The global Coronavirus pandemic has changed business, maybe forever. Many brick-and-mortar establishments have seen an unprecedented loss. Mandated closings or a slowdown has caused many to lose most or all of their business.
Online businesses have fared better. Their model was prepared for people to be at home.
Today, many brick-and-mortar business owners are finding themselves needing to change how their model - they are wondering how to move online, how to create a viable online business that complements their offline business.
Every change has its own set of challenges. It requires more than just putting up a website; it requires a shift in everything from how you make sales to how much profit you can expect.
Here are the seven most significant challenges to moving your business online:
At your brick-and-mortar store, you’re usually in competition with two or three similar businesses in the local area. Even if there are lots of companies like yours, you all survive because of demand. Some examples of this type of business are grocery stores and convenience stores.
When you’re moving your business online, consider that you’re competing with the whole world. While your location is still there, you need to sell online as if it’s not.
Your profit margin might be smaller. You need to remain competitive with other online sellers.
Set up a pricing structure based on volume sales, not on high profits per item.
You spent years learning to display things in your store. The online world is about small photos of what you’re selling. After moving online, it will take some time and some skill to learn how to display items for customers who are thousands of miles away.
Learn to photograph things well, describe them clearly, and post them so customers can find what they’re looking for.
#3 Purchasing Process
When selling online, you don’t have a customer in front of you. Selling happens almost entirely without your input.
You’re used to having a credit card machine or a cash register in front of you that made the process easy. When you move online, you need purchases to be just as easy.
Customer Experience (CX) is the key to your success online. There’s a whole science that goes into the CX that you can find a million opinions on, but it comes down to - make it as easy and painless as possible for everyone.
To make sure your CX is on-point, try it yourself. Buy something from your own store. Then, have a family member order something and see what their experience is.
It should be just as easy to order and receive everything from your store as it is from anywhere else.
One of the keys to success with an online business is to deliver quickly. It’s what everyone expects. Over the last decades, this expectation has been built up by companies that have been shipping in two days or less.
How are you going to send your products to people? Work this out before you start your online shop.
Find a shipping partner, negotiate a contract, have a pickup schedule, and offer different levels of shipping.
You’ll need to include the cost of shipping, boxes, packing materials, and more in your prices. Naturally, these prices need to be kept down so that you don’t price yourself out of the market.
#5 Performance Measurements
Your online business will have more moving parts than a brick-and-mortar store. When you’re selling goods that are right in front of you, you easily account for costs like lights and payroll.
With your new business, you might not have to worry about payroll, but shipping, packaging, materials, and even fuel to the post office will be factored in.
Before you get started, plan how you’re going to account for all costs.
Assign one person on your team to keep track of all the expenses, sales, and more.
This takes different planing from the one you have now.
#6 Preparing for Volume
One change that will need to happen is you’re going to have to prepare to sell a lot more items that you’re used to. Since your margin is down, you’ll need to make up for it with more sales.
Be sure your supply lines can handle the difference. Make sure you can control the packing, shipping, and tracking. Every package should be tracked to its destination to ensure you’re giving excellent service.
Take time to consider the needs of this new paradigm and set up systems to track everything.
#7 New Communications
The ways that you communicate with your customers will change.
Your happy and unhappy customers have been right in front of you up to now. Your new customers could be anywhere in the world.
You’ll find yourself using email and messaging a lot. This means you need to change how you communicate:
● Be short and concise in your messages. Make it easy for customers to read.
● Don’t argue. Since everything you write can be shared with the whole world, don’t say anything you don’t want to be repeated.
● Be relaxed with your policies. Reputations travel like wildfire on the internet. Make sure you’re always cultivating a good one.
Whether you need to move your whole business online, or you’re going to create a hybrid business, take the time to plan each step. Look for ways to cut costs and use the assets you already have to make it easier.
Above all, keep the customer foremost in your thoughts. The customer experience is everything. Make sure that that’s your focus. Everything else will fall into place if you do.