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Getting Online Quickly

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Extraordinary Times 

These are extraordinary times. 

Unlike other global events that have shaken public confidence in the past, eg. the financial crash of 2008, Covid-19 will inflict potential long-term economic hardship.  The current practical restrictions on movement and the use of shared spaces has resulted in a deep impact on every major industry vertical from tourism to movie theatres, and restaurants to sporting events. In the second half of March 2020, consumers’ priorities and buying behaviour changed dramatically as the move to lockdown strengthened and was implemented. Supermarkets shelves picked clean, whilst clothing stores and car dealerships lie empty. All we know is that we’re in unknown territory. From Tokyo to Torquay the world is bracing itself for a long, bumpy ride.

We are all in various stages of shock.  What we do know is that this too shall pass. Confidence, customers and normal business functioning will return. In the meantime, we can help businesses – those that can – identify and take whatever steps necessary to adapt and/or seize opportunities to support and engage with their customers.

Already there are many encouraging signs of businesses adapting and pivoting. Creative solutions are springing up everywhere, from distilleries modifying production lines to produce hand-sanitiser, to personal trainers offering their services by video conference. It has never been more evident that necessity truly is the mother of invention.

In this blog, we will look at some quick win opportunities which could help your business support the community you live in.  We’ll keep the information as updated as we can in a climate of fast-moving change.

Getting Online Quickly

It seems certain that isolation and social distancing, whether voluntary or enforced, will be a feature of life in the future. Current events is likely to accelerate the growth of online as consumers become even more used to buying online. 
 
Though circumstances have forced the issue, now could be a good time for businesses who are not yet eCommerce enabled, to add this as a new channel to:
 
Find new customers
Ensure their business model is future proofed 
 
Not all businesses will be able to operate online for practical or logistical reasons.  However, we’ve identified some principles to look at where transition might be easier, and a few industries where it could easily apply.

What Makes a Business Adaptable to Online?

Some criteria to consider are:
 
Physical Product
 
What exactly are you selling?  If it is a physical item, can the goods be packaged and shipped safely, legally and cost-effectively. To get ideas, take a look at the online marketplace for your area to understand other e-commerce offerings, how they operate and what restrictions or special conditions may apply.
 
Delivery or Click and Collect
 
In this current crisis, it’s more important than ever to consider packaging and how the package moves from one person to the other.  Taking the time to ensure your goods are properly packed will give your customers confidence.
 
Packaging
Box is sturdy and clean. All areas are sealed 
Item itself is not damaged and does not look like it has been tampered with
If food delivery, food parcels are properly packed to minimise any leakage. Nothing is exposed to the air.  Eg. Prawn crackers, which previously may have been delivered in a paper bag, should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed
 
Delivery and Click and Collect
Ask customers to nominate a safe area that you can drop the goods off. This eliminates the need to directly hand the item to the customer, and also maintains safe social distancing
Similarly with Click and Collect, clear an area that allows customers to collect their item whilst meeting social distancing guidelines.
 
Service 
 
If your product is an educational/information site, or service, then with structure and creativity, it’s possible to deliver or service online through, eg. A subscription model, or per class/service model. In the current Covid-19 crisis, there are many personal trainers, pilates or yoga instructors who are looking at delivering an exercise class simply using nothing more sophisticated than Skype or Zoom, and the camera on their smart phone.
 
 
Ability to offer clear, simple pricing
 
The simpler the pricing, the easier it is to go online.  Basically, 1 widget costs £x.  Having said that, it is possible to take bespoke product online, you just need to build your eCommerce site to be able to handle pricing variations.  The latter of course, means that it is a more complex build and you want to consider how you will price every element.
 
An example is tailoring services for curtains and blinds.  In the past, it would have been expected for a sales person to enter your house to measure windows. However, online businesses now offer a Made-to-measure service and the risk of incorrect measurements are passed onto the consumer.  
 
Essentially, if you can create a business system, it’s possible to turn aspects of it online and quickly.

 

Some examples where a physical business could move online quickly

What it is today

What it could be tomorrow

Online solution

 

 

 

Restaurant, pub or café

Takeaway business

Meals delivery business

Food takeaway website, offering both a standard price per dish, or a recurring subscription payment for the regular delivery of meals to a household

 

Personal trainer

Online workouts

Video coaching

Conference platforms, e.g. Zoom, Whatsapp, Teams or Skype

Booking engine, offering both a price per session and a subscription model.

 

Life coach

Coaching over the phone, or using video conferencing systems

Booking engine with options for either one off or recurring payment.

 

Setting Up Your E-Commerce Business

1. Decide how you want your product or service to be delivered.  Where possible, create a visual map of it.
 
2. Find a website developer to build your new eCommerce website and integrate your payment gateway.  Before you settle on your payment provider, and like any service, make sure you find out all the costs you will be up for, whether you will be in contract, and what happens if you need to contact your payment provider.
 
3. Focus on the basics to start. You can add new features (bells and whistles) as you come to understand how your customers are responding to your new online offering.  
 
4. Decide how you want your product or service delivered.  Depending on your choice (online, door delivery, or click and collect), ensure that your operations and logistics are set up to support it.  Some things to consider:
 
  • Who will pay for postage?
  • Will customers need to use recorded or insured delivery
  • Is Signed For delivery required, and what happens if no one is home
  • How will you notify customers that the item is ready to be collected (if Click and Collect)
 
5. Decide how customers will contact you if they have problems – phone, social media, online form.  It’s also a good idea to put on your website what your response time might be to help set your customers’ expectations.  
 
6. Decide your returns policy. Check whether Distance Selling Regulations or other law applies to the sale.

Marketing

Most important of all, launch with a splash. Until you tell people you’re in business, they won’t know you’re there in your local community.  Here are some basic tips:

Digital marketing

1. Set up ‘Google My Business’. 

  • This helps to determine how it appears on Google Search and Google Maps.
  • From here, add the name of your business, location, opening hours, customer reviews, and photos 

2. Google Insights can provide your business with analysis on how people find you on Google, for example the words they are searching for.

  • Use this to help develop your Google paid search ads 
  • Done well, paid search ads can drive new customers to your website

3. Make sure that your homepage clearly sets out what you do.

  • This improves the chances of customers finding you.

4. If you’re a restaurant, provide an online menu and make it clear you offer a takeaway service

  • In this current climate, it’s worthwhile going the extra step to articulate clearly your social distancing policy for delivery and pickup service.
  • This will help give confidence to your customers

5. Setup Instagram or Facebook to engage your audience in your local community, and update it regularly with new content

6. Claim your business on Yelp and on Foursquare, ensuring that all of your information is fully accurate and up to date