The success of business ownership relies on the ability to respond well to change, and 2020 will definitely go down in the books as a year of change for small business. With large populations of consumers sheltering-in-place due to the Covid-19 outbreak, businesses that hadn’t yet embraced technology are scrambling to figure out how to serve their homebound customers.
Getting up to speed on the myriad ecommerce possibilities out there can be daunting, so rather than offering you a parade of technical terms, let’s walk you through defining your ecommerce needs first. You may find that the perfect ecommerce solution will reveal itself simply by following these tips:
- Evaluate your situation
- Put customer experience first
- Get creative
- Think mobile
- Keep it simple
- Keep it fluid
- Spend money on marketing, not service fees.
Evaluate your situation
Unless you were already working on implementing an ecommerce solution before the Coronavirus outbreak, you are most likely in a bit of a panic and swimming in a sea of ecommerce jargon, platform names, and service plans. Before you look at ecommerce options, however, it is much more productive to evaluate your situation and needs. There is a technology solution for practically any situation, so know your situation first.
The most elemental thing to consider is how your business makes money. Do you sell products, services, or a mix of both? And can you change this paradigm to be more profitable? For example, if you are a brick-and-mortar retail store that relies heavily on the rapport you have built with your customer base by serving and advising them on the showroom floor, then your plan should include virtual facetiming with your client base – and the possibility of expanding this help into more elaborate paid services.
For more service-heavy businesses like home repair, house cleaning, or even a hair salon, ecommerce technology can revive your business by offering your clients new ways to communicate with you and pay for your services. Communication will be key to keeping customers happy and healthy in the foreseeable future.
Put customer experience first
As mentioned above, good communication with your customers or clients is critical. But this means much more than direct communication. Have you ever tried to shop online and had a question that wasn’t answered by the website and there was no easy way to contact the seller? Communication is the essence of customer service and usually starts when a potential customer lands on your website.
Think through your current sales cycle from your customers point of view. How can technology serve that customer to answer their questions, help them find what they are looking for, and make purchasing from you a breeze? Would having an option to communicate with your business via text or video chat improve that experience? Giving your customer some options will allow them to choose a path of interaction that offers the most pleasant and comfortable experience.
Creativity can go a long way to saving what seems like a hopeless situation. Some businesses have understandably shuttered themselves for the time being as their business model relies on physical interactions with customers. Tourism-based businesses are a prime example. But creativity and a little technology can save the day.
Let’s say you have a guide business that takes clients out to see the local natural wonders. Maybe your clients can no longer come to you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want your services. Technology allows you to bring nature to them! What homebound outdoorsy family wouldn’t want a private live-streamed video nature tour? All you need to get started is some inexpensive video equipment, a payment gateway, and having your website updated to explain your new virtual tour offerings.
Thinking outside of the box will usually require you to purchase some new equipment and glean some new skills, but even if things return to normal, these new tools can continue to serve your business and may even provide a new, dependable revenue stream.
No matter what your present goals or challenges may be, make sure you prioritize and optimize for mobile. Mobile devices are used for everything from researching products and services, to navigating to destinations, to even making purchases. And in the era of Covid-19 this will likely continue to increase as mobile technology offers novel solutions for new problems.
A prime example is SMS text messaging for curbside restaurant pickup. Many restaurants are utilizing automated text messaging to complete online orders and communicate with customers when their pickup is ready. Unsolicited spam texts aside, most consumers appreciate the efficiency of text messaging to communicate needs and complete business transactions with entities they are actively doing business with. Leveraging mobile can save you time, money, and provide new ways around the problems stemming from Coronavirus.
Keep it simple
Despite the wide array of strategies and platforms available to bring ecommerce to your business, in the beginning it is critical to keep it simple. Focus only on those strategies that you know will improve business. You may find a simple and affordable solution that serves your primary needs. Don’t be distracted by all the bells and whistles unless they will undoubtedly bring you more revenue.
The same holds true for building an ecommerce retail store. Don’t worry about getting your entire inventory online if it is going to slow down the process of going live. Choose your bread and butter items first. Focus on being comfortable using the new ecommerce platform and making sure the transactional aspects and customer experience is seamless with the rest of your business.
Keep it fluid
You’ve worked hard to build your business and there are aspects of it that highlight all that hard work. For more established businesses with good branding, this is often simply reflected in the logo and messaging. For newer, smaller businesses, this may be a more personal touch. Regardless of what that secret sauce is, you want to make sure it is part of every aspect of your business – including your online and mobile transactions.
The most powerful thing on the internet these days is trust. You want to make sure that the qualities of your business that have built that trust are fluid throughout your website, social media, and the direct communication you have with your clients or customers.
Spend money on marketing, not service fees
Lastly, be wary of signing up for ecommerce solutions that require hefty monthly fees. We mentioned above how bells and whistles can complicate things, but they can also cost an arm and a leg, especially if you’re not even using them. Many web solution companies out there know this but are all too happy to sell you more than you need – especially when you are locked into a monthly contract.
The area you will want to spend money in is marketing. You have this great new way of transacting with customers online, so why not let them know about it? If you are a small brick and mortar business that has only dabbled in organic social media for walk-in customers, applying some marketing budget to pay-per-click advertising can pay big dividends.
We can help
If you are not a technical person, partnering with a tech firm can quite often save you tremendous amounts of money. A good web development firm will know how to best utilize both the needs and data you have and integrate them into a platform that best serves your business, your customers, and your bank account.
Your head is probably spinning trying to navigate the many possibilities out there that can help you retool your business for the current challenges, but we can quickly evaluate where you are and put together a plan that will help get you where you need to go. In the end, we think a little tech know-how can show you that your business is much more resilient than you ever knew. Contact us today and see how we can help!