Editor’s note: Gonzalo Gil is the founder and ceo of 3dcart, a leading online store builder ranked as the best shopping cart software for SEO. As an eCommerce expert, Gonzalo works with businesses of all sizes to help them build their online presence and succeed in selling online.

Below he offers advice for candy companies looking to make the most of their online sales.

As of this writing, the coronavirus pandemic continues with no end in sight. Of course, it will end — if not soon, then someday. As survivors and societies struggle to move on with their lives, they will find that there is no going back to how everything was before. Some aspects of life will remain more or less the same, but much will change. We can already see this now, as COVID-19 continues to spread and business owners struggle to cope.

Business owners need to find ways to deal with the situation, regardless of their chosen industry. Anyone who wants to start an ecommerce business devoted to candy may find plenty of customers looking for sweetness amid all the bitterness. However, they need to be smart with how they adapt to the present and the future while building their store. Below are some basic pieces of advice to keep in mind.

5 essential steps for building an online candy store

This guide goes over some of the most important steps you should take to start selling candy online, then fills in the gaps with crucial information and expert advice.

1. Get started on a good eCommerce platform

You can find hundreds, if not thousands of website builders out there. If you want to start a site specifically for online shopping, you will need a more specific type of website builder. eCommerce platforms differ from others in that they come with tools designed specifically for facilitating transactions and creating an excellent shopping experience. That difference is vital.

Of course, once you whittle down your options to exclude everything else, you are still left with many eCommerce platforms to choose from. This choice is one of the biggest you will make for your business because the platform serves as the website’s foundation. It will define what you can do with your website, how much it can grow, and how much additional work you need to do. Choose something that offers versatility, user-friendly software, bundled hosting and security, and many useful built-in features.

2. Choose and fill a niche

Owning an eCommerce store is not like owning a physical store. Yours is not the only sweets store for miles. You may believe that candy is already specific enough as a theme for the products you will offer. However, this category is extremely broad. If you do not want to be crushed by the many other candy stores on the Web, you will need to find a way to distinguish your business.

Selecting a niche can be a great option. There are many different types of candy out there, far too many for even the more “general” candy stores to cover. If you offer some of the rarer or more unusual kinds, you may attract a clientele that rarely finds what they want on other sites. Filling the needs of a specific market is not the only path to success, but it is one that can work wonders on the internet.

3. Find trustworthy shipping and payment partners

Most eCommerce stores find reliable wholesalers and distribution companies to get their products from, then count on shipping businesses to transport them to paying customers. Filling orders with efficiency is the key to the survival of your business, so you need to create relationships with dependable companies — particularly shipping carriers. 

Offering reliable shipping options and payment methods is key to the success of your website.

Of course, you cannot make agreements with just any business you come across. There are plenty of scammers out there who take advantage of fresh-faced business owners. Talk with them first, learn about them, then read reviews from other people who partnered with them. Make sure you know what you are getting into before turning over some of the most important aspects of your business model to them.

4. Take your time with customization

You will want your website’s launch to go as smoothly as possible. If you want to hit the ground running, you must first create a detailed plan. Think of all the pages you might want, including how you would organize the product categories. Envision the layout of the menu, the copy, the images, and anything else on each page. Above all else, view your store from the perspective of your desired customers. Ask yourself, “What would they want?”

Once you have some ideas, it is time to make them happen. Choose a professional-looking (and mobile-friendly!) template, then tweak it as desired. Experiment with different layouts, especially for the checkout process. Ask friends and people you trust to test the website and give honest feedback. If your customers can easily find exactly the product they want and finish the order with ease, you will know that you are ready.

5. Never stop improving

The opening of your online candy store is not the end of the process. As customers go through your website, you may discover glitches, receive complaints, and notice unexpected customer behavior. Analytics can give you deeper insights on what is working well and what could use work. If anything falls into the latter category, then take action to make it better.

Even if you find few mistakes and get largely positive feedback, there is always room for growth. Implementing new technologies can create more opportunities. Experimenting with new products and features can cause exciting shake-ups. Even a few minor tweaks may boost conversion rates more than expected. 

