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Moving your business online through Covid-19

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August 17, 2020

The ever-changing Covid19 crisis in New Zealand means that businesses are having to rethink the way they interact with their customers and fine-tune their services.

For those businesses that are able, finding ways to offer contactless buying and delivery options will be the key to keeping their business running as we move between alert levels. But even if you’re not able to do this, enhancing your online presence and preparing for increased demand will help you keep your brand alive.

The social enterprise Digital Journey helps hundreds of SMEs each year with the way they use the internet in their business. Here's some advice by its founder and GM Stuart Dillon-Roberts on how to best adapt to the new trading environment.

Boosting your online presence

It’s important for all businesses to get on track quickly, so look for options that fit your capabilities and consider utilising third-party services and apps for fast and easy setup.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Firstly, if you haven’t already got one, get a website; get your products and services online where your customers can find you. There are simple web builders like Wix, SiteBuilder and Weebly that can get you setup quickly, or more comprehensive ecommerce solutions like Shopify. There are a huge range of services to suit all needs and skill levels.
  • Utilise Google My Business to tell your customers when you’re open. Setting up a profile is free, and it allows you to connect with customers across Google searches and Google Maps. Keep your operating hours updated and let your customers know how they can contact you.
  • Add a ‘contact us’ form to your website – and make sure it’s easy to find – so that customers can easily send you a message. Very small businesses can even use this method for taking orders, allowing you to track and be in touch with your customers individually.

Note: avoid including your email address in your contact information section as it is easy for spammers to pick up and abuse – using a ‘contact us’ form is a safer option.

  • Add an online booking service so your customers can start scheduling appointments for when you're able to reopen – this is particularly important for those businesses that can’t operate contactless, e.g. hairdressers and opticians etc. Either add this service into your website or link to a third-party app like SimplyBook.Me or Setmore (both free).
  • Check out your options for business-grade fibre – make sure you have a solid foundation from which you can expand and grow your business.

Contactless buying

Whether you sell clothes or curries, this is the time to start thinking about how you can effectively sell your products online.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Setup an online shopping cart. There are easy ways to add eCommerce capabilities to your website without having to develop a whole new online shop:
    • Check with your website software provider to see if they have any ecommerce extensions.
    • If your website is built on a CMS like WordPress of Joomla investigate your plug-in options.
    • Look for third-party shopping carts that are designed to integrate with most websites, popular examples are Shopify and Ecwid.
    • If your website can’t be updated, then create a separate ecommerce site that links directly to it using a platform like BigCommerce or Magento.
  • Set up Facebook eCommerce. If your business has a strong social media presence, then setting up a shop on your Facebook business page can be an easy and cost-effective way to kick-off your online selling experience.
  • Ensure your inventory is up to date! Make sure that the products your customers can view are your latest and greatest – and more importantly, are actually in stock!
  • Implement a Click and Collect service. This enables customers to buy an item and then select a pick-up location. For online stores to offer this, it is important they have an online inventory management tool that will automatically check stock availability at certain locations, and update the system when someone has bought something to prevent another customer buying the same thing. 

Extra options for restaurants and cafes

The key to service provision will be getting your menu online, setting up a customer ordering system, and, if possible, providing home delivery.

  • Get your menu online. Consider registering with websites such as DineIn or MenuLog that act as online restaurant catalogues where users can search for food that’s available in their area. They allow businesses to enter their details and then add their menu and pick-up/delivery options.  
  • Consider a home delivery service. Uber Eats and DineIn are popular services that partner with restaurants to deliver their food to their customers. 

Keep your customers in the loop

Finally, make sure your customers don’t forget you! Utilise your social media channels or send out a blanket email (going back over past sales is a great way to gather email addresses). Keep your customers up to date with what’s happening for you, how they can still access your services, and any new developments you’re working on.

Consider making a short video of you (or your CEO) addressing your customers directly, and then spend a small amount of money advertising this through your most popular social media channels. Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face connection, particularly in these times. There has never been a more important moment to reach out and let your customers know you are still here and open for business.

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