Integrating Online Options to Maintain or Even Grow Your Business
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, businesses have had to get creative about how to maintain or grow their revenue base. States have instituted shelter-in-place or social distancing orders, and many brick and mortar companies have been completely shut down. If you are a small business owner finding yourself in this situation, you are probably wondering how you can stay afloat or even profit from these unusual circumstances.
If you have not previously sold online, or devoted many resources to establishing an online presence, it is time to take a closer look at how the Internet could help your business. With online sales, you can grow your business beyond your geographic location. As we have seen during the coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are shopping online for even the most basic needs. From a cup of coffee to toilet paper, many customers are now considering making every purchase online. Here are a few online options that could help your business through this difficult time.
If you run a local boutique or any type of retail outlet, you might have relied on regulars and foot traffic to drive sales. With shelter-in-place and social distancing rules, your doors might have closed, but that does not mean you cannot sell. Turn your shop into a warehouse, and sell online!
Adding an online marketplace to your website can help maintain and boost sales. It gives you another forum to reach customers, particularly when aligned with a social media strategy. Some platforms like Shopify and Magento allow you to create a complete ecommerce business with almost no technological background. You can integrate distribution channels, prepare prepaid mailing labels, and handle a variety of other fulfillment duties.
The great thing about many of these digital platforms is that they are free or very low cost. The only thing you really have to know is which one is right for you. Like most Americans right now you probably have some extra time on your hands. Research the variety of online platforms that allow for easy ecommerce integration, look at reviews and examples of stores built on the platform, and explore many of the additional features they offer that will help contribute to additional sales growth. Get a complete picture of the platform you are going to use before you start building.
Social Media Sales
After you set up an online ordering system, you will also be able to sell through social media. Many of the ecommerce platforms allow for easy integration. As an example, Shopify which allows you to sell directly through Facebook. Magento helps its users integrate Instagram effortlessly to easily reach more customers.
Social media allows you to get creative and reach huge audiences that you would normally not be able to reach. Whether you announce a flash sale on Instagram or you put out a live stream on Facebook, there are so many ways to get creative and build your business online.
Although many of these strategies are free and just require effort, you can grow your business exponentially more with just a little marketing budget for these social media platforms. It not only adds to your audience reach, but all it takes one of your customers to share their experience in a positive way and your business could grow exponentially.
Products That Rely on Foot Traffic
No matter what your business sells, you can integrate ecommerce and social media to help grow your business. As an example, it is hard to sell furniture without customers entering your showroom to test out the product. However, a lot of people are spending time at home and finding the need for many of the smaller items that are furniture related. Lamps for their new home desk or office, a new chair, or pictures to cover the blank walls that they normally did not look at. The point is that almost any business can adapt in today’s economic environment no matter how reliant they were on traditional foot traffic.
Essential businesses like plumbers, handymen, and electricians, still find their services needed during a pandemic or other disruption to everyday life. But you may not want to ask non-essential employees, like a receptionist, to come into work. Or, you may have a reduced staff due to illness.
Offering online booking eliminates the need to have someone to answer the phones. Eliminating scheduling issues leads to a more productive – and profitable – workforce. For those businesses like salons or spas that have had to shutdown, online scheduling allows clients to book appointments for when you can open again which is already starting to happen in a lot of states including parts of New York.
Stay connected with clients through your email lists and social media, and tell them about the new online booking service you are offering.
Join an App
Restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops have been joining apps like GrubHub and Bite Squad for years, but smaller independents have resisted the sometimes 30% cut an app takes from their orders. With dining rooms closed, and apps offering to waive fees for 30 days, many have decided to sign up. If you can create a PDF menu, or have professional photographs taken of your food choices, it might help sales during a shutdown.
Other retailers have options, too. Clothing boutiques could open a shop on Poshmark or Tradesy, and other retailers could list inventory on eBay. However, make sure that you’re not violating agreements with your wholesalers and suppliers before hitting “publish” on your first listing.
Optimize your Business Website for Mobile
While online, desktop sales are predicted to remain relatively stable, mobile sales are growing much faster and will top $600 billion 2020. If your website needs a refresh, or is not mobile-optimized, now is the time to fix that.
Even if you cannot do some of the technical work yourself, web designers on sites like UpWork typically work remotely, or from home, so you can completely redesign your website and have it ready to launch as we come through coronavirus. A mobile-optimized website makes you look professional and increases your online sales.
Offer Excellent Customer Service
Even if you cannot meet with customers face-to-face, you can still offer excellent customer service. Do not ignore that inbox or comments on social media posts or any type of customer inquiry. If someone leaves a comment – what sizes does this top come in? – on an Instagram post, be sure to respond right away.
While how you provide customer service may change, the quality should not. Respond promptly and professionally to all inquiries. If you are overloaded with calls, change your voice message or put up a notice on Facebook asking for patience. If your website is getting a lot of traffic and you cannot keep up, you could hire a chatbot service that can answer simple questions or direct visitors to FAQs.
Expanding your sales and marketing reach can take more than creativity – a small amount of capital can go a long way. You may need to invest in a better website, sales and customer relationship management software, or professional photography. If you do not have enough working capital a small business loan might be right for your business. Shield Funding stands ready to help you meet your capital needs, as it did with many small business owners during the financial crisis of 2008.
Now is the time to have your business adapt to the technological changes and opportunities available today, and if by chance you need some additional working capital you can reach out and talk to a financing specialist today with Shield Funding.