Founder and CEO, StartupNation
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”
These immortal words ring true for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to succeed today, and that requires focusing on meeting customers where the action is increasingly happening.
During the pandemic, and even as we now move into the new normal beyond it, business is primarily being done online. Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up 44 percent year-over-year, according to Digital Commerce 360. Online spending represented 21.3 percent of retail sales and we now know this trend will be here to stay.
Just over half of all small business owners are now doing business online, and while that’s great for those who are, the concern is that those who aren’t are in danger of being left behind. In fact, as a result of the changed consumer purchasing expectations and behavior, not being online today could be catastrophic.
The following areas are critical to master if you want to succeed at doing business online:
1. Establish an ecommerce website
In order to establish your presence online, you must either have a website with ecommerce capability, or you must be present on a marketplace platform like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
If you plan to sell via your website, it is critical to offer a seamless ecommerce capability that makes it easy for shoppers to readily find what they are seeking and complete their purchases.
Today, details in the purchase journey matter, such as page loading times and access to consumer reviews. Lastly, focus on offering key incentives; deals and promotions are always effective, but perks like free shipping are proving important as well.
2. Establish who you are and what you stand for
In today’s post-pandemic era, people want to do business with brands they can relate to and feel good about supporting. At the same time, loyalty is harder to establish online unless you focus on ways to specifically earn it.
Tell your story as a way to establish who you are while highlighting your brand values. For example, showcase your expertise and credibility through a blog or podcast. Establish a strong social media presence and share your story, promotions, and the brand attributes you’ve established on your social media channels.
Consumers connect with businesses by connecting with the people behind them, and studies show that 70 percent of consumers feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active on social media than those that are not.
Relationships, trust, and confidence matter more now than ever, and moving from the brick-and-mortar world to the online realm makes creating connections with customers inherently more challenging. Those that do this well gain a major advantage.
3. You have to be found
Doing business online starts with consumers finding you. Certainly, fundamentals like search engine optimization and listings in directories are simply requirements. In fact, even your Google listing intended to drive local traffic to your brick-and-mortar location must have a link to your website readily available.
Beyond that, social media marketing is still the best way to drive traffic to your site — both organic and paid. You can effectively target your audience, tailor your message to your audience, and control your marketing spend until you optimize what is proving to work best, including which platforms as well as what messaging. The key to optimization is the effective use of analytics from which you will be able to test your campaigns and tighten your marketing spend on those that perform best.
If you want to be in business today, online must be a primary focus. Take a page out of Gretzky’s book and make sure your business is positioned to be where the action is.