For years, businesses in every industry have been considering moving their operations online to remain competitive and relevant. The recent pandemic crisis has proven for many that the time is now.
The logistics of making such a pivot can feel overwhelming, which is why many companies have chosen to kick the can down the road. Some will simply rush to begin selling products or services online. However, when businesses use a strategically formulated plan to move online, like the one discussed below, the process becomes much more doable.
The First Step
Before doing anything else, businesses must identify strategic drivers for the move and allow them to guide the journey. Regardless of the size or industry of the organization, the recent crisis has taught one huge lesson: customers and community must be the central focus. Every organization should include customer-centric goals in their plan.
Social Media – Social media is one of the most underutilized business tools. Customers are already on these platforms and businesses need to do very little to connect with them. Many businesses view social media an electronic directory and don’t realize the power that could be unleashed if they took the time to really understand its true potential.
Organizations that leverage everything social media can do are enjoying significant advantages:
- Professional service industries like law, engineering, consulting, accounting, and real estate can provide guidance through YouTube video tutorials or Facebook’s video broadcasts.
- Non-profits like mental health support and religious organizations can promote periodic meet ups and welcome new members to their communities.
- Small retail businesses can post photos of items on Instagram and Pinterest to create new streams of interest.
A few questions to consider in deploying a social media presence:
- How often will you communicate?
- What channels will you use?
- How will you encourage customers to follow you on social media?
- While you still have a physical location, how can it be used as a tool? If you don’t have customer emails, your physical location is the place to begin collecting them.
If you don’t have one, build one. Now.
If you have one, will it be able to handle a 100% online business?
Many resources are available to drive e-commerce properly. Some can even build a website for you after you answer just a few simple questions. The one you choose will depend on the type of business you are running. Look for features like:
- Securing the right domain name
- The right website template
- Online fulfillment and payment processing services
- Tools to integrate with social media channels, leverage SEO strategies, and track analytics
- Email marketing tools that capture addresses
Studies have shown that consumers like videos. Mention “video” in an email subject line and your open rate increases by 19%.
If making a video feels outside your comfort zone, consider this: consumers say they prefer lower quality “authentic” videos to higher quality videos that tend to feel packaged and insincere.
The options for using and even repurposing videos are many:
- Product or service overviews
- Customer stories
- Personal moments with the brand or a behind-the-scenes peek of the business
- Content marketing that simply provides valuable info unrelated to your product but builds rapport with your brand
Live streams are being used by businesses around the world like never before to connect with customers during the pandemic. When businesses reopen, they are likely to continue exploring how video can continue to benefit their business as we enter the new normal.
Don’t Go At It Alone
Look around for inspiration from businesses that are successfully making the transition to online.
- Use a customer-centric vision as your guiding light. Find ways to connect with them and uncover their pain points. What challenges can you solve for them? How can you build those solutions into your strategy?
- Can you collaborate with other local businesses or competitors as you design your plan?
- Ask local, press, industry, or trade groups to help you spread the word.
Hang Your “Open” Sign in Your Virtual Window
When you’re finally ready, don’t be hasty in your efforts to get online.
Before you shut down your physical location, remember to do that with a plan as well. Consider how to notify current customers and what the physical signage will say. “We’ve moved… online! Visit us…” is much better than an empty storefront with a sign that says “Closed.”