Covid has wreaked havoc on businesses all over the world, If you happen to be one such business person, don’t lose hope.
If you are the owner of offline store, brick-and-mortar business and want to run your business online, this article is for you.
How To Get Going Quickly – First Steps
This is often the hardest move, but modern technology has made it quite straightforward to transform your business online. Whether you are an independent business owner or work for small shops, or restaurants and cafes, you can still use the internet to your advantage.
Here’s How TheRubyTap Wine Bar did it !!
The Ruby Tap Wine bar, for example, took quick action in setting up online order system helps people to make orders online. They could come pick up their purchases from the curbside when ready. It was a great way to encourage safety while at the same time keeping business going.
See what happened after they launched an online bottle ordering system!
We closed our @therubytap bars yesterday.— Dan Nelson (@danimalnelson) March 17, 2020
But in less than 12 hours we built an online bottle ordering system for curbside pickup. @wordpress site using @stripe API using @zapier connection to pipe data into @google sheet.
Already over 50 orders. What a world.
In your case, things might be a bit more complicated. It is not a bad idea to start a little late, while still being quick about it.
Start with buying a domain name if you are not having one. Domains are ridiculously cheap, demand only annual pay, and can be redesigned to your heart’s content. You will need to invest a little cash to get this going, but your efforts will prove fruitful.
Now the next part will be to use trusted and ready to use framework for your online store. We recommend going with Shopify, Bigcommerce or WooCommerce hosted on WordPress or any other eCommerce platform depending upon your requirement. They will save your lot of time in developing the system and offers world class ready to use features for your online order system.
A blog, along with some reviews from existing customers, can make you stand out in your own light even though you are technically the ‘new e-kid on the block’. Content writing businesses can help infuse your blog with sufficient content on short notice.
Have some of your preferred customers post their reviews of you and your services. The rest is a promotion game waiting to begin.
Biggest Pitfalls – Watch Out!
You need to remember that these are dark times, and you cannot just leap on the success bandwagon overnight.
A major pitfall that no one will tell you about is the mistrust of online shoppers. Many who do not normally opt for e-commerce are now being forced to. Additionally, you have more people looking for a lot more things online than just what you are providing. It is therefore imperative that you come across as trustworthy, learned in your business, calm and efficient, and do it all using written words, videos, and images.
Customers are ready to buy, Are you ready to sell ?
The chain of supply-demand has to be maintained. You need to have field agents ready to home-deliver, or at least set up your marketing campaign in such a way that people know where they can come collect their purchases safely and without incident. Try a dummy run yourself just to see if you can deliver to those living in your neighborhood.
Shopify, WordPress, Woocommerce… These are your online management hubs, using which you can adequately handle all things customer-related. Order management, keeping a central data repository, GDPR, spreadsheets, etc. can all be maintained if you are willing to set aside time for them. You can lose sight of several factors if this step is not followed, so spend those few hours a day on ‘paperwork’.
A bank, no matter what they say, will not bail you out. Do not rely on their hollow promises at a time like this. Banks are more interested in high-end corporates and large business chains. Your comparatively simpler business needs you to be smart and give time.
The Right Resources – Choose Your Weapon
Buy one get one free (BOGO) offer helps ecommerce retailers allure their customers easily. Usually, this offer happens during festivals, events and major national holidays. Through this offer, you can create a perception for your customers that they are getting a great deal. And that is what drive sales for your business. The BOGO offer is designed in such a way that helps in clearing out, moving inventory and creating cash flow for an ecommerce business. To make people aware of this offer, set up a banner across your website showcasing BOGO offer through a compelling copy.
People are strapped for cash right now, which means you cannot afford to be a ‘freeloader’ when hiring some of them to help keep your business afloat in an online marketplace.
Just keep a handful of trusted employees, get a few recommended online social media savvy individuals, and pay them a cheap but guaranteed amount of money to help you sort out varied business demands at different times of the day.
