You need to take orders online… and you’re not ready

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Small local shops are facing challenges like never before during the Covid-19 pandemic. So are the big ones, but they have marketing departments and other infrastructure to help them cope.

As a small shop or local business you’re facing a situation where your usual and loyal customers are self-isolating and you’re not getting any passing trade. They’re stuck at home, sometimes they’re ill, and you want to help as well as find a way to keep your business going.

A web presence is a vital tool for communicating with your customers right now.

Step 1: Get online somehow so your details can be found

If you don’t do anything else and haven’t got a chance or time to create a website you should do one of two things (or both, even better):

Make yourself contactable on there and check for messages so you don’t miss any orders.

Step 2: Get a simple order form online so you can accept orders by phone or email

If you have a limited number of products then create an order form in Word or similar. This works for items that you can fit on a few pages of A4 paper.

This can also work if you have a wide range of products that includes a small range of very popular items: make an order form just for popular ones as a crisis measure.

On the form put:

  • your phone number or email – whichever is easier for you to deal with – preferably both
  • request people get in touch in the way that is easiest for you to deal with, or the way you know most of your customers use
  • explain how you’ll take payment (eg over the phone, by card reader on delivery, etc)
  • List the products and prices
  • Explain how you’re managing delivery – some shops are doing timed collections, some are delivering within a certain area, etc
  • add a link to an online, public version of your form (see next section). This means someone can photocopy your form, share it with a friend and that friend can then find it only and share it further

Step 3: Once you have a form – share it

  • upload it to Dropbox and create public link to it – instructions for how to do this in Dropbox – then add the link to your social media posts.
  • print out the order form and have it ready on paper to send out with any orders – have the link on the order form so people can share it with others by email or text message or online.
  • community groups may post it online for you – they can use the dropbox link for your order form document. If the link is a long and messy jumble of numbers go to and paste in the messy link and it will give you a shorter alternative that is easier for people to type into their browser. Add this short link to your order form for when you print and share the form.
  • if you’re in Cambridge UK pop over to and complete the contact form to be added to the site for free if you’re helping customers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taking orders

Get them to send you their orders by email or to ring them through to you (as you / they prefer) and then you pick out all the things you have in stock. You now know what your customers want… You can pick out all the things you have in stock at that particular time, or you can order ahead for delivery in a couple of days’ time – depending on your business.

Taking payment

Once you know what you’ve you can total it all up. Then call them back with the price and take a card payment over the phone.

Arrange delivery or collection at the same time.

Good luck

The shops that many of us take for granted every day – and the hard work that goes into keeping them stocked and functioning – is now more vital than ever. Thank you so much!

Image credit: Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash