We are living through difficult times for small businesses and start-ups. You might be struggling because of the recent outbreak of Coronavirus and wondering how to take your business online and what sort of opportunities you can offer customers to keep afloat.
This is an ideal time to move some or all of your trade to an online platform. People are staying in more, therefore spending more time browsing the web, reading, socializing, watching and, more importantly, buying. There are a few important factors that will help establish you as a key online trader, and this will help you keep your business going when business is difficult. There are other advantages of having a strong cyber presence, even if you also have a physical shop. You will broaden your customer base significantly if you can ship to other areas and aren’t just relying on locals and passing traffic for trade.
We’ve compiled a list of ways you can move your business online, and what you need to do so successfully, so you can keep trading but whilst staying closed to the public and maintaining the recommended safety guidelines.
Getting this right really is key to the success of your online business. A strong domain name will clearly and succinctly tell browsers who you are, as well as directing potential customers to your website. It will promote your brand, whilst also giving information about what you have to offer at a glance.
You need a well-designed and user-friendly website. If you have an IT service provider, this might be something you can discuss with them. Otherwise, there are plenty of other website providers who will accommodate you. Highly recommended come Squarespace and WordPress. It’s worth doing some research and looking into what the different platforms offer. There will be a cost to this, but it’s absolutely worth the price for having the support and design that will appeal to your customers and protect your business.
Nothing looks quite so unprofessional as an email which is your business name, followed by @gmail.com. Get a proper business email address. Lots of the websites you go through will have emails as part of their packages, so utilize this and get email addresses for yourself and colleagues. You can just have one to begin with, like an info@businessname – but when you’re working online, you will definitely have enquiries. You don’t have to put the direct email address on the site though. Most websites will provide a template for an enquiries form as part of their design options.
Even if you don’t have a big online presence, or are just starting out, social media is something you need to be tapping into. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all great ways of generating followers (and therefore customers) for your business. For example, an independent bookstore in Stockton-on-Tees has almost 4,000 followers because of their quirky, original posts. And if you aren’t confident writing Tweets just yet, do some research to tap into this market and get people talking about your brand.
Facebook and Instagram also are great platforms for generating interest and reputation. Instagram has multiple ways in which you can generate followers. You could run a competition with a giveaway at the end of it (winners picked at random). If the people who receive the prize like your product, then they will share it and (hopefully) come back and purchase more, and thereby giving you a further stream of income. Make sure you’re posting attractive pictures of your products and making them look good.
Facebook has an Audience Insights tool which, if you’re not already using for your business, is something you need to start tapping into right away. This tool allows you to see which pages people who have liked your business Facebook page also like. This means you can see who your competitors are easily, and also start to recognize common themes around the interests your customers have. Then you can post blogs, share articles and comment on pictures and posts that will be relevant and of interest to your customers. Only one third of posts to any of your social media sites should be promotional or sales-driven. People don’t want to be sold to day after day. Instead, the most popular business social media sites (take the bookstore example previously mentioned) often don’t talk about their product at all. Instead, they post funny or touching insights and occasionally might share a product that they have particularly enjoyed.
Deliver Your Product
Once you’re up and running successfully, make sure you’re delivering on time. Use a delivery service you can trust so you can ensure each and every parcel is getting out to where it needs to be – and in a timely fashion. It’s worth setting up your system to send a follow-up email to customers who have purchased something from you. You might have received something like it before when you’ve shopped online. Often with the promise of a voucher or free sample as an incentive, companies will send out an email asking for feedback once a delivery has been successful. This might ask customers about the quality of their experience using the website, the payment process, and the delivery. They will be able to score you on a points-based system and then give them the opportunity to leave further comments at the end. This is helpful for you as a business so you are aware of areas where improvements can be made.
Above all, it’s important to remember than online success rarely comes overnight. We all hear about the internet sensations that make it big in what seems like the first five minutes, but they burn bright and die out quickly. Keep working hard at your business and selling a product that you believe in and the likes and popularity will follow. Looking after your existing customers, asking for shares and re-tweets and staying fun and motivational will all help see you through these troubled times.