According to McKinsey & Company, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) account for 48% of the American economy.
With COVID-19 restrictions making it tougher for consumers to shop in person, many of these SMBs might be forced to close their doors.
In times like these, SMBs are challenged to think of creative ways to stay in business. One trend in full swing today is to move operations online. According to Forbes, e-commerce orders in the United States and Canada experienced 129% year-over-year growth. The move to online can be daunting and overwhelming.
Here are some tips to transition your business to online:
Build the right e-commerce website
E-commerce has many advantages over traditional in-store retail, mainly that you are not confined to do business only within a specific location. The first step to moving online is by gaining new customers through your website.
Consider these elements when creating your website: a domain name, a secure hosting option, a content management system and a website builder. In addition, to sell online, you also need an e-commerce platform so you can build an online web store.
Finding separate tools to address each of these elements could be overwhelming for businesses and agencies. Luckily, several all-in-one solutions make this task easier by offering professional website templates that are e-commerce-enabled and come with plug-and-play functions.
Manage online presence
According to a survey by the cloud computing firm Uberall, 82% of mobile shoppers conduct “near-me” or local searches for products and services on their smartphones. Visibility on search engines like Google is essential for businesses to ensure customers can find them easily.
SMBs need a strong online presence through local listings management — a process where vital business information, including name, hours, address, contact info and website details are continually updated on online directories. Tools are available to keep this information current, which can improve search engine optimization (SEO) rank. A higher SEO ranking increases the likelihood of customers finding them on search engines.
Monitor online reputation
Because 95% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase, constant monitoring and management of a businesses’ online reputation is essential. Managing reviews for numerous websites can require a great deal of effort. Failing to respond to even a single negative review may lead to permanent harm and the loss of current and potential customers.
Online reputation companies can help businesses overcome these challenges by offering solutions to help manage reviews from multiple websites through one central location. Benefits include the ability to respond to comments from a single dashboard, helping businesses save time and effort. Companies can also see their average review score from all sources, compare that score with the industry average based on their competitors’ score, and take necessary action to improve.
They can also get insights into the keywords that their customers use the most in their reviews while talking about their business. For example, if the keyword “customer service” is associated with negative reviews, it usually means that customer service is lagging.
Finally, businesses can keep track of answers to the questions that customers might ask about your business on Google. Often these answers might be outdated or incorrect, in which case it may lead to your business losing customers.
Social media management
In 2019, 79% of the U.S. population had a social networking profile, making social media an important tool for businesses to build and grow customer relationships.
It is also an important platform for receiving constructive customer feedback on business products and services, as well as addressing their complaints. Customers expect to get responses in under 30 minutes of posting, so it is critical to manage all social media platforms in a timely manner.
Doing so can be challenging for a business that has just transitioned online. Managing multiple social channels can be confusing and overwhelming, leading to lost messages and missed posts.
Again, various firms specialize in helping businesses plug the gaps by using social media solutions to manage all channels from a single dashboard and schedule posts in advance so that you never miss a day. You can also analyze relevant metrics, like reach and engagement, to determine the posts that are working and those that are not.
Gather online customer reviews
Online reviews can have a direct impact on small businesses. A great way to gain customers is to simply ask existing ones to write a review about their experience.
According to cloud computing firm Womply, businesses with more than the average number of reviews across all review sites bring in 54% more in annual revenue.
A retail outlet recently explained how it was able to grow sales by 30% because of a 4.9 star online review rating. This restaurant was able to improve its rating by using a reputation management tool that uses voice calls to gather customer reviews.
Similar solutions to get more customer reviews for businesses include creating personalized messages and connecting with these customers through either email or text messages. Customers can then be directed to third-party review websites and social media channels where they can leave reviews on public-facing platforms.
Master the art of email campaigns
Once they move online, SMBs can grow their businesses through email marketing campaigns by targeting customers who have purchased something from them in the past.
Repeat customers is the best way for business to grow, and email marketing can help build those relationships.
Email marketing solutions that send automated drip campaigns to customers are an effective tool. Plus, businesses can make use of pre-made customizable email templates without having to put in time and effort into creating unique campaigns.
Hervé Larren is the Founder of Accurate Reputation LLC, a leading digital marketing company that helps businesses improve their online presence. YPO members can reach out to Hervé directly at email@example.com.