Love Thy Competitor
Peers as well as rivals will have ideas to share with you. These are trying times, which are somehow uniting people rather than dividing them. Put aside your pride and ask those in your business circle for advice. Even one small point can turn the tide in your commercial favor.
Pay that Debt Off
Small business loans, as long as you are sure of repayment, can prove to be a good choice in these testing times. It will help you pay for your online presence as well as keep your employees committed.
Not everything you read online is true. The same applies to people you talk to before transforming your business online. Trust, but verify. Double-check everything, in fact you can ‘hire’ a family member or friend to do this on your behalf.
SBAgov and EcomChat are two fine examples of online chat forums that are essentially ‘by the people, for the people’ threads (or conversations), aimed at shedding light on e-commerce issues amidst ongoing chaos. Use the tag #ecomchat to ask questions on Twitter. You will find that several people from all over the world will be willing to ease your doubts. They also pick some important questions and discuss them with the users, as shown below :
Client Reviews boost your reputation
Your current customer base is the fuel for your online rocket. You need to call them and entail their help. Merely request them to leave a review online, preferably on your website or blog (you must have created one expressly for your present e-commerce requirements). These reviews are crucial, because the last thing fresh customers want is to see a ‘blank’ company that has made no real impact in the lives of people. Yours has actually influenced real-life people, so it is important that your online portal reflects that. Here is an example of client testimonials on a Digital Marketing Agency website.
‘Payment technology’ is the term applied for all online payment options. You need to set this up, so people can choose one of a handful of ways to pay online when shopping with you. Don’t forget to make COD, or cash on delivery, available as well.
Get the Lead, when you least expect it
Make excellent use of free trials and free tier accounts to integrate live chat options on your portal. You’ll be surprised just how many people will want to directly ask you questions instead of emailing. You can earn or lose customers based on how accessible you are to them. Even when you are not online, these chat apps can still help you get leads as seen below.
Reach out via LinkedIn to varied staff and/or employers/owners. Many are out of a job at this time, and you might get lucky and land a few experienced minds for your online business transformation.
Landing Your First Order – How To Make It Happen
Marketing options for your blog or website will not come free. This is where your business loan or savings can come in handy. You need to invest in good marketing. This is not really an option for small businesses eager to win the attention of online shoppers.
Opportunistic Marketing is the biggest source for getting your brand across. Amul has been on the top since its beginning in terms of opportunistic marketing. Here is a recent example of Amul spreading awareness about Corona Virus.
The first fact to keep in mind concerning Marketing is that you need to target the right audience. Be it housewives or teenagers, you need to sing to the right crowd or your song is going to go unheard.
Facebook ads are taking a hit, but Google ads are still going strong. You can start generating interest followed by sales by buying Google ad space. You can start by creating a Google Shopping Campaign.
Right Ad placement can do wonders
You can buy ad space based on the interest of people. As you can see below, SEMrush has bought ad space on the domain buying blog, as the person who is building a website will need marketing tools for sure. Smart move, isn’t it ?
Several orders are made via chat platforms. Suppose the free version mentioned earlier has expired, you can leave your Whatsapp business number on the blog or website to redirect people to come chat with you. They can place orders after quickly clarifying their doubts.
This is the most valuable e-commerce option for small businesses. Whereas your website or blog sets you up as a dignified and trusted service provider, your Whatsapp may well become the hub where all the shopping action takes place.
Define Your Target Audience – It Helps You to Boost Selling Online
The target audience is your potential customer base for the online business you are running. It has the potential to define your business. When you target the right audience for your online business, there is automated growth in your business. The reason for many businesses falling can their inability to define the right target audience. Hence, to increase your sales and grow your business you should have exact knowledge of your target audience. You need to do deep research both demographically and psychographically to understand your audience.
The demographics of your audience include job title, age, ethnicity, physical features, income, etc. Psychographics include characteristics such as beliefs, values, and worldview. When you combine and analyze this information, you get the exact characteristics of your potential buyers. The marketing of your online business will only be fruitful if you have reached out to the right audience. Hence, all your marketing campaigns, SEO, and social media promotion should revolve around your target audience.
