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Local shops shift focus online to drum up business during COVID-19

Posted at 8:40 PM, Nov 30, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – For all those chocolate lovers looking for Cyber Mondaydeals and discounts, The Royal Chocolate in Virginia Beach is a way to satisfy shoppers’ online itch and taste buds.

“They love our apples; we have 12 varieties here,” said The Royal Chocolate Co-owner Brenda Tusing.

The shop’s candy apples are a big hit on the web, and with online sales dominating the shopping scene these days, Tusing said Monday’s numbers should surpass last year’s.

“We pushed Cyber Monday knowing people are home and they’re maybe not going to the stores,” she said.

Overall sales are slightly up this year, according to Tusing. She said a lot of that has to do with shifting the shop’s focus online and engaging with people on social media.

“We do a Facebook live every Wednesday afternoon, which is, again, not something we did before,” said Tusing. “We can interact with people; they can ask questions. We can have that conversation even though they’re maybe not in the store.”

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to bolster their online presence when the economy shut down in March and customers stayed home to shop over the internet.

Create CaptivateCEO Kaycee McCoy said her marketing agency has been busy revamping web sites and social media accounts to help local retailers survive.

“Our clients were doing everything from taking what website they had and turning it into an e-commerce site, or enhancing the quality of their social media,” McCoy said. “It’s been a wild ride these past few months, trying to make sure we’re helping everyone innovate and stay engaged with their customers.”

McCoy said local businesses have seen a big difference in traffic after adapting to the changing environment.

“Some of our customers have seen a 400% increase in sales over this time,” she said. "Just their numbers and analytics overall of website visits and social media engagements, we’re seeing some really positive numbers in the 200 to 300% values month over month.”

A recent survey from Retail Alliance shows e-commerce sales have grown for most businesses in Hampton Roads, with many seeing an increase of more than 15% in sales since March.

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After 14 years in business, Tusing said she never imagined she’d need to reinvent The Royal Chocolate to drum up business.

“People are home,” she said. “They’re looking for you, but they’re looking for you online now.”

An online boost in visibility and revenue means sweet success for the chocolatier.

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