E-commerce and online businesses have been evolving for a while now, with many preferring the flexibility and security that online work allows. But with the recent global crisis in Covid-19, there has been a huge interest in moving business online. The world is changing and we have to adapt. Big events, crowded shops and busy fitness classes are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future. Almost any business can jump online, it’s just a matter of figuring out how and what works best. We are so lucky to have the technology to facilitate online industries, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get started! Below are 10 tips on how to move your business online.
Decide what you are selling
The first thing you need to find out is what kind of online business you want. What you offer depends largely on what your personal business was. If you own a retail store, an e-commerce store is the logical next step. Otherwise, you may want to sell services such as web design, virtual assistant services or consulting. You can also choose to offer classes and courses. If you have taught fitness education, you may now want to offer live video content from home or offer workshops and courses online as opposed to personal. Whatever your business idea, you need to have a clear plan for what you are offering and how you want to make money from it. This not only helps your customers, but it helps you save time and make money.
Buy a domain
Before you buy your domain, research it! A personal name is not always translated online, and moreover, your previous company name may not be available. Browse your online competitors to see what’s already out there and choose a domain name that is unique, easy to write 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, spelled words and long words, and use “.com” if you can. In addition to ensuring that your domain name is available and not trademarked, you need to check social media before committing to it. Names are often taken on social media, and in order for your brand to be consistent, you need to have your social media line up with the name of your site. Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to pull the trigger and buy your domain! But do not 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 site is now the first thing customers will see, and just as you spend a lot of time designing your storefront, you need to be just as careful about building your site. No one wants to visit a cluttered or ill-fated store and no one wants to spend time on a complicated website. You can choose to build your site yourself using many good online resources. However, first consider this, if you were building a physical store, would you rent out labor, or would you do it all yourself? If you are not ready to rent, no sweat, fortunately there are many website building platforms with preset templates that give your site a clean, professional feel. And if you want to hire some of Vancouver’s best website companies, then you can just find yourself in front of the game.
Invest in design
We mentioned above that it is important to build a website but where you really want to invest is in web design! Good web design is what sets your online business apart. I think we can all agree that four walls and a door do not make a store and it is not enough just to have a website. 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 search in, compared to others, sure the products may have something to do with it, but what you may not be aware of is, design, layout, flow and Aesthetics are just as important. People are visual! Many website builders have preset templates that get the job done, but this leaves very little room to personalize your online presence. Presets are a good starting point, but they do not make you stand out. If you want to develop an eye-catching and memorable brand, you have to be unique! Hiring a web design company is a big investment because professional website design agencies have all the resources, tools and people in place to ensure that all your needs are met. Part of starting any business is determining your strengths and hiring your weaknesses. This optimizes your time and energy and frees you up to invest in what you do best, making your customers happy!
Make a plan
Now that you’ve built your site and laid out your design, you need a clear idea of what information you’re sharing. Make a plan, just as you would for warehouse, staff, store policies, hours of operation, etc., to be ready with your online message. Loyal customers expect the same care as your personal business, and new customers want to know who you are and what you have to offer. Almost all sites have an About Me page, services / store and contact, but that’s when you decide what else you want to share. Do you want to include new policies, offer video content and courses, give reviews and opinions or write a blog? While you want to encourage customers and clients to reach out to you, you also want to make sure that your site has enough value and information about it to keep them engaged and want 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 that enhances your SEO, it also acts as a customer service representative with relevant and professional information. Blogs are also a great place to make extra money by using ads and affiliate marketing by promoting other companies or products that fit your own business. If you offer interesting and relevant information, customers will spend more time on your site, increasing the likelihood that others will also visit your online business.
Spend time on marketing
The virtual market has fierce competition, you have to have your name out there, and online marketing is the way to do it. This step will also require a lot of research, you will 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 might want to consider outsourcing. Web design companies in Vancouver and other major cities are proud of their work, this includes offering marketing services. Hiring a professional web design agency ensures that the right research is done to get your product to the right people. Using social media advertising, such as Instagram and Facebook, or using email marketing are other great ways to get your brand out there.
It’s not always the part you want to talk about, but you’re in the process of making money and you deserve to make it! But to get paid, you need to make sure you have created a payment plan. Do you accept credit and debit cards using email transfer or click to pay email billing? Whichever way you decide to collect, make sure it is safe, easy to use and functional. Sort this in advance so that when the time comes for someone to make a purchase, you do not crawl to charge.
Test drive before going live
Most stores are ready to go when the doors open, but online businesses do not quite work that way. Because many of the operations are done on the back end, you need to check, double check and triple-check that your business is working before you go live. A site that looks great and offers the best products is not good if your customers can not use the site properly. Test runs are time to work out any errors, make sure videos load and links work. Also, keep in mind that your online business will always require a little maintenance, so make sure you run frequent quality checks or hire a web design agency to do the checking and SEO maintenance for you.
Incentives your customers
You’ve done it, successfully moved your business online, congratulations! But now you want it there and make sure it blooms. Just as people love a sale, people love virtual contests, offers and promotions, so merge them into your business plan. Maybe you offer a discount code when someone signs up for your email list, maybe you enter a contest to win a gift card if you refer a friend. Stimulating your customers to engage with your content and shop in your store will be an ongoing process. Personal businesses make plans months and years in advance of when they drop sales and you want to do the same! Offering contests and discount codes is a great way to keep customers engaged without making them wait for a sale, which prevents them from buying in the meantime. Use the full force of social media to keep your target audience engaged and interested.
Here’s what’s the basics of moving your business online! It takes time, effort and money to go from personal to online or just set up an online business from scratch, but the investment is SO worth it. Do not be afraid to hire your needs for your web design, and rest assured if it takes longer than you expected. All good things take time, and once you get your business started, you will find that you have more time than before. If you want to do it yourself and want to learn how to build one of Vancouver’s best sites, research it. And if you want to rent out, then there are some great web design agencies out there ready for you. Your online business is waiting, get it!