COVID-19 is one of the biggest threats to economic stability since World War 2. Millions of small businesses globally have had to shut their doors to customers in line with government lockdown policies.
Companies with a grasp on technology are best placed to handle this crisis, according to McKinsey’s Business Impact Report into COVID-19.
Here is why the digital world is the right strategy for business owners currently struggling with COVID-19, and how your business can take advantage of what digital has to offer.
The Challenge Facing Small Businesses In 2021
The biggest problem for small businesses at the moment is access to customers. With so many industries forced to close their doors, some with indefinite timescales for reopening, millions of companies have lost their top revenue stream.
When you couple this with ongoing costs in rent, salaries, and stock, and the crisis small businesses currently face with cash flow, COVID-19 is an impending disaster for many hard-working entrepreneurs.
According to Facebook’s State Of Small Business Report, 34% of small businesses in the USA are not currently operating. Even businesses that are still operating are struggling in the current economic climate.
Small businesses need to face this pressure head-on in 2021. To survive means pivoting your business strategy to something new and something that is proven to work.
Going Digital: A Route Through COVID-19 for Small Businesses
To react to COVID-19 restrictions, many industries – from education to entertainment – have moved online. This digital, remote economy was already on the rise, and COVID has accelerated that trend.
Moving an existing brand online is the best way a small business can begin to connect with their customers again.
If your business has yet to explore the opportunities available by moving online, now is the perfect time to start.
The Argument for Moving Your Small Business Online
If there is a big uptake in the number of people accessing services and goods online, what does this mean for your own small business? Is it worth you investing time and money in moving your business online?
To help you get a better picture of what this means for your own business, here is a quick overview of some of the benefits you can expect by making the switch.
Connecting To a Global Market
If you can run a business remotely, even if it is just a small subset of your business products and services, then you are instantly connected to a global market of customers.
An online operation means you can ditch opening times for your business. Your company can now operate 24/7, removing restrictions that have been in place for your business.
This benefit extends to making operational support for your business 24/7. Outsourced operations support from overseas can help you support customers in different time zones.
All these options mean you are giving your customers the broadest range of support they’ve ever had from you.
Is there a more compelling argument for running your business online than the potential for a fantastic ROI (Return on Investment)?
Progress in technology means that running a website is now within the budget of any business, however small. Low overhead costs for hosting, security, website development, and advertising offers businesses unlimited opportunities.
Big operations such as Amazon, as well as major logistics companies such as UPS, have transformed the landscape for home delivery.
If you sell products, you have a wealth of choices now in terms of warehousing, shipments, as well as advantages such as next day delivery.
The Potential for Growth
When you move your business over to the online world, you tap into a massively growing market. For instance, just in eCommerce, the USA saw a 37% increase in eCommerce sales in Q3 2020 compared to the previous year.
As online sales continue this upward trend, and people become more comfortable with buying and communicating online, your business will become part of that success story.
How To Move Your Business Online
Web development is easier and cheaper than it has ever been in the past. Great leaps in technology and tools mean that with the right support, you can be up and running quickly, and with a professional look and feel.
If you are thinking of moving your business online, here are some factors you need to consider:
Understanding Your Customer
As an established business owner you probably have an excellent understanding of who your customer is and why they buy from you. However, it is worth asking this question again when you move online, as the answer might be slightly different.
Take the opportunity to research your customers online. What are their interests? What is their favorite social media platform? What are their biggest concerns when buying online?
If you can, survey your existing customers about their online purchasing preferences to get a better picture.
Your Web Presence
If you’re making the change to a digital presence, it’s worth taking the time to get your website right. It is a chance to showcase your brand and your business to the whole world, and a great web design will help you achieve that.
Make sure you consider your customers’ needs when putting together your website. Will they expect online customer support? What information will they want to see about your products? Will they expect video content?
Hosting and Security
Don’t cut corners when it comes to hosting and security. Always choose a company that has a great reputation with their existing customers and one that you can trust. Reliable hosting will keep your website online 24/7, 365 days a year.
Security can be a complex subject, so this is an area where you should seek out the advice of experts. If you have online payments, you’ll need to make sure your security setup protects not just you but your customers’ data too.
Your Promotional Strategy
One of the most important considerations you’ll need to make when running your business online is how to promote your brand.
There are hundreds of different promotional channels available for online marketing. You may find that your biggest problem is narrowing that choice down to just one or two.
Here is a list of the most popular promotional strategies:
Paid Advertising / Pay Per Click
If you want to pay for online advertising, there are almost unlimited options available to you. You can buy banner space on big websites. You can pay to be featured in directories.
The most popular form of advertising, however, is pay per click (PPC). PPC is a sophisticated ad platform where you only pay once someone clicks on your ad. The most dominant ad platforms are Facebook, Bing, and Google.
Building a social media profile is a must for any small business, as potential customers will often look you up on social media before they buy from you.
You can create a simple small presence on social media, or you can use social media to create a full promotional strategy and drive traffic and sales to your website.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it’s more commonly known, can feel like a tough ask for new businesses. How do you rank your new website on the first page of Google when established companies have had years to get there?
However, Google is designed to give the most relevant results to users. If you can create high-quality content, you have the chance to get that number one slot.
If you can master content marketing, SEO pays for itself many times over when it comes to referrals and new customer sales.
If your business has a physical address, local SEO is a smart strategy. If your goal is to keep your website presence simple to just help to boost sales post-COVID, this is a good option.
Local SEO allows your business to get “found” when people search by location (for example, on Google Maps).
For established brands, it’s a good idea to think about whether you can use PR to promote your business online.
The benefit of PR is that if you have a good story to share, online PR efforts can get your company featured in many big online news channels, which will give you referrals and help with your SEO.
Generating New Leads
Once you have an online presence and you have decided on how you want to promote your business, make sure you have solid systems in place to turn those prospects into customer leads.
A good sales funnel (a funnel refers to the concept of capturing personal data such as an email address, and following up those leads with emails, phone calls, or free offers) is something you should have in place for your business from the start.
As an established business owner, you will have a good insight into how to convert leads into paying customers. This should be your starting point when looking to replicate that process online.
Is Your Business Right for Digital?
Even the smallest business can benefit from an online presence.
The idea of moving your business online during COVID-19 may seem overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have any inclination for learning about technology.
However, it’s worth seeking advice from experts who can point you in the right direction.
At Craft Iconic, we offer a free project evaluation for small businesses just like yours. If you want to know whether the online space is right for your business, contact one of our experts today.