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Small retail shops learning to embrace e-commerce during pandemic

Many are now trying to figure out how to get online.

It's one of the biggest challenges facing small retail business across Georgia right now: how to keep the lights on despite their brick and mortar shops being closed.

Many are now trying to figure out how to get online – fast.

Mandy Rye, owner of Vinings shop Waiting on Martha, has advice to share for her fellow business owners trying to shift online during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"Now is obviously the time," she said. "It's been important for a long time, but now in order to keep the lights on, it is more important than ever," Rye said.

It's become a reality for Stacey Garner who owns One, which is a boutique in Augusta.

"I have always said I will never do e-commerce," Garner said. "Well here I am eating my words because I'm now doing e-commerce!"

"Individuals that didn't even like shopping online, well they don't have a choice either," Rye said.

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She has a few other tips.

First, pick a website service to help you get started, with a boost.

"Shopify and Squarespace," she said. "They usually do a 30 day free trial – they've extended that to 90 day which is great. They have a lot of pre-made templates. You can choose a template, pop in your colors, pop in your logo, and get going."

Second, add in services that will help you.

"They have all of these apps that are very inexpensive that you can easily plug in," Rye said. "So individuals can ship though Facebook, through Instagram. It's very inexpensive and literally all you do is download."

Next – setting up shipping.

"The USPS is great," Rye said. "This is something they've always done they've always provided all the shipping supplies for free."

RELATED: Q&A: How small businesses hit by coronavirus crisis can get aid starting Friday

She said should also think about the visuals.

"For individuals that are stressed about photography, vendors, they have to create catalogs, website presences and they are sharing all of those images with you," Rye said.

Lastly, Rye said, keep your customers up to date.

"Make sure you're letting people know there's gonna be some delays," she explained.  "It's just the nature of the beast right now, everyone understands. 

"It's going to be great for your business in the long haul, and it's going to allow you to open up those doors back up again," she said.

"I can't wait for those doors to be open," Garner said. "'Cause when we do, it's gonna be fun."

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