Moving your business online
Many small businesses may have felt the pressure to move their business online due to the unexpected economic challenges resulting from the pandemic. In some instances, moving online can bring significant benefits and help avoid the risk of closing down the business.
However, there are so many other operational elements that need to be considered and put in place before moving a business online. Such as the cost and time involved in the new digital technology and infrastructure. If you are utilising a social media such as Facebook or Instagram and not a website, it can provide a much low-cost alternative but, if you need to sell online, then this opens up a whole new set of challenges such as needing a website, creating an e-commerce system or selling through a platform like Amazon. Then there is creating imagery, content, and details of your service or products for a website so your offering maintains the quality and detail you offer in person.
What are some of the main costs involved?
- The costs associated with moving online would be the creation of a website, domain, hosting, and an e-commerce system.
- The cost of an online payment portal and the associated transactional fees.
- Packaging and delivery costs of your product.
- If you provide a service, you may need to create online webinars or videos, all of which require equipment, software, skills, and experience, unless you outsource and then that’s a cost in itself.
For many, moving online is worthwhile, but how you transfer your business online will largely depend on the kind of business you have and where you operate. For example, restaurants and cafes located in towns and cities can sign up for delivery companies like Deliveroo and UberEats. At the same time, rural businesses may need to set up their own website and delivery services which could mean additional costs.
If your business is suitable to move online, there are several benefits you are likely to enjoy, such as:
- Reduced overhead costs by removing the need for traditional office/premise-based business.
- Lower staffing costs
- Lower stock and raw materials costs held at your premise for customers to view and try.
- Reduced operational costs, rates, fees, utility bills.
- No geographical restrictions to your customers.
While so many small businesses are working hard to adapt their business and ways of working, with people working from home, conducting business via email, phone, and online video conferencing such as Zoom or Skype. It still has limitations.
What is often forgotten by those advocates for moving a business online is the reality that it is not viable for every business. It is always good to consider the feasibility and whether you can use digital technology to continue to deliver your offerings. But for some sectors, it is just not a realistic or practical option, because the type of product or service fails to translate into a virtual offering.
Sadly, there are many businesses where moving it online is not practical.
- Estate agents
- Children’s Nurseries
We all know that it is essential for a small business to be adaptable and raise its visibility and brand awareness.
This is often why you will hear that a business should be online and/or use social media, and online directories to engage with consumers, but the question is how can you stand out from the crowd and differentiate yourself when you can’t give that personalised service online. In some instances, without being able to provide a tangible item to illustrate the quality of your product or service, how can you prove the value and benefits and quality your business can provide.
Being online presents its own set of challenges.
Online businesses can often be viewed by a customer as impersonal, especially if customer experience and service delivery are one of the key areas where your business excels and stands out. Sadly, this can be challenging to create virtually. Other challenges you may experience are:
- The difficulty to engage and lead the customer through the sales journey, which is so important for a car dealership or estate agent.
- The customer is not able to try before they buy, or feel, smell, or touch the item.
- Not being able to physically stand in front of something, such as a car or in a house. The customer is not able to judge the real size, proportions, finer quality details. In a house viewing where you can only see a video, you can’t see cracks, or peeling paper on the walls, the smell and most importantly sound, how can you know if you can hear traffic from a nearby road.
One of the vital factors for any online business is ensuring that all your customers can access your business. Sadly some demographic groups may not be able to continue to use your services or products because of access limitations; this could be due to the age demographic of your consumers and a lack of knowledge, or familiarity being online, a feeling that online purchasing is not secure or they do not have access to the internet. As reported by The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) Almost 20% of British people are not using or have access to the internet.
So, is it right for your business?
The answer is…. it depends on your business! Are your business offerings able to be translated to an online audience, do you have the available resources and digital support to do it and do you have time and money to set it up? If the answer is yes, then it would certainly be a great way to provide stability in the event of business uncertainty. However, for some, this is just not a realistic option. There are many ways a business can operate and maintain continuity with its customers, however, moving online is not for every person or every business.