A simple guide to take your business online, and successfully make the shift from physical to digital in a post-COVID world.
Your business probably has an Instagram page. Maybe a Facebook one. And if you’re really smooth, you’ve got a fully updated Google My Business listing.
But adapting to a digital world means more than having an online presence. It’s time to take stock, COVID et al, and make the Big Move. It’s time to take your business online.
Why, you ask? Because consumer habits are changing. And there’s a reason why Big E-Commerce (read: Amazon) has seen an upward trend in the last five years. This is obviously hurting small businesses, particularly local ones, which is why it makes sense to take your business online.
Customers are online. You go online. Sales happen online. And you’re no longer dependent on people walking into your physical space, something that is less likely to happen in this post-COVID world.
It can also help you reduce those pesky overheads, and allow you to expand your customer base beyond your city; especially if you have the sort of product/service which is not meant for timely consumption.
Gyms like Cult, clothing stores like Fab India, service-centric strat-ups like Kool Kanya, and a lot more have taken their business online. The same goes for local grocery stores and restaurants, who have pivoted to home delivery. it’s a good time to join this crowd.
Here are the steps to take your small business online and a guide to creating a Strong Online Presence
Table Of Contents
- Do Market Research
- Get A Website (Or Upgrade Your Old One)
- Build A Social Media Presence And Advertising Budget
- Build A Payment Gateway (And A Payment Policy)
- Set Up A Delivery Model
Before You Make The Move: Do Market Research
The move is going to happen, in all likelihood. But markets operate slightly differently online, and you need to get with that difference before you jump into it headlong.
So begin with market research. Understand not only your brick-and-mortar customers, but the potential of a new online customer base. Are they a different demographic? How are they different? Can you use the same marketing language? What sort of messaging would they respond to? How do they pay?
You also need to know you will be communicating with customers, delivering your product or service, and ensuring that the process from acquisition of customers to delivery is smooth. Market research is central to this.
Get A Website, Or Update The One You Already Operate
Once you have your market research ducks in a row, you need to make sure you have a user-friendly, seamlessly operating website.
This website will most likely be the face of your brand, and therefore needs to be considered, designed and developed keeping that in mind. You should be able to update it easily, and your customer should not feel challenged by its interface.
Don’t invest in something very complex or high-production to begin with. Use a simple website builder like Wix to create something easy-to-use, and ensure that you make the tiny investment in getting your domain name. Read up on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and try to implement it as much as possible. Or YouTube it for a visual guide to how to. Creating an online presence for your business will establish a visual identity for your business.
What Should Be The Content On Your Business Website?
When you’re selling online, three things can make or break your sales: the image representing the product/service, the description and details, and the payment process.
More on the last bit later, but the first two are content-related. You should be able to take good quality images of your products with a smartphone camera in good lighting. A service can be represented by previously taken photographs, or free stock images available online.
And as for the written content, your website should answer the following questions:
1. What do you offer?
While building an online business, provide all the details a customer would require regarding your product and service on the website. Don’t get too consumed by jargon to sound fancy. Simply fulfill the customer’s basic need; understanding what you offer in plain and simple terms.
A customer should not feel the need to click away to another website to understand this, or hunt down reviews, or contact you to make their final decision. Concise descriptions and accurate details will make this process smooth.
(Continue reading below.)
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2. What is your USP?
This answer should highlight the benefit to the customer, one that will have them not only clicking the purchase button, but returning for more. Market research will obviously help you understand this better, especially in relation to your competitors.
A great way to do this is to put up reviews of products, allowing customers to get an idea of how other buyers have enjoyed the product.
3. What is the process of purchase and delivery?
The details of how the customer can make the payment, what communication they will receive thereafter, and how the product or service will be delivered to them is crucial. Make sure this is laid out in precise language that leaves no room for confusion.
Build A Social Media Presence And Advertising Budget
The easiest way to reach new customers these days is through social media. Many businesses have found success getting business through well-placed advertisements. It’s also a great way to communicate with customers, and field their enquiries.
Your business definitely needs a social media presence, and to make this happen, choose one good platform. Market research will help you understand who makes up the bulk of your audience, and use that to identify which platform that demographic uses the most.
Pro tip: Build an ad budget, not a content budget. Use it to generate leads and promote your products.
Why ads, not content? Because content is easier to do these days, with tools like Grammarly and Canva at your disposal. But content is often used for indirect conversation, while ads will bring in direct conversations.
You can also use the help of a freelance social media manager to understand and implement your online social presence. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, the platforms have easy-to-use advertising processes. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll be easy for you to take this up yourself!
Most importantly, start out with something that requires minimal help. Maybe that one social media freelancer popping in to handle and upgrade as needed, but you should be able to handle it yourself for the most part.
(Hire a social media manager on the Kool Kanya Marketplace, they’re highly qualified and personally verified!)
Build A Payment Gateway (And A Payment Policy)
Buyers should be able to purchase your goods and services directly from your website. The more convenient the process is for them, the more likely you are to make conversions happen.
Setting up a payment processor and gateway definitely takes effort and understanding, but most website builders have made it simple to get it done. A customer will make payments online when your website and brand fosters trust, and they feel safe giving you their information and money.
Make sure you do your research, and work with well-known and widely-reviewed payment processors. It will add to your business costs, but it’ll be nothing compared to brick-and-mortar overheads!
There are several options for this process, such as RazorPay and InstaMojo. You can also integrate UPI to make things simpler for your customers.
Also ensure that there are no hidden costs, and that all prices are clearly visible so as to obtain and maintain trust and transparency. And test the gateway before launching it to make sure that it’s working without hiccups.
Another aspect of the payment equation is creating an accessible payment policy that clearly states how you handle refunds and returns. Do you wish to include them? Will you be offering exchange only, or money-back as well? How will either work in terms of reversing delivery, or payments?
All of these are questions you ought to know the answer to before you cement your shift online.
Set Up A Delivery Model
Services, which might include coaching, fitness and more, can be easily shifted online by leaning on the large range of online platforms which allow you to communicate, conduct and keep working online.
This could include having a business email account, or using Google Hangouts or Zoom, or setting up channels on programs such as Slack or Teams.
If you have a physical product, tie up with a national delivery service like Delhivery, or a local delivery service in your city or town to help you get your goods to their buyers.
Don’t forget to do a test run before you open to public!
Digital is the future, and adapting to it might seem daunting at first. But it’s a move you have to make, and it’s better to do it sooner rather than later. Adapting to the dynamic market is something every business needs to be able to do.
Making the move now will help you set the stage for success when everything is expected to be online. It will diversify your income channels in the present, and solidify them in the future.
It’s a challenge for sure, and will take more than a couple iterations to get right and settle into. But it’ll be worth it to shift your business online. So look the digital world in the eye, and say, “Challenge accepted!”
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.
Last updated 30th Aug’21