A Guide to Moving Your Business Online

If you’ve been wondering whether now is the right time to move your business online, then you’re already aware of the benefits the move can bring your business. Some of them include reaching a greater audience, automating components of customer service and reducing hard costs of a production or storage space for your business.

The good news is that it is never too early or too late to move your business online–and that with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

 

Why move your business online?

 

Moving your business online or expanding its online offering is mutually beneficial to you and your customers. Not only does it help you scale your reach with potential clients, but it also signals growth to your existing customer base. Different platforms offer their advantages to help your business transition.

 

Option 1: Using a POS-enabled website

Pros: Higher degree of customization of customer experience and product offering

Cons: Higher time investment in getting set up, potential learning curve

 

To move your business online, you can create your own POS-enabled website. This helps you control the look and feel of your product while giving you more freedom when it comes to the types of products and services you can list.

 

Once you’ve decided what products and services you want to make available to your customers online, it’s time to set up a website that showcases your products. To accomplish this, choose a website builder that stands above the rest and will help you easily create an online storefront with payment integration. Some of the qualities to look for in a website builder are:

  • Simple to use
  • Includes POS integration
  • Offers accessible and mobile-friendly layouts
  • Makes it easy to optimize SEO

While most website builders carry month-to-month running costs to host your website, the price is as low as $5/month depending on your business’ needs.

 

Most website builders also offer templates that don’t require any coding, while full customization is available to those that want to create a website from scratching. Some of the most popular e-commerce website builders are Shopify and Square amongst others.

 

Option 2: Using third-party apps to move your business online

 

Pros: Low cost of initial investment, low commitment to the platform, short setup time

Cons: Lower amount of control over customer experience, associated fees, and dependability of third-party service

 

To start, you can move your business online with the help of third-party local delivery apps. If your business sells a physical product that travels well and is portable enough to be delivered by a single individual, signing your business up for this service also means you don’t have to worry about organizing a delivery fleet since that’s taken care of.

 

You can get started using apps like UberEats, Doordash, Fantuan, which focus more heavily on prepared food and beverage delivery. Toronto has been beta testing the feature since Fall 2019, with more cities joining the ranks in 2020.

 

When shipping your products to your customers, the packaging is a key piece of the puzzle that ensures an enjoyable customer experience and discourages negative reviews of your products online. If a shopping product is new to your business or if you’re looking for tips on how to scale your shipping logistics, here are top 5 shipping tips for small businesses.

 

Telling customers about the transition

 

Whether you choose to transition your business to a website, utilize the help of a local delivery app, or both, it’s important to let your existing customers know you are still open and doing business online so they can connect with your products. You can use your businesses’ social media accounts, mailing lists, and the entrance of your physical store to tell customers where to find you online and how to order.

 

Questions to ask yourself before getting started

 

An online business can adapt to change much more quickly than an exclusively physical one. That’s because an online business gives you access to live analytics about how, where, and when customers are interacting with your brand, and where you may be losing them.

 

However, having access to statistics such as these can also be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to take stock of where your business currently is, along with its strengths and weaknesses, before the transition to online. Here are some questions you may consider asking yourself as the entrepreneur and owner of your business:

 

  1. What parts of your brand experience are key and should be recreated as part of the online shopping experience on the website and as part of the POS checkout process?
  2. Do you need to pivot or revise your business model to maximize the opportunities expanding your business online provides?
  3. What risks and opportunities does your current cash flow management system provide?
  4. Is your risk mitigation approach accommodate your business’ transition to online?
  5. How will you inform your physical customer base about the transition, and is it worth incentivizing their first online purchase with you as they build new shopping habits with your business?

 

Starting by asking yourself these five questions can help you gain a line of sight on the operational and customer-facing components of your business before you begin the transition to online.

 

Inject fresh ideas in your business

 

In this time of transition, you have an opportunity to revise your business model and product offering. This is by far the most underlooked element of a transition to online: the opportunity it presents to apply some fresh business ideas for creating exciting revenue streams that build on the brand you have spent time cultivating.

 

Consider expanding your online business offerings. If there are any products or services, your business can evolve to help serve customer needs in a new way, consider showcasing them in your online storefront. Are there any products that can be evolved to take advantage of the lack of a physical storefront, or respond to online shopping behaviours?

 

Get creative with product and service offerings. This year has brought an unprecedented number of establishments integrating delivery services into their product distribution and supply chains. What revenue opportunities could the online transition bring your business?

 

Consider evolving parts of your business operations you may have overlooked before

 

While it’s natural to focus on getting your website or third-party app platform set up, you can also breathe life into your business during this transition when it comes to the logistical components of your business with fresh ideas.

 

Distribution. The distribution of a product with an online POS may call for the expansion of your delivery fleet to get the product to your customers. You may want to evaluate and re-train your employees before transitioning online to prevent a surplus of orders that cannot be filled within your business’ standard timeframe, or to your customers’ standards.

 

Operations. With your business taking on a new shape, consider how the new changes affect your overall business model. Would your production, storage, and supply chain needs to grow, shrink, or stay the same with the transition to online?

 

One last thing: don’t expect perfection

 

If you’re feeling hesitant because you fear the online extension of your business won’t be a carbon copy of its physical version, you’re not alone. In the transition – or extension – of your business online, it’s important not to over-fixate on replicating aspects of the product experience. Customers have come to expect a degree of consistency around branding, but are accustomed to scaled up or scaled-down versions of a brand they love appearing in their online versions.

 

The best part of having an online business is that you have tools at your disposal to allow you to adapt quickly to new business ideas and customer feedback. By asking yourself important questions about the product, logistics, and new business ideas, before you begin, you are more prepared in this exciting time for your business.

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Anya Lomako

Anya Lomako is a digital strategist based in Toronto. She is passionate about start-ups, issues around food insecurity, and her three-legged dog Pistachio.

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