Building an online store, whether to sell candy or any other kind of product, is an ongoing process. It can also be highly rewarding, both financially and emotionally.

3 steps for helping customers with coronavirus concerns

If you are planning to open an online store amid the global pandemic of Coronavirus, then you could almost certainly use some special advice. The tips below will hopefully help you and your customers get through the crisis.

1. Guarantee customer safety

The number-one concern for every remotely sensible human being on Earth right now is staying safe as the pandemic rages. Billions of people are staying at home and limiting any time spent outside. Some have no choice because of government restrictions, while others are being so cautious out of their own volition.

Naturally, this means that brick-and-mortar stores, including candy stores, are suffering. More people are ordering online, but even then, many are afraid of contamination at any point in the shipping process. After all, the virus may linger on any surface, and packaging plants and carriers are susceptible as well.

As the person in charge of the business, you must do everything you can to reassure customers that your products are safe:

  • If you plan to make and ship the candy yourself, then quarantine yourself as much as possible. Disinfectant every surface on a regular basis, both at home and at your workstation. Be even more hygienic than usual.
  • If you intend to work with suppliers and shippers, then get assurances that they are doing everything they can to keep workers and customers safe.
  • Finally, inform customers about these practices. Even if you are doing everything you can, they will only know that they can trust you if you tell them about it.

This is not just your responsibility as a business owner who cares about the customer. It is your responsibility as a member of the human race. Any additional expenses are minor compared to the cost in human lives that a selfish decision may have.

2. Forge a robust supply chain

A strong supply chain is the heart of every eCommerce business. Any weaknesses in any step of the process can cause delays in orders, which can cause customer dissatisfaction. You must communicate with your suppliers, distributors, packagers, and shippers about any potential disruptions. Only by knowing about a problem can you begin to address it.

You should also communicate with your customers about the possibility of delays. That advice may sound counterproductive, but a policy of transparency may engender trust in your business. There is no shame because every business is experiencing the same issue in this emergency event. Your customers may surprise you with their understanding, patience, and confidence if you are just open with them.

3. Create and share coronavirus-related content

As coronavirus lingers on or near the forefront of everyone’s minds, people will inevitably look for related keywords in droves on search engines. If metrics do not confirm it at the moment, they almost certainly will soon. Businesses do not often have the chance to anticipate a trend early. They just need to hop on pronto, or they risk missing out and getting washed away by competitors.

This advantage on content marketing is just one reason for online candy stores to consider writing and releasing pandemic-themed blog posts. Your content can provide comfort to customers in multiple ways. Articles could inform readers about your business’s safety practices, answer questions, address concerns, offer entertainment, and serve as a momentary distraction in a troubling time.

If this sounds strange for a candy merchant to do, then consider the nature of candy. People do not need it to survive, but it makes them happy and works wonderfully as an indulgence. In a time when living conditions are depressing all around and everyone is focused on survival, candy can be a relief from the nightmare. (Incidentally, this angle may be worth using in your marketing.) Similarly, your writing can also be a welcome respite and a pleasant treat.

When you create these articles, do not forget to share them on social media accounts. Engagement could be quite high because with nowhere to go, everyone is on the internet even more than usual. You may even want to take advantage of that by offering content that is exclusive to social media, such as livestreams. All this work might just pay off in converting readers and viewers into loyal customers.

Keep calm and adaptable

Ultimately, the most important thing you could give your online candy store during the coronavirus crisis is strong leadership. Businesses need to be prepared for anything, even a completely unexpected and historic event unseen in a century. In the post-coronavirus market, you should find clever ways to cover all expenses — including payment for any workers you may have — and fulfill customer orders.

Moreover, business owners need to prepare for the new world that will emerge upon the pandemic’s end. It may be easy to focus on the present, especially if you are still in the process of building your score. However, great leaders and successful entrepreneurs keep an eye to the future as well. The choices you make now, whether reactive or proactive, will reverberate. With a fine mix of pragmatism and optimism, you might make a candy store that not only survives but thrives.