Before conducting a marketing campaign, you should first define your target audience, for the growth of your online business.
Reasons To Start An Online Business
- Inexpensive to Start: If you are thinking that starting an online business might require a lot of capital, big inventory, and a large investment, then you might be wrong. Don’t worry, you do not need to invest all of your savings to launch a business online. You need a computer, a website domain, and a website builder. That’s it; with just a minimal investment you can immediately start your online business.
- Potential and Growth: Low investment does not bring low potential and growth of the business. Experts say this is the best time to invest in an online business. The growing demand for online purchasing has contributed to the growth of online businesses. If you plan to take your business globally, doing it online is the most convenient way.
- Business Open and Run 24/7: Physical shops and offices have to close down at some point of the day. What about online businesses? Well, no shop, no closing. When you launch a business online, it can run 24/7. Customers can buy from your website at any time of the day and do not require your presence. Thus, an online business can bring profits even with less day-to-day involvement.
- Location is No Longer Needed: In an online business, there is no specific location required for working. You can be on vacation or partying somewhere. Online businesses require little involvement in terms of blogging or dealing with customer queries on a daily basis. Hence, the time saved from this little involvement can be invested in something else productive.
- Flexibility to Time for Work: In an online business, there are no specific timings for work. The online business gives this liberty of working any time. You can schedule the working hours of the day according to your other engagements. Hence, online businesses have the flexibility of time for work.
Advantages of running an online business (E-commerce business)
- No Restriction on geographical area: With your offline business you cannot reach a large audience. It is restricted to the local customers only. But with an online business, there is no restriction on geographical location. You can even reach the audience thousands of miles away through your e-commerce.
- Automation: Automation of business reduces the errors of inventory management, data entry, and transcription. It is an added benefit of online business. Automation reduces the tasks like promotional emails, payment orders, and errors like shipping to the wrong address.
- Retargeting Customers: The eCommerce business advantage of retargeting customers keeps it above the physical stores. In cases when customers interact with your website but do not place an order, retargeting comes into action. You can reach your customers via different channels to market your products.
- Swift shopping process: Unlike physical stores, online businesses have a swift shopping process. The search bar option on your website allows customers to directly reach their desired products. Applying filters and a quick payment process adds up to the advantage.
- Personalizing Customer Experience: E-commerce allows you to build a personalized customer experience for every customer. You can optimize website content in their language, change currency and also show products that are within reach of the customers.
- Low cost of training employees: The human resource requirement in online stores is reduced. In online stores, you do not require employees like cashiers or security guards. You can use these expenses to invest in running online ads.
- Take up and deliver multiple orders: The added advantage of online business allows one to take up and deliver many orders at once. In offline stores, the multiple order situations can turn into a crowded store and tedious transaction process.
- Easy Scalability: The finite space of physical stores makes scalability a time-taking procedure. But this is an advantage in eCommerce. With the infinite space, scalability is easy in eCommerce. You need to upgrade your hosting plan for accommodating more customers.
Conclusion – This Is Only the Beginning
Putting in the effort is only half the effort. Think of it this way: without a sound strategy, all your hard work will only drain your energy levels as well as potential sales. ‘Less is more’ works beautifully for small businesses looking to transform from offline to online during the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis that has affected a plethora of businesses all over the globe.
Learn to Earn
Help is readily available for you online, in the very realm where you are now planning to branch out. Portals like Website setup are interesting pages to spend a day on, so you can figure out what will work for you and what won’t. From Affiliate Marketing and Online Publishing to creating Youtube videos, there is so much you can learn to benefit your small business in this crucial transition phase.
It is all about familiarity, which is why we recommended that you sit at least one day doing research. It may seem tedious, but at the end of the day you will have taken all the right notes to help you narrow down on the essentials. This in turn will help you target all the right customer bases and business factors, getting you that much closer to online success in a relatively short time.