As the coronavirus continues to ravage the U.S., thousands of businesses continue to suffer. Before the pandemic, small and medium-size businesses accounted for around 48 percent of the U.S. economy. That number is certainly smaller now, and those that remain are uncertain about the future as the pandemic continues to lead to a reduction in revenues, especially for businesses that have traditionally relied on retail foot traffic.
On the flip side, since consumers are now staying home much of the time, online businesses are less affected. If you can move your business online quickly, you can probably get it back on track.
E-commerce offers a lot of benefits over traditional retail. When your business is online, it overcomes geographical limitations to reach out to more customers. Without the need to rent physical space for a shop, you can reduce your expenses as well. E-commerce also enables deals and bargains to encourage your customers to purchase your products online easily. And with so many convenient communication channels such as messenger and emails, you can even get to know your customers better and provide them with the services that suit them more.
In fact, local stores such as the Curtain Shop in New York, Gary's Wine & Marketplace stores in New Jersey, and the Pufferbellies toy store in Virginia, which have an online infrastructure in place, have been able to stay connected with their customers, allowing them to keep selling even during the pandemic.
So, how to move your business online and seize the opportunity?
1. Decide where to sell online.
The first step is to decide where to move your business. The simplest way is to make use of the e-commerce platforms available in the market. Some popular ones are Shopify and Magento. They are easy to use and can help you reach a wide range of potential customers.
Or you can try to create your own Website. While you may need more effort to work on the site's design and overall user experience, it's a great way to make your business site stand out from others. Here's a practical guide to help you to learn how to build an e-commerce website from scratch.
2. Decide what to sell from your existing offerings.
If your business is service-based, then you don't need to worry about storage and shipping. But if you sell physical products, you may need to cut down your inventory to keep the cost low.
Consider these when choosing products to sell on your website:
- Which group of your target customers will be online? What are their age and their consuming behavior online?
- What are your top-selling and lightweight items?
- Which items do your customers inquire about a lot?
You can even consider using dropshipping tools to help you find suppliers who can handle everything from storage to delivery. Due to Covid-19, some carriers have temporarily changed their shipping services and policies. Stay up-to-date with these policies and expect shipping delays because of canceled flights and governmental decisions.
3. Let your shoppers know that your business is online.
After all that you've done, of course, you need to let your shoppers know about your business online:
- Market your business in Google Search and Google Maps with Google My Business. Simply post your website URL and photos of your products on your Business Profile, and your business will appear in Google's search results. If you update your profile at least once a week consistently, you'll get more engagements and outrank other businesses.
- Send emails to your customers. If you have already collected your customers' emails in person or through an existing site, send them emails to let them know your latest deals and offers.
- Make good use of your social media channels. Post about your online shop on your Facebook Page or Instagram, and add your store's website link in your bio.
- Partner with influencers to promote your products. Do your homework and look for influencers who can help you reach your potential customers.
Moving your business online could be challenging, but this will benefit it a lot, especially during this time when most people prefer shopping online. Make your target customers fall in love with the new shopping experience you create and help your business get back on track.