With the appearance of the global pandemic in 2020 and subsequent lockdown measures and restrictions imposed by many different governments worldwide, many businesses have had to adapt extremely quickly to the “new normal”. This has proved especially difficult for businesses in sectors such as hospitality, which are heavily-location-based.
However, even some location-based businesses such as cafes, bars, and restaurants have been able to stay afloat by shifting focus to online business. In this guide, we will explore how you can expand your business’s online side to overcome present and future challenges.
Consider How to Use Online Retail
For many years now, retailers have been gradually expanding their online stores, shifting focus to these, and increasing their total profit from online sales. In some cases, businesses have hugely reduced the number of physical “brick and mortar” stores or even closed all of them and moved entirely online!
The advantages of moving to an online business model are numerous: the overheads for renting business premises are no longer required, stock supply chains can be increasingly centralized, and the convenience of shopping online brings an increase of customers. Turning on your laptop or smartphone and logging into an online store is a lot more convenient than leaving the house to visit a physical store. Many people use this technology to shop when they otherwise would not have the time or energy.
Coming up with an online sales model will vary in difficulty depending on what sector your business is a part of. For example, if you are a fashion retailer, selling clothes online will most likely not be too difficult. However, you may have to factor in customers returning clothes that didn’t fit them (being able to try on clothes before buying is something that cannot yet be done online).
If you are a café owner, it will most likely be more challenging to shift to an online model. However, some businesses have been able to this with success. Signing up to services like UberEats or Deliveroo allows you to deliver food and drinks to customers’ homes! You may be surprised how many loyal customers still want to buy your products.
You may also need to think outside the box a little. Diversifying the range of products that you sell can bring in new customers. For example, designing merchandise such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters to sell on your online store can be a great way of adapting to the times. Who knows – this model could prove very successful, and you may even want to keep using it in the future!
If moving online-only has caused disruptions to your business’s supply chain, why not consider a drop-shipping model? A drop-shipping model is an online retail model where the seller does not have to purchase or store any stock of its products. With drop-shipping, the seller simply opens up and runs the online store, focusing on advertising and business administration (such as tracking customer orders, taking payments, etc.), you can click here for more information. The seller simply contacts the supplier when an order has been made, and the supplier posts the product directly to the customer. There are advantages and disadvantages to the drop-shipping model, and it is worth researching.
If you do not already have a website for your business, you will need to set up a dedicated website with your own domain to move to an online business model. While many physical-only businesses simply use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers and advertise, you will need your own website if you are selling products online. Thankfully, there are many web hosting services that you can subscribe to, and web design is easier than ever before.
Learn How to Advertise Online
The internet has provided businesses with an almost-unlimited ability to advertise to anybody anywhere in the world for a very low price or even free. The days of having to fork out for an ad in the newspaper or on a billboard are long gone. However, the ease of use and increase in advertising opportunities means that you will have a lot of competition! Successfully advertising your business online isn’t as simple as uploading a website and waiting for the money to roll in – you need to understand how to market effectively so that the right people find your business.
Social media marketing is both extremely useful and usually free. While there is the option for paid ads on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can also set up a business account and post for free. When using social media marketing, take care to utilize your brand persona and market to your target demographic. Sites such as Facebook have built-in analytics tools for businesses to see who their content is reaching, where, at what time, and how many people engaged with that content. Using popular hashtags and jumping on current social media trends are also approaches that can pay off.
If you are unsure what type of content to post after you have made your social media accounts, why not come up with a content calendar? A content calendar can help you to plan ideas for content and when you should post it. You can use analytics tools to determine the ideal time to share content with your target demographic!
When using social media to advertise and market your business, the important thing to remember is to keep it regularly checked and maintained. It is not much used to create a social media account that never posts or shares – the algorithms of most social media sites will eventually stop showing your page in the search results if they are not regularly used. In some cases, an abandoned account can even do harm: customers or potential customers may send messages that are never responded to, or hackers may even compromise the account and use it to post their own content! Either of these can harm your business’s reputation, so you should always check your social media accounts regularly.