In a month’s time, bricks & mortar businesses will be affected by a rise in property tax rates. Retailers, restaurants, salons and suppliers will see tax bills rise by 177% on average, with establishments in London and the South-East taking the biggest hit. Trading online can lead to a considerable reduction in cost for your business; saving you money on staff pay, energy bills and of course, property tax. With big retailers such as John Lewis cutting jobs to keep up with consumer demands to shop online, our eyes have been opened to the importance of opening a new revenue stream. It’s time to get online…
1. Have an online marketing plan
There are no two ways about it; businesses will miss out on a potential pool of customers if they do not enter the online trading game. We are not just talking about customers who prefer to shop online, but those who appreciate being nurtured until they visit your premises for a second, third or fourth time. Your online marketing plan will differ from your bricks & mortar; especially in the way you attract and acquire customers. That said; don’t forget why your customers come to you in the first place. Whether you are all about family values or locally sourced ingredients, ensure your brand is represented well. Consider who your competitors are online; the shop next door is no longer your biggest challenge!
2. Create & develop your website
Decide whether you want to create your website using a free template such as WordPress or Wix, or if you would feel more comfortable outsourcing a professional to do it for you. Freelancers are cheaper than recruiting a full-time employee, as you will only need to pay for the design or development work when you need it. If you are a niche retailer, then jump in with an existing e-commerce site like Etsy or Shopify, where templates are easy to personalise.
3. Complete fundamental checks
You don’t need to be a seasoned web developer to create a functioning website, but you do need the persistence to check, check and check again. Broken links, squashed product photographs, and typos can devalue your products and services, so ensure you get a few pairs of eyes on your site before launch. Make sure your shopping cart is easy to use, your product descriptions clear and that your site is easy to navigate around. If you feel entirely comfortable with this process, then move onto optimising your product specific pages for search or adapting your site to work on mobile and tablet.
4. Ensure you have a secure payment process
Customers want to feel at ease when completely transactions online, so embed yours with a secure payment function. Draw up an exchange, returns, and refunds policy, and place it on your website in clear view.
5. Explore ways to drive online sales
Research ways in which you can drive customers to your website; including PPC `Pay per Click` advertising or a simple email campaign to accompany your launch. Familiarise yourself with tracking tools such as Google Analytics, whereby you can trace your customers’ behaviour in order to make educated decisions.
6. Give customers an online account
When you have the basics mastered, look into giving your customers an online account for your shop. Enable them to have a customer profile, and offer a rewards scheme to those who purchase from you often.
7. Launch a blog
Consider launching a blog to compliment your business; this will show your customers that you know your industry. In addition, blog posts can drive extra traffic to your website, especially if you post links to them via relevant social media platforms. One blog post a week is sufficient for a small business, such as a florist or chocolatier. If you are not familiar with social media, then put your efforts into a single platform such as Facebook or Instagram. Internet trading is a journey, not a destination- so give yourself time to adjust.
8. Evaluate your online team
Designate a member of your team to regulate product prices and stock availability; new product photographs should also be uploaded upon adding new lines. Ensure someone is always on hand to answer online queries or messages sent via your social media channels and online forms. Loading all your products onto `product specific pages` will require a lot of graft at first, but the workload will wind down once you settle with a process.
9. Build your online customer base
Notify your customers that you are going online by advertising in-store. Leave brochures around your till area and display tables; include discount codes for customers to use when they buy from your website for the first time. Really think about your customer base; some will remain offline, some will be acquired online and others will float between both. In addition, develop an email distribution list early on by asking for a customer email address as they pay for items. This will allow you to nurture them until you reach out at a later date.
10. Protect your business with an Internet Traders Policy
If you run an internet-based business and buy and sell goods or services over the internet, you will need to look at your business requirements for a tailored internet trader’s insurance policy; as a home worker you cannot assume your existing home insurance policy will protect your activity. The Insurance Octopus Internet Traders Policy includes public & product liability, goods in transit, stock damage and more. To get a quote, call us: 0161 968 2041