Dealing with COVID-19: Tips to get your shop online

- March 20, 2020 3 MIN READ
shop online

I write this article working from home, like many of you, after my business closed our offices in a bid to promote social distancing to reduce the impact of COVID-19. For me, and many other Australian businesses, the process of ‘going online’ is as simple as taking your laptop home and connecting to a remote server. However, for many businesses around Australia who rely on a physical storefront, the transition to digital working will not be as seamless, writes Mark Randall, Country Manager ANZ, WP Engine.

As an increasing number of organisations are forced to grapple with uncertainty and adapt to a changing marketplace, one thing remains clear: your business can’t slow down.

There are 2,065,523 small businesses in Australia, holding up the economy and accounting for 97 per cent of all Australian businesses by employee size. As these small businesses are forced to close their shop fronts they’ll need to consider quickly moving their offerings and operations online. It’s important to put a solid digital plan in place and ensure that everything you’re doing from a digital perspective is optimized and agile enough to change quickly.

To help kick off the process, I wanted to share a few tips: 

Build a site quickly

We are really lucky to live in a time where technology allows companies to be agile enough to move online, quickly, and effectively. WordPress, for example, is an open-source free content management system that gives businesses the flexibility to build their own site and leverage the power of the open-source community to take away a lot of the hard work of developing a site.

There are prebuilt themes for all types of businesses from boutique clothing stores to real estate agents. On top of prebuilt themes, there are many free plugins and that help build e-commerce, contact forms, and scheduling directly into your site.

For businesses looking to jump online and do so quickly, using WordPress can get things up and running in a matter of days. 

E-commerce is a new opportunity, not a challenge:
When setting up your e-commerce shop, you’ll be faced with many difficult decisions. For example, you’ll need to select which platform to use for selling your products. This choice can make a significant difference in the success of your online store.

One platform you might consider is WooCommerce. It has more than five million active installations, which makes it the most popular eCommerce plugin on WordPress websites. Plus, it’s both easy to use and packed with helpful features.

Keep it simple but think differently

With the economy in dire states, consumers are scared and reluctant to spend money. Even when consumers are spending, social distancing and the cancellation of mass gatherings have changed what’s available to them. As such, it is important for businesses to rethink how they can appeal to their audience. For example, if you’re a local Italian restaurant, you might think about moving all of your operations to an online delivery service. With supermarket shelves scarce, you may also think about selling raw pasta, tomato sauce or premade and frozen chicken schnitzel through your e-commerce store that can be easily stored and cooked later. 

Social, social, social

Don’t forget that with a business that is entirely online, you need to market differently. It is now time to take advantage of your social media channel and promote your updated business operations online. It will be smart to start off with a post that announces what you’ll be offering online and links customers to the new website. If you don’t have a strong social following, now is the time to kick that off and also ensure you’re posting on FaceBook groups that could spread the message. For example, every Australian suburb will have a FaceBook page and often a ‘mums group’ that is constantly discussing issues in the community including COVID-19. Remember when sharing your business online, make sure you’re providing value to the community, and they will return it in kind. 

It is no doubt that the way of doing business is changing and for small businesses to thrive, we need to start thinking about positioning ourselves differently and maybe taking the plunge to embrace an online business strategy.

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