Starting a new online business can be difficult, but transitioning an existing business online can be even more challenging. However, for existing brick-and-mortar businesses, it presents a great opportunity to reach a larger audience and make it easier to adjust to uncertain economic climates. With the right tips and strategies, you can move your existing store online quickly and easily.
In this article, we will discuss some of the tips for moving your business online. We will cover topics such as planning an online strategy, choosing an eCommerce platform, setting up online inventory and payment systems, scaling your online business, and more. By following these steps, you can move your existing store online and open up new opportunities for growth.
1. Evaluate the state of your brick-and-mortar business
Now is the time to sit down and critically evaluate where you stand. Where are the financial risks, competitor threats, pre-existing or new business opportunities. Taking your business online can help you mitigate risks, such as the closure of physical stores during COVID-19, as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
2. Plan your online strategy
What would be the benefits of moving your business online?
Moving your business online or expanding its online offering may be beneficial to your bottom line because:
- Customers are beginning to see traditional business transitions to online sales and delivery models as the new norm
- Customers have more free time to discover your product online, especially with the shift to remote work
- Not having traditional storefronts can give you a chance to re-evaluate the need for physical square footage
What would be the best way to move your business online?
Moving your business online is a big undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
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. Foodora is one of the first apps that has expanded its delivery services by adding a “Shops” category, including independent grocery stores, pharmacies, breweries and even florists.
These apps connect customers with your product and provide you with an opportunity to evolve your existing offerings. For example, some restaurants using local food delivery apps have taken a creative approach to marketing their products to work-from-home customers. They have transformed their food and drink menu items into deliverable “meal kits” so that customers can enjoy recreating the experience in their home.
When shipping your products to your customers, 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 5 of the best shipping tips for small businesses.
Recently, Airbnb also announced the introduction of their Airbnb Online Experiences program, which connects individuals with guided experiences and lessons from the comfort of their home. If you think your business offers experiences that can be offered or transformed for participation remotely, you can apply to become part of the program. When it comes to services, there has also been a notable migration to video-conferencing communication methods for services like therapy and accounting.
3. Move your offline business to a website
While using third-party delivery services is a quick and easy option to get your products seen, creating your own POS-enabled website helps you control the look and feel of your product, and gives you more freedom when it comes to the types of products and services you can list.
Take stock of your product and service portfolio
How much of your product range do you want to make available online? It’s important to consider your current stock levels and distribution models–including the hidden costs of shipping and contactless delivery–to ensure you can meet customer demand. Having a well-thought inventory management system can make your transition to online easier and ensure you can accurately track online inventories.
Choose a website builder for your business
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 good business 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 for small businesses are:
- Intuitive to use
- Built-in e-Commerce and point-of-sale (POS) integration
- Mobile-friendly design formats
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) options
- Design flexibility
- Ability to easily create custom webpages such as a shipping policy
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll also want to purchase a domain name that aligns with your company name.
How much does it cost to host a business website online?
While most website builders carry month-to-month running costs to host your website, the price can be as low as $5/month depending on your business’ needs.
Take care to keep accurate financial records
Ensure that your banking institution and payment processor makes it easy to classify your sales. This can help simplify filing your taxes, such as HST/GST, at the end of the fiscal year in addition to giving you a clear line of sight on your profits.
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 also doing business online. 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.
If you need more guidance on getting your online business up and running, review our steps to starting an online business.
4. Ensure the long-term success of your business with online integration
Adapt your business model to reflect an evolved vision
Moving your business online can be helpful in bringing in additional revenue, but it may also call for a larger assessment of the day-to-day operations of your business.
Expanding for online 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.
Review business operations
With your business taking on a new shape, consider how the new changes affect your overall business model. With economists projecting long-term economic impacts for businesses and consumers, it would be beneficial to revisit your cash flow management or risk mitigation approaches to ensure you are set up for success under these new economic conditions.
Identify alternative revenue streams for your business
- 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.
- Get creative with product and service offerings. Some establishments are integrating delivery services into their product distribution and supply chains. For example, restaurant establishments across Canada are beginning to offer delivery meal kits, while microbreweries are adopting contactless delivery systems that maximize employee and customer safety. Is there a way you leverage the current circumstances to be more creative in your new service or product offering and grow your business in the long run?
With any business changes, there are bound to be setbacks. For example, some businesses may be more suitable than others to shift to an online-only sales model.
If this applies to your business, consider going back and putting on your creative thinking cap. Is there any way to evolve your products and services to maximize an online sales model?
If you’re still struggling with the transition, you may be able to find small business grants in Canada to help finance your digital transformation.
Canadian business owners are benefiting from online transitions
Some businesses are using this time as an opportunity to re-think everything from customer acquisition tactics to product distribution, resulting in evolved business models, new revenue streams, and even a new vision for their business.
No matter what sector your business is in, there are tangible ways to protect your investments in the short and long-term by moving your business online.
This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.