The economy is reeling, there’s no doubt about that. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses as stay-at-home orders keep shoppers inside and the threat of contracting the virus keeps physical in-store capacity to reduced levels. As a small or medium-sized business in Canada or the USA, moving to an online model can help you survive and even thrive in this new normal. However, pivoting can be difficult, and knowing where to start is challenging. Here is our roadmap for shifting your business into an online model.
To move your business online successfully, you will need to re-evaluate who you are as a business and how you want to operate. Answer the following key questions.
In answering these questions, you will find yourself asking about which products and services are good to sell online and how selling online can increase revenue. In figuring out the answers to these questions, may have you pivoting to offering something new. Many businesses have transitioned from their original offering to something new to meet the new market that the pandemic has created. An example of this is Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, who went from offering home-baked goods to offering home bread-making kits.
Some of the best digital tools you can use are the online channels that are available. Your business is likely to use multiple channels to build a communication ecosystem.
The easiest way to pivot your business initially is, to begin with, social media platforms. Not only is it likely that your audience is already using social media, but you can easily connect with them and begin your communication strategy without much time and investment. It is important to note that social media marketing platforms are fantastic for connecting with your potential customers, sharing your content, and posting images of your products or services.
Social media platforms have a live streaming element to them that give you more possibilities for reaching your audience. Not only can you reach your customers via your feed and comments section, but live streaming allows you to share behind-the-scenes footage, teach live workshops, or showcase personal moments and milestones that your business is going through. If you have a devoted audience, you can also use live streaming for weekly check-ins and Q/A sessions. Popular options include Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Youtube.
With marketplaces, there is a caveat in that while they are easy to start on and don’t require much investment, you will lose part of your revenue to subscription fees or commissions. Marketplaces tend to work really well for larger vendors. Popular ones include: Amazon, Ebay, Fiverr, Upwork, and Thumbtack.
Whether you are hiring a company for your website development or using an existing website, there are several things you need to keep in mind.
For a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, websites are marketing tools used to drive traffic, leads, and conversions. Keep this in mind and pair it with an eCommerce store.
You will need to redesign your communications strategy to account for the new possibilities that the online sphere brings to you. For instance, you need to create clear and consistent messaging, schedule how frequency communications will be, choose which online channels to use, and how your physical location – if you have one – will help direct your customers to you online.
With moving your business online, the majority of your marketing endeavors are going to be digital. This means that you’ll need to learn how to reach your target audience through digital marketing tools such as:
You can use emails to announce sales through newsletters. This will attract attention to your newfound online presence.
You can provide time-sensitive discount codes and sales to create urgency through social media channels. This will also encourage online engagement from your customer base.
You can gain your customer’s loyalty by sharing valuable content online. This is done in tandem with keyword research, search engine optimization, and analytics.
You can use Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and display ads to test and experiment with advertising. Use a small budget, to begin with and scale as you discover what works for you.
It is important to note that no matter what online channels you use for your Canada/USA business, the conversion journey will be the same. You will need to catch interest with social media posts or website advertisements, provide customers with a choice via offerings, live streams, and question/answer sessions, and give customers a purchase decision. This is done by offering a robust online store with your products. Don’t forget to add seamless payment options and a wide variety of them!
If you have already taken the initial steps to move your business from an offline brick-and-mortar store to an online, eCommerce business, what should you do next?
You need to adopt a learning approach that gives you queues as to whether you are on the right track or not. We recommend that you implement a build -> measure -> learn loop that allows you to gain constant feedback from your customers. This will allow you to make changes as feedback comes in, giving you the ability to hit milestones easier.
Your digital transformation won’t be a completely smooth changeover. Some of what you do will work, while other tactics will not. You may need to change how you communicate to your customer base, or you may need to change what online channels you use. Your model will need to adapt to customer expectations and the best way to ensure this happens is by being flexible and responsive to the customer feedback you get in your learning loop.
One of the best ways to make your transition from an offline to an online business is by using emerging tech that is available. These tools can help you reduce the money and time needed on digitizing your business. For instance, hire a website development company that can implement encrypted cloud hosting on your website server so that you aren’t a target for data breaches. Or, use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help you manage customer requests. By using these types of tech, you can increase profits while boosting productivity.
For any small to medium-sized business, the digital transformation that needs to take place when shifting your Canada or USA business from an offline model to an online model, means that you must renew your business strategy and reassess your business’ running operations. You have to make sure you choose the right digital channels for communication that fit your budget and goals. To do this, you must develop a digital marketing strategy, build a robust online store, and adopt new technology to push your business into the eCommerce sphere.