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Stronger and smarter: Why it’s time to move your business online

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Angus Capel

Sep 18, 2020

The posts in this series have been drawn from Xero’s Stronger and smarter: a small business handbook. Designed to help small businesses determine which steps to take next, this practical guide uncovers the 10 trends shaping the future – so you can come back stronger and smarter than ever.

If ever we doubted the power of the internet, the pandemic has confirmed it once and for all. Not only have we seen an increasing number of people looking online in search of accurate information, but they’re also embracing the convenience and comfort of online shopping as never before. 

While this was already a growing trend, having an online presence has become essential for all businesses. 

Matching your customer expectations

Now is the time to ramp up your online presence and give your customers the ultra-helpful information they seek. Things like having products on hand and immediately available, easy online bookings and speedy payment options all help to make for a smooth and enjoyable user experience.

To make this work, you may need to boost your back-of-house technology as well. Replacing manual counting of stock with more automated inventory management, for example, is an essential step to providing real-time product information. 

The benefits to your business also include quicker order processing, less time wasted on back-end administrative tasks, and cheaper fulfilment costs. A win for your customers, but also a win for you.

Making it social

Taking your business into the virtual world can open you up to a wider audience, far beyond the foot traffic in your local neighbourhood, into interstate and international markets. A good social media strategy can also help you target your marketing more accurately.

Customers increasingly see social media as a customer service desk – an easy place for them to send a query by instant message instead of making a phone call. Resolving queries online is usually simpler for them, and often quicker for you too.

As more and more businesses make the switch online, growth in at-home purchasing is set to keep increasing. Rather than fearing your customers’ growing hunger for faster, easier ways to buy online, you can fuel it. Making the move will not only help you to sell in their world, it’s likely to see your business grow in turn.

Consider your customers

  • How will you stand out from your competitors in an online environment?
  • Can you personalise your customers’ online experience by tailoring special offers based on their purchase history?
  • Do you need fewer staff on the shop floor and more online, answering customer queries or reaching out on social media? 

Consider your business

  • Can you modify or remove some of your paper-based systems and use cloud services instead to provide a faster experience for your customers?
  • Can you use digital tools, such as workflow and collaboration apps, to help your staff work together and plan more efficiently?
  • If online traffic increases, will you need as much shop floor space? Can you repurpose some of your real estate?

Tips for moving your bricks-and-mortar store online

Megan Winter, co-founder of  Unstoppable eCommerce shares a few tips to help get you started. Megan is an award-winning ecommerce coach who is passionate about helping purpose-driven product-based businesses create wildly successful online stores. 

Choose the right platform for you

Rather than looking to a third-party site to sell your product, create a brand and business asset that you have full control over. We recommend going with a self-hosted ecommerce website platform like Shopify – it’s user friendly, so even a novice can set up their own site.

Replicate your in-store sales assistant, online

When shopping online, people only have what you give them through their screen. That’s why you need to replicate the in-store experience as best as you can by providing quality images, great product headlines and detailed descriptions. Be sure to answer any frequently asked questions people may have in an easy-to-find FAQ section.

Have a follow-up strategy in place

Although people may not buy from you straight away, not only do you have the opportunity to build a relationship with them, you can also retarget them later when they may be ready to buy. Make sure you have automated email sequences and Facebook retargeting ads set up ready to follow people up. 

Don’t forget about your existing customers

Getting someone to purchase from you again is much cheaper and easier than getting a new customer. Thanks to the customer relationship management system (CRM) within Xero, you can reach out to your entire customer database directly. Connect with your audience by producing engaging, unique and magnetic content.

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