E-commerce and online businesses have been trending for a while now, with many preferring the flexibility and security allowed by online work. However, with the recent global crisis of Covid-19, there’s been a huge interest in moving business online. The world is changing and we have to adapt. Large events, crowded stores, and bustling fitness classes are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future. Almost any business can make the jump online, it’s just a matter of figuring out how and what works best. We’re so lucky to have the technology to facilitate online industries, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get you started! Below are 10 tips for how to move your business online.
Decide What You Are Selling
The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of online business you want to have. What you offer will largely depend on what your in-person business was. If you own a retail store, an e-commerce store is the logical next step. Otherwise, perhaps you want to sell services, such as web design, virtual assistant services, or counseling. You may also opt to offer classes and courses. If you taught fitness classes, maybe now you want to offer live video content from home, or provide workshops and courses online, as opposed to in person. Regardless of your business idea, you need to have a clear plan for what you’re offering and how you’re going to monetize it. This, not only helps your customers, but it helps you save time and make money.
Buy A Domain
Before buying your domain, you need to research it! An in-person name doesn’t always translate online, and furthermore your previous business name may not be available. Browse your online competitors to see what’s already out there and decide on a domain name that’s unique, simple to type, and easy to remember. You want your domain to reflect your business, but more than that, you want it to be easy to find! Avoid slang, easily misspelled words, and long words, and use “.com” if you can. In addition to making sure your domain name is available and isn’t trademarked, check social media before committing to it. Often times names are taken on social media, and for consistency of your brand, you’ll want your social media to line up with your website’s name. Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to pull the trigger and buy your domain! But don’t worry too much about the commitment, you can always adjust it later if you change your mind.
Move Your Business Online
Make the move online, aka, build a website! Your website is now the first thing customers will see, and just as you would spend a lot of time constructing your storefront, you must take just as much care in building your website. No one wants to visit a messy or poorly laid out store, and no one wants to spend time on a complicated website. You can opt to build your website yourself, with the help of many great online resources. However, consider this first, if you were building a physical store, would you hire out for labour, or would you do it all yourself? If you’re not ready to hire out, no sweat, luckily many website building platforms come with pre-set templates that will give your site a clean, professional feel. And if you are looking to hire some of Vancouver’s best website companies, then you may just find yourself ahead of the game.
Invest In Design
We mentioned above that building a website is important but where you really want to invest is in the web design! Good web design is what will set your online business apart. I think we can all agree that four walls and a door does not a store make, and simply having a website exist is not enough. Design is what draws people in, keeps them there, and shapes their overall user experience. I’m sure we all have stores we prefer to browse in, compared to others, sure the products might have something to do with it, but what you may not be aware of is, design, layout, flow, and aesthetics are just as important. Humans are visual! Many website builders have pre-set templates that will get the job done, however, this leaves very little room for personalizing your online presence. Pre-sets are a great starting point, but they don’t make you stand out. If you want to develop an eye-catching and memorable brand you need to be unique! Hiring a web design company is a great investment because professional website design agencies have all the resources, tools, and people in place to make sure all your needs are covered. Part of starting any business is determining your strengths and hiring out for your weaknesses. This optimizes your time and energy, freeing you up to invest in what you do best, which is making your customers happy!
Make A Plan
Now that you have your website built and your design laid out, you need a clear idea of what information you’ll share. Make a plan, just like you would for inventory, staff, store policies, hours of operation, etc, you need to be clear with your online message. Loyal customers will expect the same care as your in-person business and new customers will want to know who you are and what you have to offer. Almost every website has an About me page, Services/Shop, and Contact, but this is when you decide what else you want to share. Will you be including new policies, offering video content and courses, providing reviews and testimonials, or writing a blog? Although you want to encourage clients and customers to reach out to you, you also want to ensure your site has enough value and information on it to keep them engaged and wanting to know more.
Write A Blog
A blog is a great way to add value to your business. Not only does it provide extra content, which boosts your SEO, it also acts as a customer service rep with relevant and professional information. Blogs are also a nice place to make some extra money by using ads and affiliate marketing by promoting other businesses or products that align with your own company. If you offer interesting and relevant information, customers will spend more time on your site, which increases the likelihood that others will visit your online business as well.
Spend Time On Marketing
The virtual market has stiff competition, you need to get your name out there, and online marketing is the way to do it. This step will also require a fair bit of research, you want to check how your competition is marketing and who they are catering to. Deciphering your key demographic is crucial to your success. This is another area where you may want to consider outsourcing. Web design companies in Vancouver, and other big cities, pride themselves on their work, this includes offering marketing services. Hiring a professional web design agency ensures the right research is done to get your product to the right people. Using advertising on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, or using e-mail marketing are other great ways to get your brand out there.
Sort Out Payment
It’s not always the part you want to talk about, but you’re in business to make money, and you deserve to make it! But in order to get paid, you need to make sure you have a payment plan set up. Will you be accepting credit and debit cards, using e-transfer or click-to-pay email invoicing? Whatever way you decide to collect, you must ensure it is secure, easy to use, and functional. Sort this out ahead of time, so when the time comes for someone to make a purchase, you’re not scrambling to collect payment.
Test Run Before You Go Live
Most stores are ready to go once the doors open but online-businesses don’t quite work that way. Because many of the operations happen on the back-end, you need to check, double-check, and triple-check that your business is functioning before going live. A website that looks amazing and offers the best products is no good if your customers cannot use the site properly. Test-runs are the time to work out all the bugs, make sure videos load and links work. Also, keep in mind, your online business will always require some maintenance, so make sure you run frequent quality checks or hire a web design agency to do checks and SEO maintenance for you.
Incentivize Your Customers
You’ve done it, successfully moved your business online, congrats! But now you want to keep it there and make sure it flourishes. Just like people love a sale, people love virtual contests, deals, and promotions, so weave them into your business plan. Perhaps you offer a discount code when someone signs up to your e-mailing list, maybe you get entered in a contest to win a gift card if you refer a friend. Incentivizing your customers to engage with your content and shop at your store will be an ongoing process. In-person businesses make plans months and years in advance for when they’ll drop sales, and you’ll want to do the same! Offering contests and discount codes are a great way to keep customers engaged, without having them wait around for a sale, preventing them from buying in the meantime. Use the full force of social media to keep your target audience engaged and interested.
There it is, the basics for moving your business online! Going from in-person to online, or simply creating an online business from scratch takes time, effort, and money, but the investment is SO worth it. Don’t be afraid to hire out for your web design needs, and don’t worry if it takes longer than you anticipated. All good things take time, and once you get your business up and running, you’ll find you have more time than before. If you’re looking to do it yourself and want to learn how to build one of Vancouver’s best websites you have to do your research. And if you want to hire out, then there are some amazing web design agencies out there ready for you. Your online business awaits, go get it!