Of the countless consequences of Covid-19 in the business world, one of the most interesting ones is that it has forced brick-and-mortar businesses to turn to the internet. This was not a planned transition, but as was stated in our article ‘Covid-19 is Pushing Retailers to Move Online’, it has been something of a wake-up call. Business owners pushed to the brink by pandemic-related shutdowns had to embrace online operations for the first time.
It would be a bit too optimistic to suggest that this is ultimately a good thing, or that businesses are better off for it. That’s certainly not always the case, and the hope is that businesses can get their physical stores back up and running — and thriving — in time. However, embracing online operations does open a new door, both for now and into the future. Business owners that approach the idea with the right strategy may actually position themselves to expand, rather than just survive.
That entails doing a number of things right over time. When it comes to getting started though, the following are some of the essential practices business owners need to be focused on.
Sound Web Design & Management
Unfortunately, it begins with an investment. Any business owner transitioning from physical properties to online sales first needs to buy into sound web design and management. That doesn’t mean that a high-end web designer needs to be paid thousands of pounds to get an online store up and running. But it will cost a little bit, either to build a professional-caliber website or have one built. Nevertheless, this is an essential step. A shoddy website, or one with inadequate e-commerce features, simply isn’t going to succeed as a digital storefront.
A Focus on Shipping
Getting a website up and running, and getting eyes on said website, are the most crucial practices for getting started. But it’s also going to be necessary for these businesses to focus on shipping efforts. This is largely a matter of getting organised, and for some business owners who are accustomed to shipping from location already it may make for a pretty easy transition. However, there are additional considerations. For one thing, Business News Daily points out the significance of free shipping as a way of building trust and loyalty with online shoppers. It’s a good idea for business owners to see what they can do with costs in order to offer a perk like this. Additionally, there should be a focus on efficiency. Consumers today tend to expect online orders to arrive promptly, which may occasionally mean paying for premium mail services.
Flexible Payment Acceptance
Another important aspect of setting up a successful online business is flexible payment acceptance. In a store, a business owner may be used to having a single point-of-sale system that can handle major credit and debit cards and cash transactions. Online, a system like this needs to be a little bit more robust to handle the variety of preferences consumers today have. An FIS Global write-up on retail payments explains the benefits of flexibility in a way that ought to appeal to anyone opening up an online shop: It lets customers pay the way they want, and it introduces greater possibility of international activity. Both of these outcomes bring the potential for more sales, which is why flexible payment acceptance is a must.
Another factor for business owners to consider as they prepare to make sales electronically is that doing so can yield helpful data. It’s possible, with modern processing systems, for businesses to effortlessly gather information about where their sales are coming from. This means learning customer demographics, which sales channels are most effective, and even which methods of payment consumers favour. All of this can actually benefit a business in ways that aren’t necessarily possible solely with an in-person operation.
Establishing a Social Presence
A social presence is a god idea for a modern business regardless of whether activity is conducted in person or online. However, when a business suddenly finds itself without the in-person contact it may be used to, it’s all the more important to build up something of an interpersonal relationship with consumers online. First and foremost, it’s a way for the business in question to continue to connect with existing customers. Additionally though, Inc.’s list of social media benefits highlights some specific perks to expect — such as building and legitimising a brand, distributing content, and increasing sales. All of these perks are available to an online business that quickly establishes a strong social presence.
Of course, beyond these ideas each company that’s suddenly operating primarily online will face its own challenges, and determine its own avenues for success. Virtually all businesses will do better online by adopting these practices, however.