchasing decisions from afar.

“It was super important that the photos looked nice enough so they wanted to buy something online,” says Quint, who takes most of the photos himself. “A big part of it was that we saw other stores doing it. When we order out, we appreciate photos even if they’re not the best or perfectly lit.” 

Whether you’re a restaurant or in retail, providing your customers images with as much detail about what they’re getting before they make a purchase is key. Multiple, high-quality photos of each item in your inventory is a great goal to aim for, but even just one image of the product in decent lighting can make a huge difference for your sales.

3. Grow and adjust your online inventory organically, just like you do in-store.

Cheeses are one of Kingston Brad + Bar's inventory categories that has grown over time.

Kingston Bread + Bar’s extensive online menu has been a year in the making. Last spring, their online options were limited to a core group of offerings like bread, pastries, and beer, and have since expanded to pantry goods, charcuterie, and cheeses from an array of local and boutique vendors chosen by Quint and Front-of-House Manager Crimson Krier-Glading. “We joke that it’s become Crimson and Aaron’s grocery store,” he says. 

By starting with just pastries and bread, then adding sandwiches, and eventually provisions, Kingston Bread + Bar was able to adjust its offerings based on what its customers wanted more of. The same goes for any small business just dipping its toes into online direct sales. “Don’t be afraid to try it out,” says Quint. “Just put one thing up there to start and see how it goes from there.”

If you’re looking for help creating a robust online web presence, let us know! Our team at Chronogram Media can assist with both website design and ecommerce, so you can get your online direct sales system off the ground. 

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