03 Jul The Move Online
How to move your business online
The numbers of retailers both familiar high street brands and local traders who were already struggling before Covid-19 arrived and have now shuttered for the final time is growing and the list of casualties is likely to increase further as we run up to the end of the year and into early 2021.
Against this trend there are retailers and in-person sales businesses (large and small) who reacted quickly and navigated their way to start or increase their online presence and, largely through harnessing the power of social media, have carved out a new place for themselves and thrived.
Amongst all the changes and restrictions many small businesses have scrambled to get themselves a presence in the online world with wildly varying success. Shifting a traditional bricks and mortar business with a focus on in-person service to a virtual world can seem overwhelming and it’s easy to have a knee jerk reaction and immediately jump to start selling online, putting in a lot of effort without seeing much return.
However, small businesses can give themselves a jump start by going through the same logical steps you would if you were to open a new branch. You wouldn’t just starting randomly selling your products or services in a random street without having a basic strategy and logistical plan in place. You may not think you have experience in the digital world but many of the same considerations apply.
Develop a robust digital marketing strategy
It doesn’t have to be overly complex – it does need to exist. If you don’t know enough to put your digital marketing strategy together – get help.
Social media is the fastest, cheapest and best way to connect with your customers. It’s how you can engage with them and build a relationship before you try to sell to them. Use targeted ads to find your customers. Build it and they will come has never worked and online is no different; organic reach simply doesn’t work in a 2020 world. Online analytics will help you track your customers engagement, reach and campaigns. Follow the results of your campaigns and establish retargeting to get the most from your campaigns.
Your Product or Service
What type of products and which services are you going to sell online?
Location and Visibility
The type of customer you’re trying to attract to buy your product or service is as ever fundamental. When you are crystal clear who your customers are you can make sure you’re visible to them where they hang out. High street or out of town equates to Instagram, Facebook or TikTok etc..
Just as with your brick and mortar location don’t confuse traffic with customers. Lots of traffic only translates to sales if your site visitors meet the definition of your target market.
In traditional retail having a concession is essentially a miniature version of your store operated by you located within a larger host store in return for paying a lease and/or a percentage of their sales to the larger store. Platforms such as Amazon or Spotify work in much the same way and can be used to supplement your e-commerce store although it’s generally recommended to identify specific items rather than your entire range as such platforms are often price sensitive. These days there are multiple platforms beyond Amazon to choose from. With a growing number of platforms dedicated to specific markets such as fashion or sport and the best of them offer a wide range of tools to assist you, all eager for their slice of your pie.
Upgrade your skills
Re-position your staff to enter the online world and if you don’t have the in-house expertise engage an outside resource such as a digital marketing agency.
Layout and Upkeep
If you haven’t updated your website in a while or you didn’t previously sell online, then you’ll need to get in touch with your expert advisors or contact a digital marketing agency. Maybe you’re still in touch with the people that created your current website, if so, get them to tell you what “going online” entails. Same as your offline environment if customers don’t feel comfortable in your store they’ll leave, so even if you already have an e-commerce, it may be time to review why it hasn’t gone gang busters so far. If customers can’t quickly and easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave and buy it from another store – located almost anywhere. With the right understanding of how customers move through your online store you can introduce the right marketing elements and design aspects to get them to stick around, make a purchase and give them a reason to return again and again.
In the digital world your customers can’t look, smell and touch. They make their entire buying decision based on recommendation and the images and descriptions you provide. Photographs that look amateur don’t sell. If what you’re offering doesn’t look as good in the photographs you use as it would in a magazine your customers will find the same product that looks better elsewhere. No matter how many product items you have don’t skip on your product descriptions. Ideally ask your digital marketing team and get a pro to write them for you so SEO is taken into account and people have the chance to find you. The descriptions are fundamental to your sales so don’t make a rookie mistake and leave them to the most junior member of the team.
If your customer has the product in hand and is heading to the till you don’t want to see them leave the store empty handed. Optimise your shopping cart functionality to remove pain from the checkout process. Consider what payment methods are available and make sure you’re all set up to receive payments in real time.
Unless your product or service is also digital at some point there needs to be a real-world exchange of goods or service. How do you intend to approach shipping and fulfilment? If you have mainly local customers is there a” curb side pickup” option, you could instigate? This minimises any person-to-person interaction plus it’s faster and reduces shipping costs. From any chaos grows opportunity and reviewing how you work with your suppliers and the levels of stock, order quantities and frequency of deliveries is one of them. This is a great opportunity to be more responsive and improve your back-end efficiency.
14 Step check list
- Develop a robust social media strategy and post frequently and consistently.
- Identify which products and services to sell online.
- Don’t skimp on your product descriptions no matter how many items you may have.
- Make sure you can be found.
- Embrace multi-channel social media. Big time. This is the “secret sauce” of online sales.
- Now, more than ever, it’s vital to know “your buyer persona” in order to know where they are online and how best to reach them.
- Work with your digital marketing agency to upgrade your digital understanding and improve the skills of your existing retail salespeople to embrace basic social media marketing.
- Upgrade your store front and make it easy to navigate.
- Use high quality photographs.
- Provide truly great product descriptions that are SEO friendly so you can be found.
- Track the success and conversion rates of different formats and review with your marketing team and expert advisors.
- Work with your suppliers and logistics to review how your inventory and delivery is handled.
- Facilitate online orders with re-ordered pickups for local customers.
- Consider supplementing your own online efforts with joining one of the many online sales platforms.
How permanent the increased online spending will be once everything opens back up remains to be seen. The challenge from existing online players has been accelerated but it’s not new and was already growing rapidly. What the pandemic has meant is that, through necessity or boredom, new buyers have entered the online marketplace and existing online consumers have discovered online outlets they never knew existed. It’s hard to imagine that at least some of this huge new online revenue we’ve seen materialise won’t stick.