How to grow your business online – Part 1

May 10, 2020

For business, the recent Covid-19 crisis has highlighted just how critical it is to have a strong online presence and omnichannel infrastructure.

With restaurants and retail among the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns globally, online has quickly become the primary channel available to connect with a consumer.

But long before Covid-19 saw consumers staying home, the lines between bricks and mortar and online were increasingly blurred. For consumers, convenience is becoming increasingly important – whether that’s shopping for products on social media, buying online and picking up instore (BOPIS), or researching on the internet prior to walking into a physical retail outlet.

In fact, late last year head of the US National Retail Federation, Matthew Shay reflected online retail and bricks and mortar were now no longer separate entities but rather codependent.

“We continue to have ongoing discussions about whether it even makes sense to break the online figure out anymore, because retailers really look at this as a wholistic way to engage with their consumer,” he stated.

“Really, I think the world is becoming increasingly agnostic as to whether purchasing is instore, online, or buy online pickup instore. It continues to blend and converge…”

In this two-part post, we’ll explore some of the strategies involved in growing your business online, and why there’s never been a better time than now to take the omnichannel plunge.

Things to consider

things-to-consider

Before we take a deep dive into creating then growing an online presence, it’s important to consider exactly how you intend to facilitate customer transactions online.

This involves working out policies and procedures like:

  • Delivery terms and postal costs – How will you ship products, where to, under what conditions and what are the costs involved? Does the customer pay for postage or do you offer free shipping?
  • Returns policy – How will you handle returns, who will be responsible for return freight charges?
  • Order fulfillment – Who in your business will physically package an order, label and dispatch it? Within what expected timeframe will this occur?
  • Inventory – Your online inventory may be different to your physical store inventory, while managing orders in an omnichannel environment can throw up additional challenges when it comes to sales and inventory tracking, and resulting out of stocks.
  • Options like Buy Online Pick-up In Store – In addition to delivery or post, will you facilitate BOPIS or local pickup?
  • Data collection and protection – If you are entering the online world you will need a clear policy for how you handle and protect customer information and payment details.

Online presence

The latest statistics indicate at any given time, 84 per cent of Americans are shopping for something, and the majority start their search online. Seventy to eighty per cent of people research a company online before visiting a small business or making a purchase with them, and 97 per cent of consumers go online to find a local business or local services. Despite this, less than two-thirds (64 per cent) of small businesses have a website.

It’s hardly a surprise that online growth starts with an online presence, but that presence extends far beyond a static website. It also encompasses social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization, along with giving consumers the ability to purchase there and then.

For consumers, the key here is a frictionless omnichannel experience. Not only do they look to research products and services online, the act of purchasing at that point should also be effortless. The best online experiences remove barriers to a sale. They educate the customer about what’s on offer and make it simple to buy, then pick up or have their product delivered to them.

A website

grow-your-business-online

There’s more to a great website than a homepage and nifty graphic design. The aim of the game when growing a business online is to spread the word about your offering and facilitate convenient sales.

For businesses that already have a website, that involves implementing effortless e-commerce, ensuring customers can quickly and simply navigate a site, receive information on the products they hope to buy and then purchase them in a seamless transaction.

A host of e-commerce plug-ins allow simple websites to be transformed into virtual stores. For example, WordPress offers free plug-ins like WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Cart66 Commerce, and WPCommerce in addition to paid options like Shopify, Square and more.

Meanwhile, SEO is a strategy that takes time. It involves consistency, and is a constant work in progress. To find out more about SEO for your website click here.

Critically, it’s a lot easier than many would have you believe with apps like Square, Shopify and even PayPal Here all facilitating the creation of a website that enables you to sell online.

Marketing your site

It’s one thing to have a website but another to ensure it remains relevant and is easily found online. This involves creating relevant, timely content for search engine optimization while also ensuring your site facilitates a frictionless transaction.

That means search engine optimization (SEO) plays an important role.

For the uninitiated, SEO is the art of consistently ticking a series of boxes to ensure search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing can find the most relevant websites to list when someone types in a search. And it’s a critical part of any website development.

Research indicates 93 per cent of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 47 per cent of people click on one of the first three listings.

We’re not going to dive into SEO too deeply here, but suffice to say SEO is about ensuring your website is regularly updated with useful content, that it has good pictures to illustrate products, that these are correctly labelled, and that things like contact details are up to date.

Meanwhile, SEO is a strategy that takes time. It involves consistency, and is a constant work in progress.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of How To Grow Your Business Online where we explore the importance of social media and other marketing tools available like email and CRMs.

Share this Post
wfh-trend-set-to-stay-header

WFH trend set to stay

Lockdowns might be lifting and restrictions steadily reducing, but some of the shifts brought about by the Coronavirus p…