The doors are locked, the shutters are down, and there’s tumbleweed rolling along our local high streets. Welcome lockdown number 3, and hello 2021 – it’s great to be here! In all seriousness though, as a business owner, who could have seen it coming? Having survived the plunge in sales from the first lockdown in March 2020, surely stormy waters had passed, and we were entering calmer shores. COVID-19 had other ideas.
To weather yet another storm, and any that we have still to face now is the time to adapt. Now is the time to realise that an online presence isn’t just a nicety: it is essential to survive and ultimately to thrive.
Often business owners have been put off at the thought of e-commerce: perhaps thinking that it is expensive to set up and less than cost-effective in the long run. No one is suggesting that, some time ago, those fears were valid, but times have changed. It is now easier than ever to establish an online presence and, with effective digital marketing, attract customers to your online store, driving sales. No longer do you need a bottomless pit of money or a degree in computer wizardry to get you online. Here’s all you need to know about making your small business an online business in 2021.
The DIY approach
It was once the case that having a website built and establishing an online presence, would cost a pretty penny or two. If you wanted to go beyond a simple website and wanted a whole e-commerce solution, then things were going to get even more expensive. It used to be that not many of us had the time, the inclination, or perhaps even the ability to learn the complex coding that it took to produce a website. We were paying developers for what seemed like a magical act, or a complex scientific process that us mere mortals were never going to understand. Then, in 2004, along came Mr Site: a website in a box! You bought the disc, installed the software, and suddenly anyone could create a website in minutes, or so we were told.
It was never quite as simple as we hoped it would be, but the birth of What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) was here, and suddenly there was no need to understand the complex coding just to produce a title for your website! It wasn’t all plain sailing though, and often you couldn’t quite achieve the look you were looking for, but then things changed again.
In 2021, it has never been easier for a small business to get themselves online. From a basic website to a full-blown e-commerce solution, it is now possible for almost anyone to do this for themselves. If you can type on Word or Pages and you have the ability to use a mouse, you can now use services from the likes of IONOS, Wix, and Squarespace to have a website created by just you in record time. Looking for a more cost-effective solution? WordPress, with a little patience, can see you creating your own website and, with free plugins such as Woocommerce, even setting up an e-commerce site.
You can join my FREE Facebook group to help you with your DIY approach – answering questions and offering regular training sessions. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/getmorefansforyourbusiness
Bringing in the experts
DIY options mean that even the smallest of small businesses can now get themselves online, but what if you just don’t have the time? What if, no matter how long you try, you still can’t achieve exactly what your desired outcome is?
Again, once upon a time, your options were limited: your only option would be a web design company that would be sure to charge their perceived worth. For several years now, and never more than in 2021, there are other options that you can explore to create an online business that can be more cost-effective.
Sites such as Fiverr, People Per Hour, and UpWork mean that you can outsource your website development to freelancers who are experts in what they do. Admittedly, prices can vary widely on these sites but as a business owner, it can often be more time and cost-effective to utilise someone else’s expertise. These sites have an array of freelancers that can deliver results on par, if not better, than any web design agencies out there and a price that is truly cost-effective.
The birth of a hybrid
As a business owner of a bricks and mortar store, now isn’t the time to be relying on passing trade. With shops shut and the streets deserted, it is now more important than ever to have an additional sales channel. Moving to an e-commerce solution doesn’t spell the end of your physical presence: in ‘normal’ times it presents the opportunity to reach a wider customer base. In times such as these, it means that even though your shop door is closed, you can still be generating sales.
The act of a small business combining their physical presence with an e-commerce solution will lead to long-term survival. Through the effective use of digital marketing, a small business owner can drive traffic to their online business and ensure that the likes of COVID-19 has no impact on their sales.
Let’s get social
Once you have established your online business alongside your physical presence, the next challenge is to drive customers to your e-commerce offerings. If your new website is going to pay for itself, prove cost-effective, and bring an increase in sales to your small business, then it needs traffic. Social media is the place to get it! A well set out Facebook page, along with targeted ads, can give your sales a real boost.
It’s not just Facebook that you need to master: there’s also LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, amongst others. While it is quite possible to learn how to master these social media platforms, as a small business owner, you already have enough hats to wear and it can often be more cost-effective, and time-effective, to hire an expert who can bring you results.
An online presence has long been seen as a necessity, but with 2021 and all of the challenges being thrown at small business, there has never been a greater need to move to online business as there is now.