How to Move Your Small Business Online: Tips, Resources and Inspiration
A few decades ago, when the internet first became a marketplace to sell products it was a new opportunity for wealth creation. Now, moving businesses online has become more of a necessity as consumers are forced to make most of their purchases online. While it remains to be seen how the world will evolve after the coronavirus outbreak, it is clear that small businesses that don’t have an online presence have to evolve new strategies to remain viable and grow.
Know Your Customer:
While deciding about whether or not to move a business online, the entrepreneur has to keep the fundamentals in mind. Ultimately, the essence of all businesses is to serve the customers and it is important to understand the behavior of the customers before making a decision.
Almost anything can be sold online, and the digital marketplace is not just restricted to consumer goods. From vegetables to private jets, companies are selling a wide array of goods online. But just because it is possible to sell online doesn’t mean that every small business has to.
An entrepreneur has to watch her customers for clues about business opportunities. What are they buying? Where are they buying? These are some of the questions a business should ask.
Traditional department store owners and business owners in shopping malls are already beginning to notice changes in consumer behavior. According to a report by Mckinsey & Company, millennial customers have shifted their shopping online, and one of the reasons for this is the increased choices.
First Step in Moving Small Business Online:
If a small business owner wants to sell online, she will need a website. There are plenty of freelance developers who can get a website up and running, but with a little effort an entrepreneur can start a basic website on her own. There are plenty of free resources available online like Canva for designing logos and business cards, Pexels for free stock photos, and Wix for multiple things like animations and website builder.
The alternative is to sell on existing platforms like Amazon. According to USA Today, small business owners made record sales on Amazon in 2019. More than 25,000 small and medium businesses sold over $500,000 worth of goods through the ecommerce giant and more than 15,000 generated over $1 million in revenues. According to Vice President of Small Business at Amazon Nicholas Denissen, over 50% of goods sold on their website are from small and medium businesses.
Online Business Success is Possible:
Taking a small business online may seem like a difficult task that is filled with risks and no guarantees of making a return on investment. There are many fears that can make an entrepreneur hesitant to take the leap. Fear of changing the way the business is run, fear of using new technologies, and fear of failure are some of the mental blocks that can hold back a small business owner. However, there many companies that have been in a similar situation and they have managed to overcome these challenges and grow.
According to a case study published in the Information Resources Management Journal, a 100-year-old traditional retailer was able to successfully make the transition from a bricks and mortar company to a thriving online business. Getz Company was a small retailer that used to sell rugged outdoor clothes to locals in Michigan. The company was able to increase its reach and sell to more customers by moving its business online.
Research suggests that moving a business online comes with advantages like reduced costs, expanded target markets, and increased revenues.
Resources to Move Business Online:
Moving a business online requires a new kind of infrastructure and workforce. Most of this work can be outsourced to freelancers or other small businesses that specialize in this kind of work. For entrepreneurs who are keen on doing the work themselves, there are resources available to help them in their digital journey.
While there are many DIY web developers available for product-based companies, the service industry requires different set of tools. A video calling application like Zoom should help professionals in the service industry to consult with their clients digitally without having to physically travel to the client’s location.
Licensing is another aspect to consider. While an LLC registration is enough for companies to conduct business online, there may be some state-specific licenses that an entrepreneur will have to get before starting her ecommerce journey.
If female entrepreneurs are looking for advice and mentorship, WomELLE offers help in areas like marketing and finance, and it also offers networking opportunities with other like-minded women who want to support each other and grow. The company also has resources like information for women to start and grow their business, and members of this community get discounts and access to great deals.