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Online business: Master the shift to a digital world

Over the past year and a half, the pandemic has taught business owners a valuable lesson: the power of going digital. Here’s are some important steps to setting up an online business.

Online business

Shifting your business from traditional selling to online or e-commerce is not just a luxury or nice-to-have. It’s an important avenue for you to connect with your audiences, providing many benefits, such as increased customer reach and lower administration costs

It’s extremely important that businesses adapt to the changing ways of the market. If you fail to adapt, you risk losing out on business or face major obstacles in running a successful business. In fact, if you don’t change the way you do business and offer products or services online, there’s a significant chance you may risk losing out on your business entirely and see all your hard work go to waste. 

Although it may seem overwhelming to shift business online, there are a few steps that will help you make the shift to the digital world: 

Step 1: Identify your online business audience needs

Your target buyer should be at the core of your shift to online business. After all, you’re going digital because of them. So it’s a good idea to understand what their needs and wants are, and how they’ve changed over the years. 

What do they expect from you moving forward? How will you adapt your existing products and services when selling online? What about upsells, cross-sells, returns and post-sales support?

Although service-based firms won’t have to worry about storage and shipping, traditional B2B businesses that offer tangible products may have to trim down their inventory to keep costs low. 

Start by interviewing your customers and ask them what you can do to meet their needs. It may be as simple as offering delivery or offering on-site consultations. Once you’ve identified how their expectations have changed, you can tailor your product feature or services and operations to meet customer needs. 

It’s also essential to obtain feedback and collect information about your efforts — especially to find out if you’re meeting customer expectations.  

Step 2: Choose the right online business platform

The way you sell online is going to be very different from how you sell offline. So you must choose a digital platform that compliments your business model and supports your transformation to a digital storefront. 

With the right platform, you can extend your customer reach, drive more traffic to your website, and ultimately increase sales. 

For example, if you sell retail products to other businesses at wholesale prices, it may be a good idea to choose an eCommerce platform such as Shopify, Magneto or WooCommerce.

Alternatively, let’s say you offer freight services to manufacturers. It may be a good idea to choose a platform that enables you to set up customer portals and accept booking requests such as Setmore, HoneyBook and SimplyBook

But we know that searching for and choosing a platform can be a daunting task. Here are some additional options to get you started with the most common and popular platforms that can serve many businesses in the B2B space:

Amazon
BigCommerce
WooCommerce B2B
Shopify Plus
OpenCart
WordPress

 

Step 3: Hiring the right team

Online business team

The biggest hurdle — and cost — associated with shifting your business online is assembling a team responsible for the move. 

There are two ways to go about it: hiring an experienced in-house team or outsourcing the project to a professional firm or contractors.

While you may be tempted to take on the project under your own supervision, going digital requires a lot of specialized skills and resources. This translates into a lot of time and task management.

What roles are needed? It would help if you had a designer and a website developer. Depending on the size of your business, you may also need a project manager, content strategist, writers, editors and even UX designers. It might end up being a lot more budget-friendly and stress-free to hire someone outside of your organization to manage the entire project. 

On the other hand, if your business does not operate on a large scale, you can hire a small team to manage the project in-house and stay on board to offer ongoing support and assistance.  

Step 4: Maintenance and ongoing support

One of the most overlooked aspects of shifting a business online is the maintenance and upkeep of going digital. Your online storefront needs as much TLC, love and care such as your physical storefront. The only difference is, you can’t see it right away!

Consider it this way… Would you leave your brick-and-mortar unattended, especially on a busy day? Or if you had a leak in your office, would you fix it right away so that it’s not an inconvenience to your employees? 

Just like your offline store, it’s important to do the upkeep of your online presence, too. This is especially true for businesses that operate in the retail space and face heavy traffic on their digital front. 

Hiring a team to provide ongoing support will ensure that things run smoothly and help you overcome technical problems. Similar to our point above, you can either hire an outside company to take care of this, or rely on your internal team to maintain this in-house. 

Are you ready to make the shift to an online business?

In this day and age, you can’t afford to fall behind your competitors. The pandemic has given the last push to those in the traditional selling environment to rethink how to pivot their business and take their offline business online. 

You can be a part of this massive change. Take a look at your current business model and think about how going digital can help you get more customers and revenue. Follow our step-by-step guide to get your foundation in place, and when you do go digital, create a marketing plan that supports your shift to the online world.  

 

Up Next: If you’re building your business growth plan, include invoice factoring

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