COVID-19 has transformed the way we do business and how customers engage with businesses. While high street footfall has dropped, the online market is flourishing. Is it time to move your business online?
Brick-and-mortar stores have faced significant challenges — from navigating lockdowns to reopening with a new set of considerations. The adoption of digital technologies has accelerated. Businesses are reimagining ways of working and modifying their strategies to meet changing consumer behaviors and higher expectations.
Many have invested in their online presence — creating or enhancing their digital offering to build resilience and keep their brand accessible and relevant. We explore why you should move your business online and just what's needed to transition successfully.
Why move your business online?
Most businesses will already have a digital presence. It's essential to reach a customer base that’s already digitally mobilized. A great site will boost your company image, help customers find you, and drive engagement. Having the capacity to sell online gives your customers greater access to your products and services – locally and globally – and can help ensure business continues in times of crisis.
How to move your business online
Here are some key strategies you can use to establish a robust digital operation.
Invest in your website
If you don't yet have a website, it’s time to build one. If you do, it's all about optimizing your site and refreshing it with relevant content and engaging media.
Depending on your budget, you can outsource and hire an agency or web developer to set you up. Alternatively, there are many fantastic platforms out there to help you build your own. Providers such as Shopify deliver a streamlined eCommerce site with a professional storefront and the tools you need to sell online, market, and manage your business operations.
While an attractive website is essential, it also needs to be user-friendly, feature quality content, and answer customers' needs. Maintenance is essential — keep your site up to date with the latest products, their availability, and correct prices. Crucially, be clear about the purchasing process — from product descriptions to delivery options and timeframes.
Optimize your eCommerce site
It’s a competitive market online. To be seen, you'll need to focus on optimizing your website and your content. Step one: assess your SEO (aka search engine optimization).
SEO increases the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through search engine results pages (SERPs). Play your SEO cards right, and you will rank higher in SERPs — a result above the competition. There's an abundance of available online resources to help you grow your web presence (some free).
Social media has become a cornerstone for businesses looking to raise their profile and build customer communities online. It gets your message out there, promotes your product, and shares relevant content that resonates with your customers.
Social media has evolved to become an awesome eCommerce tool. Sites such as Facebook and Instagram enable you to sell your products and services on-platform. Depending on your industry, Instagram is an effective way of reaching a captive audience — 79% of whom search Instagram for information on products or services (more great Insta stats here).
Optimization and analysis/reporting go hand in hand. Understanding how your business is performing and the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns is critical to success. Driving improvement requires monitoring business metrics, analyzing performance, and keeping your finger on the pulse of market changes.
Set up your point of sale system
Whether building a new site or enhancing an existing one, adding eCommerce capabilities can be simple. Setting up a point of sale (POS) system using a provider such as Vend is a great start. Systems like this work seamlessly with existing hardware and can be used in-store and online, making it easy for your customers to shop with you.
POS systems are ideal as they support contactless, are secure, and let you sell on the go. Plus, full oversight of your POS function — via a dashboard and streamlined reporting — helps you manage your cash flow.
When you start selling online, start right. Implement a policy that defines how it will work. Decide which delivery or collection options you’ll provide and determine how you'll manage the service, identifying related overheads and shipping timeframes. You might experience a spike in sales – how will you manage potential increased demand? What will your return and refund policy be?
If you're running a restaurant or café, you'll need to put in place an effective ordering system that won’t overwhelm your kitchen and underwhelm your customers. For takeaways, will you have a limited menu? How will you manage collection and delivery?
If you provide a service, implement an online booking service so customers can easily make appointments. You can embed these services into your website or provide a link to a third-party app (and there are free ones available).
Communicate with your customers
Take your customers with you on your digital journey. Leverage your social media channels to announce that you're online, where they can find you, and what's on offer. If you have a mailing list, run a campaign to communicate the same.
But don't let the comms drop off! Engage and reengage. Diversify your content portfolio and your communications channels and meet your customers where they are.
Consider starting a blog. There is much scope to create great content that drives traffic, adds value for your customers, and keeps them coming back (loyal customers are the best kind of customers). For example, if you run a salon, consider beauty guides, makeup or hair tips and trends, and video tutorials. All this content is shareable on your website, via your social platforms, emails, or other.
If you want to gain traction on your website and increase conversions (sell more), you will need a supporting marketing strategy. This five-minute read shares some tips on how to drive sales with eCommerce marketing activities.
The message is simple: if you're not online in some capacity, you're missing out. COVID-19 has required businesses to act fast and pivot hard. We've seen some inspiring stories of how traditional operations, shut down by the pandemic, found opportunities in unlikely places and transformed a challenge into an opportunity. Is going online your untapped opportunity?