african american female in mask picking bakery products in market

Building a digital store for an offline business

A few streets away, there’s this famous bakery. Before COVID-19 changed everything in 2020, the store was always full. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they got shut down for a few weeks in Spring 2020. Customers weren’t allowed to come in and order. These days only a handful of people can come in at a time. During sunny days, customers don’t mind waiting outside in the queue. But on rainy days, rarely somebody drops by. It has been a massive hit for the business and still takes time to recover from it.
Worst of all: They may get shut down again if cases rise.
How could this business possibly survive in uncertain times? COVID-19 cases could rise again quickly, causing another shutdown.

If we look at the situation from a birds-eye perspective, the bakery itself would be allowed to produce goods; the only restriction is customer contact. Since the brick-and-mortar store is small, only one or two customers at a time could come inside.
Also, the owner needs to keep staff safe, reducing contact with customers as much as possible.
The long queues on sunny days prove that there’s a demand for pastries and bread. Yet, it’s unpleasant for customers to queue up, possibly having to wait for 20 minutes or longer, before it’s their turn. On top of that comes the uncertainty of not knowing if their favorite pastry is still available once they can place an order.

Now, if COVID-19 cases would rise again, no customer would be allowed to come inside the store. The only way of conducting business during these times would be curbside-pickup. Some customers have been trying to order ahead via phone. The staff answers the phone, takes their order, and prepares everything. Still, customers have to wait in line. Accepting orders via phone is taking away time from working off the queue. On top of that, it’s error-prone, as sometimes customers are mumbling or order slips get lost.
What could the bakery do instead? If order-ahead and curbside-pickup were the default mode of doing business, how could they optimize for a pleasant customer experience and secure the revenue they desperately need?
As some of the customers ordered ahead via phone, let’s start by making this process easier for the customers and less time consuming for the staff.
Instead of calling ahead, it should be possible to place an order with the bakery even the night before. The customer could be sure they’d get their favorite bread and pastries the next morning, without a long time waiting and without risking unnecessary exposure to other people.
Therefore, the bakery decides to use Shopify as its online storefront. Shopify allows them to put in all items they’d like to sell, together with pictures, descriptions, and allergy information.
Customers can now choose their favorite items, pay online and show up the next morning for pickup.

person shopping online
Photo by cottonbro on

But what if all customers would come in at the same time to pick up their order? They would still have to queue up outside. Therefore, the bakery decides to have customers choose from pre-defined timeslots on the website, resulting in an orderly pickup procedure. Bonus: The bakery knows ahead of time what’s in demand.
Once the store goes live, the bakery starts to hang up large posters informing customers about the new online ordering system.
Over the next few days, customers begin to place orders online, skipping the queue.

Of course, this is a fictional example. Its job is to demonstrate how we can leverage today’s already available technologies to deliver value to existing businesses.
Did this example inspire you? Or do you need support in driving more customers to your already existing online store?
Get in touch with me here, and let’s schedule an initial meeting to analyze your use cases.

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