How Moving Online can Save Small Businesses
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hugely challenging for many small businesses, particularly those not deemed essential. By the end of 2020, CFIB statistics revealed that only 42% of Saskatchewan businesses were fully staffed and just under a third were making the same level of sales as a year ago. One in eight businesses feared that they may have to close down permanently.
Many businesses have found that they needed to make a significant shift in their core business offering to survive. With a large number of bricks-and-mortar businesses having to close or reduce their capacity, many turned to technology and their own ingenuity to stay afloat.
So, how can you make a shift to boost your business’s sales, and what are the steps to do it?
Making The Shift
Many businesses turned to online stores for ways to keep the tills ringing during the pandemic. Making inventory available from a new online platform, holding customer events on Zoom and offering new, in-demand items are all ways that businesses have evolved to survive.
One Saskatchewan example of a shifting business model is Mortise and Tenon, a gift store in Regina. They built a new, extensive online store and offered free local delivery for orders over $20.
A key strategy to making the successful switch to online offerings is to look at it from your customers’ perspective. How does the switch make their lives better? If the shift means that shopping with you now becomes more convenient and time-saving (such as ordering it online and picking it up curbside), your customers are more likely to continue supporting your business. Using technology to considerably improve your service can help your business survive.
The Logistics: Your Website
Many offline-based businesses’ pre-pandemic websites weren’t built for online transactions. Post-pandemic websites need to be capable of seamlessly showcasing your full range of products or services, enable easy, fast and secure payment, then ensure swift delivery.
Shopify saw a boom in 2020 because the company provides all of the above, efficiently. It will help you to build and manage your e-commerce website: Mortise and Tenon made their switch with the help of Shopify. And remember, if your physical business has to close, post a notice on your door with your web address, informing customers that your online store is open for business.
The Logistics: Getting Paid
If you go down the Shopify route, payment options are included in the package (including major credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Interac Flash). It also allows you to track all of your orders and payments.
Square makes adding an online store to your existing website really easy. It can also help you to set up curbside pick-up and delivery options, and syncs with your inventory.
The Logistics: Delivery
Onfleet can help you to make your shipping process extremely efficient. It provides advanced route optimization, automated dispatch, real-time fleet tracking and analytics so you can keep on top of all your deliveries.
Once again, if you choose Shopify, the platform includes tools to make shipping easier. You’ll get discounted rates of up to 47% with Canada Post, and can print shipping labels and manage inventory all within Shopify Shipping.
For non-retail businesses, Zoom is a great way to deliver services via video conferencing. It’s a safe way to deliver services that can’t be delivered in person, such as fitness classes or consulting sessions.
The Crucial Part: Marketing
Customers aren’t going to walk past your website as they would your store, so you need a marketing plan to bring them to you. You can hire a digital marketing agency, if you have the budget, or go it alone, if you have the time.