Everyone right now seems to agree that small businesses need to do business online. But what does this mean? And how can you successfully move your business online?
Newshub spoke to digital -commerce industry experts Stuart Dillon-Roberts from Digital Journey and Te Whare Hukahuka co-founder Travis O’Keefe about how Kiwi businesses can successfully do business online.
They have been part of a group of ten industry experts helping business.govt.nz create new resources to make it easier for Kiwi businesses to successfully adopt digital commerce practices.
Newshub has broken down this guidance into four key tips. If you want to learn more, start with this free tool on business.govt.nz that tailors guidance to the needs of your business.
1. Plan first
Planning is the key to doing business online successfully. Before you start, think through your strategy. Which products or services will you take online? Who will your customers be? How will customers find your website? What sort of experience will you give them? How will you protect their information?
Stuart advises businesses to take the time to plan. “Don’t expect it to be too quick and easy. You need to present your business well. When you walk into a shop you expect it to look smart. The same is true for your online presence. You need processes that work well so for customers they’re easy to use, well presented and engaging.”
He says the main barriers to digital-commerce are its perceived complexity and price. “In the past IT systems could be very challenging. Now it’s very easy to create a digital commerce platform. And there are many free tools and services, like those on business.govt.nz website - that are so easy to use.”
So where do you start? Doing business online means different things to different businesses. For some it’s the place to sell products and services. For others, it’s to showcase what’s offered at a physical shop. Either way, you’ll need to be wherever your customers are online. This could mean having your own website, your own space in online marketplaces, or both.
Travis says there is a myth with digital commerce that if you set up a website, you'll start making sales overnight. “This is where most businesses feel let-down. Doing it properly doesn't happen overnight. What you need is a ‘digital-commerce system' that wraps around your website - which includes marketing to bring your web traffic (potential customers), improves your conversion (to convert traffic into customers) and has an auto-responder (to keep customers engaged afterwards and offer more products to them later). And you need team members who can operate the system. With this 'system' in place, your digital commerce efforts will be rewarded,” he says.
3. Get to know your customers
How do you know what your customers actually want? You need to get to know them. It’s important to take your business to the next level by strengthening relationships with customers. In order to get your business off the ground and take it to the next level, it’s important to understand your customers and what motivates them. Consider what else you can offer that they might value. Review where your business sits compared to others in the market and learn how to carve out your own space.
4. Practical considerations
You have many ways to advertise to potential customers. Choose an option for your business, and any existing and potential customers. Whether you take a do-it-yourself approach or pay for expert help, it’s important to plan well and measure your performance.
Delivering orders promptly creates customer satisfaction and encourages repeat business. Consider how to package, how to deliver, and who pays delivery costs. Make sure you have a clear plan for managing returns and exchanges, plus dealing with complaints or other feedback.
Both experts talk about being able to pivot, or adapt, in uncertain times like these.
Stuart thinks lockdown has been transformative. “It’s given businesses valuable time to think about their online presence. Also time to think about marketing themselves and doing things that perhaps weren’t happening before.”
“Now is a great time to pivot - think about what is worth pursuing. We’ve seen physical shops go completely online. They’ve been forced to show their hands, and this can absolutely be a positive thing to do,” he says.
“People are now thinking about setting up online booking systems so they can take bookings ahead of time. Or they’re thinking more about marketing their brand, and we’re seeing lots more digital-commerce, digital marketing, email newsletters, social media - a range of different things.”
As New Zealand businesses shift out of lockdown and into level 1 Stuart has noticed a significant shift in behaviour. “It used to be ‘we need help setting something up’. Now it’s more about checking or validating their chosen approach.
Travis agrees if you're finding your business has been impacted there are four things you should do, in this order:
“(1) Look at how you can retain existing customers and get them to re-buy; (2) Look at how you can open up a new channel or get new customers; (3) Innovate in sales and marketing including ecommerce; and (4) Innovate your product/service to pivot into an adjacent market,” he says.
The good news is you can take active steps now. Enter your current business situation into this online tool and you’ll receive advice directly applicable for your business.
This article was created for business.govt.nz