The Online Tools Your Business Needs to Weather a Storm
Digital Infrastructure, Coronavirus, and Preparing for the next Catastrophe
For over a decade, online business infrastructure has been essential with huge numbers of potential customers existing in the digital space. Shopping, rentals, services, virtually every kind of business can be found online. Everyone has a phone, and if your business doesn’t have the bare minimum like a website or google listing odds are new customers will have a hard time finding you. This necessity for an online presence was well established before the COVID-19 crisis, however the pandemic and following lockdown should have crystallized the need for anyone harboring doubts.
Of course, some businesses are more suited to function purely online. Retailers are seeing huge gains, as much as 65% during the first 2 months of the pandemic. These sellers had an established brand and online infrastructure, allowing them to thrive under lockdown conditions. Small businesses haven’t been so lucky, with many predicted to fail in the fallout from the pandemic. The impulse has been to close the doors and lay off staff, trying to weather the storm. There has been a mad dash to discover and apply for the limited government loan programs meant to aid failing small businesses. For many, this is a band aid over a gushing wound. Businesses that are thriving are those that can adapt rapidly to new situations, and bringing your business online or updating existing services is crucial. Pivoting a small business to meet new challenges is difficult, especially when using new technology. Restaurants, one of the hardest hit industries during COVID-19, have scrambled to update their business model to include delivery, curbside pickup, and online ordering. With limited demand for these services in the past, most restaurants have been caught flat footed. Business halted abruptly, and restaurants are playing catch up to survive. Similarly, small retailers don’t always list their inventory online, have digital payment options, or offer shipping. When storefronts close, the ability to reach customers has been limited almost entirely to online platforms.
So what does your business need to thrive online? We’ve compiled a list of the basics:
If nothing else, your business needs a simple functioning website. A platform that elegantly relays the basic information about your business so customers are able to find you online. However, not all websites are created equal. A well designed site loads quickly, displays information clearly, has intuitive navigation, easily adds new information, and interfaces with other crucial services like mailing lists or analytics software. Many of the DIY website builders sacrifice load times for pictures, videos, and products for ease of use. It is often worth the cost to have a professional design your website to ensure these features are covered.
To complement your website, a Google listing is absolutely necessary. It not only helps your ranking in the search engine, but prominently displays your business’s contact information and location. The easier and faster customers can see this information after a search greatly increases your company’s chances of being contacted.
If your business is more than just a service that can be purchased over the phone, it needs the ability to sell products online. Pictures, videos, product descriptions, and updated inventory are basics for functioning online retail. Additionally, shipping and processing payment methods are important back end considerations. There are software solutions to many of these problems such as Shopify, which integrates all aspects of an ecommerce business. Restaurants, on the other hand, have been stuck trying to find solutions that connect the online store, the kitchen, the servers, delivery, and pickup. Learning new technology and drastically reconfiguring business models would be difficult under normal circumstances. Having a relationship with a technology company that can quickly bring your business up to speed is crucial now more than ever.
One often overlooked piece of an online business is data analytics. This allows a business to clearly see where their strengths and weaknesses are. It shows what web pages are performing, how users are interacting with content, and where they need to rework. Analytics provides valuable insight into an online business and is crucial when attempting to increase traffic and conversions. Google Analytics is by far the most accessible and user friendly analytics software. It is sufficient for most businesses and most important, it’s free.
New software tools can be difficult to use and implement, require time consuming upkeep, and have a cost. COVID-19 has perfectly illustrated the world’s unpredictable nature, and that more tools for your business can be the difference between survival and failure. This doesn’t mean your business must always offer these services, which would require new and potentially unsustainable labor costs. However it is important to have the infrastructure ready despite the upfront cost. The ability to pivot during a crisis is certainly worth it.
If you believe your company needs help in any of these areas, we would love to talk to you about how CopiedCode can help!