Moving Business Online To Outlast The Coronavirus
The coronavirus caught us all by surprise.
I’m concerned for the vast numbers of employees who were recently told to not come back to work any time soon…
I’m also concerned for the hundreds of thousands of small business owners, service providers and people who rely on foot traffic and face to face business to keep their companies rolling.
Now is the time to get creative, and figure out ways to keep serving customers (in some capacity), even when you can’t serve them in your normal capacity.
Today, let’s take a look at some ideas…
To shift part of your business online so you can keep a revenue stream going.
1. Set Up an Online Store for Your Business
Amazon announced that it was hiring 100,000 new workers for warehouse and delivery services to meet the surge in demand as people turn to online shopping while isolated at home.
The demand for goods and services is not limited to large suppliers like Amazon.com and Walmart.com.
There is a spirit of local support moving across the country, and your customers want you to stay in business.
Now would be a great time to add an ecommerce option as a way for your customers to buy your products online.
You can offer pickup options.
You can ship these products to your customers through traditional channels like FedEx, UPS or the US Post Office.
Or better yet (if your customers are local), offer delivery options using your current employees, so they can continue earning a paycheck.
Fast, Simple DIY Ecommerce Setup
If you’re going to create an online store for your business, and you need to do it in a hurry…
Here’s what I would recommend.
Do not rebuild your entire website at this time. You can use a sub-domain for your online store, like this – store.mycompany.com.
And don’t aim for perfection with your ecommerce site at least in the beginning.
Here’s how you can quickly and easily get into the ecommerce game:
Create a website on a low-cost and simple platform like:
- Square – with Square, you can set up an online store and pay for it with just the credit processing fees charged by Square. There is a small cost to use your own domain, but if you need a great starter solution, their free plan would do.
- SquareSpace – (not the same company as Square) – offers clean templates, modern looking, a little more basic feature set for a low cost
- Wix – Wix offers ecommerce plans, along with appointment setting features, and other features to get a simple online store going.
Ecommerce Setup With a Little Help From a Web Developer
If you want a little help building your ecommerce website, hire a web developer to help with the setup.
An ecommerce web developer can help with the basic setup, while you focus on entering your products.
Or they can handle the project for you.
Because some companies do this week in and week out, this could help you get online faster than doing it completely yourself.
At Visigility, we work with platforms like:
- WooCommerce – a full-featured ecommerce platform that runs on WordPress and powers approximately 27% of the top 1 million sites using ecommerce. We love WooCommerce because of its nearly unlimited flexibility to do things like subscriptions, product customizers, etc.
- BigCommerce – an industry-leading ecommerce platform that integrates with hundreds of apps
- Shopify – another industry-leading ecommerce platform that integrates with hundreds of apps
2. Shift Your Product or Service Offerings
I recently saw a local family-owned restaurant that is now offering to sell groceries that you can pick up with your to-go orders. They were offering everything from fresh vegetables to tortillas to lemonade.
Here are a few other ideas for how you can adjust your offers:
- Look for local sources of products or supplies needed in your supply chain as some supply chains are severely disrupted
- Get creative with re-packaging or re-working your product offerings to be more convenient for people staying at home
- If you are a service-based business, think about opportunities to shift some of your services online
- A personal trainer could create home fitness videos for her clients
- A brewery could offer curbside delivery
- Restaurants could engage the services of companies like DoorDash or GrubHub
- If you offer products in your store, shift to a product shipping / ecommerce model to deliver products
- Create a virtual conference to replace in-person meetings and conferences
Think about ways you can re-imagine your products or services at this time. It may need to be a drastic change to keep the business afloat.
3. Set up Subscription Billing for Service Based Clients
Square offers the ability to sell products or services with recurring billing.
In this case, you would list products in an online store that automatically charge your customer each month.
You could have your customers browse and select from these offer, or you could manually create orders on behalf of call-in customers.
You could also look at using an online accounting service that offers recurring billing:
- QuickBooks Online – industry leading accounting software
- Xero – a little simpler accounting software that’s lower cost than QuickBooks
Subscription billing could be used to set up simple payment plans for your clients, or for ongoing products or services.
4. Sell Gift Cards & Gift Certificates
Offer gift cards or gift certificates at a discounted rate.
This will help your customers save money, and it will help you generate needed revenue during the coronavirus shutdown.
Many ecommerce software providers offer gift card or gift certificate solutions.
Again, Square can help you offer electronic gift cards immediately for just the cost of credit card processing fees. Check out their program here ›
Or check with your current merchant account provider to see what they offer.
5. Sell Your Products on Walmart.com or Amazon.com
These companies already have the infrastructure and marketing power to get your products in front of a massive audience of online shoppers.
Setup time may take a bit longer, but there could be a huge upside to getting your products listed within these marketplaces.
Walmart and Amazon offer you the ability to pack and ship your own orders, or you send your products to them and have them fulfill the orders for you.
Learn more about Walmart and Amazon marketplaces:
6. Offer Monthly Subscription Boxes
Set up your own version of Dollar Shave Club or Ipsy.
Companies all over the world are making money by packaging unique product bundles into boxes that they send out every month.
If you’re able to sell products, you can do this too!
Look at your product offerings in a new way, and put together some bundle options.
Here are a couple resources to help you set up your own monthly subscription box offering:
- Cratejoy – they offer two options. You can list your monthly box offer on their website to ge in front of a robust audience and/or you can create your own website using their software. They handle all billing, ecommerce, etc.
- WooCommerce – WooCommerce offers the ability to build out a subscription box offering into any WordPress website
7. Process Online Credit Card Payments
There are several good companies that offer quick and easy credit card payment integration with your website for ecommerce transactions.
The payment gateways allow your website to securely process online credit card payments.
They also offer you a virtual terminal, through which you can manually process payments from people ordering by phone.
Here are a couple of our favorites:
8. Offer Affordable Payment Plans or Leasing
Now, more than ever, your customers need to watch their cash flow.
If you have the ability to create and manage inhouse payment plans for your customers, it could help generate some sales.
In addition to that, there are several financing companies that work with specific industries to offer managed financing or leasing options.
Here are a few financing and leasing companies:
- GreenSky – financing for home improvement contractors, healthcare, retail, ecommerce
- Hearth – helps a variety of contractors offer financing options to their customers
- LendKey – helps contractors offer home improvement loan options for general home improvement
- Crest Capital – helps companies offer leasing options to businesses that need capital equipment or software
- Lease Corporation – offers leasing options to a wide variety of industries
9. Ramp Up Email Marketing & Social Media
It’s important, now more than ever to communicate with your customers.
Stay in touch with customers through social media.
Show them what steps your business is taking to keep your employees safe and healthy.
Show photos of or discuss the sanitization procedures you are using to keep your products safe for use or consumption.
Initiate email campaigns to communicate with your customers.
Email marketing options include:
10. Use This Time to Build a Better Website
If you are in a good cash position and want to devote some of this time to a project you’ve been wanting to do…
Now would also be a great time to work on a more long-term website or online solution.
Building a great website can take a lot of work.
Especially for ecommerce – it’s easy to underestimate the time required to take and edit good product photos, to write product descriptions that are useful and geared toward conversion and to organize the website into a format that makes it easy to shop.
Now, would be an excellent time to work on a project like this.
Let us Know if You Need Help
If you need help with transitioning part of your business online, let us help.
We’ve got options to get you the help you need at a cost you can afford.