How to transition into an ecommerce business

Published 29th June 2020

Although lockdown restrictions are beginning to lift many businesses will continue to be impacted by COVID-19.  Moving online can have benefits for both the short and long term, particularly for businesses who depend on a physical location to operate from or their main customer base does.

There are still advantages to having a physical store or location, but it is difficult to predict the economic landscape post COVID-19. Therefore, the smart move is to be adaptable and diversify as a business to ensure survival and provide opportunities to thrive in the future.

This guide outlines three crucial stages of transitioning into an eCommerce business.

1. Preparation before moving online

Before making the jump and transitioning online, there are some initial factors to be considered that will help to create a smooth transition. This stage will provide the foundations for your eCommerce business both in the short term and looking to the future.

Determine primary customer base

Depending on your business and industry, your online customers might fit the same profile as current customers. However, this is not always the case and a pivot in strategy to define a new target customer for the online market may be necessary.

Ecommerce platform

For businesses already set up with a website, many platforms have eCommerce plugins or functionalities available that should be explored first. Alternatively, there are many other platform options available, but ensure you select an eCommerce platform that matches your needs. 

 Online company offerings

Already having a physical business removes some of the hard work as you have will have a line of products with proven success and customer base. However, your company offering may need to be adapted to be successful online.

Consideration is needed for;

To have an operational eCommerce business you will also need to assign personnel to manage the website and provide customer support.  You will also need to outline procedures and personnel for shipping out orders.


You should create an estimation of the costs required for developing an eCommerce website and the ongoing operational costs.  Factor in how much will be outsourced or completed in-house.

2. Development of ecommerce website

To speed up the development stage of your new eCommerce website, prioritise creating a functional and simple website because further development can continue after the website goes live.


A well thought out website, designed with your customers in mind should enhance their purchasing experience whereas a poorly designed website could push them to search for an alternative retailer.

Key points for website design;

  • Keep it simple and make sure your branding is consistent across the website
  • Clear navigation to products and key information such as contact, returns policy and terms and conditions
  • Quality product images, either produce in-house or outsource 


The website needs to be fully functional with no broken links or pages and it should be easy to complete a transaction. If a point of sales system is linked, ensure it is integrated and working correctly.

It is imperative that you protect the business and customers from data breaches and make sure your website is secure.

3. Build awareness, traffic and conversions

Digital marketing will now become a powerful tool for driving traffic and creating conversions from your eCommerce website, as customers need to be made aware of your website.

Start by informing existing customers through your email or other online channels you have for marketing purposes. 

Create a digital marketing strategy that will allow you to expand your reach and target your primary customer base. Determine which prominent channels and content should be used and analyse the results to refine your strategy.

Website optimisation will also be required to further enhance reach, user experience and increase conversions.

It is common for new eCommerce websites to take a bit of time to develop traction initially. However, once the eCommerce business side of your company starts to grow it instantly becomes an asset to your company.

For further information on how to transition into an eCommerce business please get in touch.

Vegboxco Logo

Case Study

Threshfield Catering Supplies primarily traded in wholesale fruit, veg, dairy products and a delicatessen range with their customer base consisting of restaurants, hotels, schools and nursing homes prior to the pandemic.

They did attempt to break into online retail sales to the public prior to the pandemic some 12 months ago, creating the VegBoxCo.  Unfortunately, VegBoxCo received negligible sales before the pandemic. 

Once the pandemic hit and people were forced into lockdown sales started to flood in for VegBoxCo. The ability to sell online to retail customers saved the business from collapse following the loss of trade from schools, restaurants and hotels forced to close during the lockdown. 

Business is now doing well and the online sales have provided a much needed cashflow boost enabling them to continue trading.  They have created a presence on Facebook and are now working to implement an improved digital marketing strategy to help sustain their online presence after the end of lockdown.

VegBoxCo delivers to Leeds, Bradford, Harrogate, Halifax, Huddersfield and the surrounding areas.  They have also opened a shop in their warehouse for retail customers.

“After lockdown and turning grey overnight we were faced with approximately 15% of the business, consisting of Nursing homes and hospitals, compared with pre-lockdown. 

We then found we had many orders on a virtually dormant website for online vegboxes that we had attempted to market 12 months earlier, without success.  We then advertised on Facebook that the warehouse was open to the public and you can ring the office for an order.  With long hours and a lot of hard work our average turnover to present has been back up to approximately 60% of pre-lockdown figures. We have been constantly developing the warehouse and our online website and hope that we will be different and better and of course, more profitable business going forward.”

Mick Buck, Threshfield Catering

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