What is a simple, cheap way to move my retail store online and take orders?


With the recent Government lock-down rules, you might be in the position where your café, restaurant or retail store can only serve people through online orders or takeaway.

What’s the quickest, easiest, least-techie way to move your retail store to online ordering?

Let’s first look at your experience options:

  • Customer visits your store and orders from the front window/counter
  • Customer orders online and comes to your store to collect
  • Customer orders online and the delivery is made locally via a staff member
  • Customer orders online and the delivery is made via courier

We’ll now look at the above options and your options for moving towards a new business model during lockdown.

Customer visits your store and orders from the front window/counter

Pretty close to business as usual but you will need to adjust your premises to suit the different flow of traffic. You might end up moving your front counter from the side to facing the door and organise an outdoor waiting area for orders (you could also take down the license plate of waiting cars and deliver directly to the carpark). Your staff may need to shift their roles to suit the order taking, order runner roles but this model minimises potential staff losses. In this model, all software systems are maintained and the main change will be the store change and an increase in take-away bags/boxes (preferably eco-friendly).

Customer orders online and comes to your store to collect

This is where having a way for your offline customers to keep in touch becomes critical. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or via your mailing list, you’ll need to notify your customers of your change of process. Point out the ways you’re keeping everything clean and sticking to the new distancing rules in all your communication. The process for setting this up would be that you’d need to create an online order form or set up a simple ecommerce store to be able to take orders. The form or site would include your main products and a collection date and/or time. Depending on your store, you may want to collect payment upfront or the customer can pay in a cashless way onsite. As well as setting up the online payment form or simple online store (options shown below), you could look to adjust your store for holding online deliveries by placing more shelving or refrigeration near the front of the store.

Customer orders online and the delivery is made locally via a staff member

This model is a great way to retain staff for order fulfilment, order processing and local delivery. By charging a small fee for local delivery, you’ll have the cashflow to retain more casual staff members (who will also be claiming back vehicle reimbursement costs). This option will need an online payment form option or simple ecommerce store but will also need a way to optimise the route of your deliveries. Using Google Maps Directions feature, you can enter the addresses of local orders, see their locations on the map and then move the order of the stops to optimise the route. You can then copy and paste the link to the route and give to delivery drivers. There are options for scheduling drivers but, for this post, we’ll keep it simple.

Customer orders online and the delivery is made via courier

This final model is a standard ecommerce model and would work well with the ecommerce options mentioned below. Some of the below simple ecommerce store options can connect to courier companies to easily schedule deliveries straight from your online store.



Software you could use

Simple online order form software

  • Typeform – a beautiful visual form builder. Only downside in an online ordering environment is that customers are asked one question at a time rather than seeing all their ordering option on the one page. Cheapest online ordering option is $US35 per month.
  • Involve Me – another beautiful order form builder for your retail store with starting price at $US19 per month (limited to 250 orders per month).
  • Cognito Forms – are you looking for a free online order form for your café or restaurant? Cognito Forms has their online ordering free for the first 500 orders per month. Next pricing tier is $US10 per month.
  • 123FormBuilder – a robust solution for online ordering with pricing at $US45 per month. Not as beautiful as the others but has the most payment gateway integrations.
  • FormStack – simple and easy to use online payment option for a mini-checkout type experience. Pricing starts at $US59 per month if you want to choose your own payment processor.

Website with simple, mini shopping cart included

Note: If you have an existing website, you can set up your new site as a “sub-domain” of your main site i.e. shop.sample .com . You would then include a link to your shop page in the navigation of your current site so people could click over and check it out.

  • Weebly – one of the most simple ecommerce store options for going from offline retail to online ecommerce. Some limitations on design but a breeze to set up. They have a free plan but you’ll want the $US7 per month plan for the custom website domain name option.
  • Squarespace – a beautiful website builder and has the additional features you’d need for online fulfilment. Pricing for ecommerce stores start at $US20 per month.
  • Shopify – Shopify does have a full-blown ecommerce store with themes, add-ons and integrations (aka bells and whistles) but they also have a cheeky Shopify Lite option for $US9 per month that connects to either your existing website or can be used to sell through Facebook.
  • Strikingly – Super simple online retail store option. For their basic 3-website option that includes 300 products, the price is $US20 per month.


Other options to help you stay in business

  • Offer gift voucher purchases to current customers (get in touch if you’d like some simple gift voucher software options)
  • Test different business models that best suit the changes that people are facing. Are kids at home for extended periods? Set up a lunch delivery service. Don’t want to deliver? Set up a 1 hour window for item collection
  • Consider setting up a Patreon page with perks that can be redeemed now or in the future (recipe book, name on a seat in venue, a year’s access to monthly gig nights)
  • Be as generous as possible to people in need. Find ways to use any spare staff hours or resources to help people in need (donating time to homeless shelters, cooking free food for elderly locals – nominated by your existing customers)


About the author

Rich Peterson

I've spent the last 10 years planning, mapping & reimagining the processes of hundreds of SMBs. Whether the goal is more money, more time, more clarity or more customer smiles, my insightful process is worth every minute for my successful clients.
Disclaimer: I use affiliate links on my website and only recommend what I use, have used or have vetted in the best interest of my readers. I may earn a commission if you click on an affiliate link, but it won’t cost you extra.