Creative Ways to Shift How You Do Business
First and foremost, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, so utilize the tools and best practices that are already built for businesses running online and engaging with customers via social media.
As we work through the steps to support our friends and clients with small- and medium-sized businesses that are facing the challenges of closing their doors to foot traffic, we have developed some guidance for others who are switching to a digital business format. It’s important to remember that the path to shift your walk-in business to an online business is something that can be achieved with the proper planning and tools. The shift may be easier than you expect and won’t require a large budget for web development, PR or marketing support.
Break down your business into its most basic and important parts.
- What is your core purpose?
- How do you serve your customers?
- What is the most basic supply chain you need?
Keep in mind that you need to make your business easy to contact online, or via SMS. Have a dedicated contact that can respond within a few hours, or even within minutes - we’re no longer in the time where a 24-hour response cycle is acceptable. Opening avenues of communication via Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct messages and through widgets or chat bots on your website can ease customer anxiety about accessing your business or getting support when they need it.
Identify your strengths and how you can pivot them to an online presence & evaluate the parts of your business that require a physical presence to determine how best to staff and support customers in-house, safely.
Key Steps & Tools
Leverage your local connections: Develop a Local Digital Marketing Strategy with a focus on social media - utilize the key reliable tools that can connect you with people, regardless of what is going on outside of your front door.
4 Key Steps for Transitioning:
- Have a plan - Map out how your business would need to flow. Is this a short-term plan or a long-term plan? How quickly does this change need to happen and be implemented? If your business is primarily local foot traffic, consider utilizing social media and targeting customers with Google ads (yes, this requires some marketing budget). Find the social platform that speaks to your customers, and build an account using your brand assets (if you haven’t already developed a presence). Use clever marketing tactics like storytelling to get your name out, let people know you’re open and that they can still access your business.
- Have a platform ready to launch - Keep in mind your technical skills and your resources. There are some very simple platforms that can help you shift to online retail. Shopify is a very easy-to-implement cart that is scalable with helpful support in a user-friendly format. Keep in mind that mobile-friendly websites should be the top priority as a majority of consumers rely on their mobile devices more so than desktop or laptop computers. There are also many third-party vendors that can help you fulfill your orders; for example, restaurant and food services can rely on apps like GrubHub, Uber Eats, or DoorDash. Alternatively, you can simply direct people to your Facebook page for order details and contact information.
- Get your logistics in order - If you have orders to fulfill, make sure you have the most effective supply chain and logistics in place that can both support your business and provide your customers with an exceptional experience. If you need to ship products to your customers, develop a relationship with a shipping service to work out the best prices for your products. Finally, follow-up with your customers by opening a feedback loop to receive updates on the experience you’re providing. Utilize a satisfaction score or an open webform for post-fulfillment to gather in-the-moment updates about how you’re doing.
- The human element - Finally, the most important step is to ensure you have enough employees available to implement all of the efforts you put forward into transitioning your business. You may have to take on the tasks yourself until you can employ or train others to complete tasks and keep the business running smoothly. The right people on your team can make all the difference between successfully becoming an online enterprise or struggling to keep up with the changing demands of your customers.
Always remember as you're making the shift to online, keep your brand in perspective. Do what’s true and natural with its story, listen to your brand advocates and pay attention to what your customers are saying on social.