Social distancing forced many businesses to rethink how they deliver their goods and services. Many restaurants pivoted toward online ordering, no contact delivery, and curbside pickup. Retailers also borrowed the same strategies used by restaurants by offering curbside pickup, and online ordering. By utilizing and creating new ways to safely serve customers, many businesses were able to maintain business revenue and, in some cases, acquire new customers through the pandemic. The common thread among these changes is ecommerce. Ecommerce is defined by conducting transactions electronically on the internet. For new businesses that have sprung up during the pandemic, utilizing these methods is crucial to operating in a world that has adapted to a new way of life. What are some ways businesses can utilize ecommerce to serve customers that have adopted ecommerce to their daily lives? In this article, we will explore digital strategies for providing ecommerce options to potential customers.
Ordering online has been around for over two decades. However, until recently, it was mainly used by big businesses, to extend their services across large distances, therefore reaching more customers. Now that many of the technologies that were once only accessible to bigger businesses are now available to small businesses, they can reach a wider audience also, not just locally. Many social media platforms are now integrating online shopping into their platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and soon Instagram. This is an option for small businesses to include in their sales strategy. Web hosting sites have also integrated new ecommerce options for small businesses to offer to their customers, especially businesses that conduct business in-person such as salons, tattoo parlors, and spas. Customers now have the option for booking and paying for these services online that can ensure social distancing protocols are being followed for areas still heavily affected by the pandemic and for customers that prefer to follow social distancing.
Utilizing various payment channels to increase transaction conversions is more relevant than ever. Gone are the days when all transactions were made with cash and a handshake (both are rare now). Using various online transaction platforms allows customers to pay for your products or services in the most convenient way possible. For many small businesses, that can mean the difference between closing a sale or losing one. Some of the most common online transaction platforms being used today (in the U.S.) are PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. Be sure to read the policies for each before signing up.
Customer service is a key element of ecommerce. In fact, it is more relevant today due to social distancing measures than before the pandemic. Customers still want to receive the same level of customer service, but without the hassle of reaching someone by phone or in person. Utilizing all available communication channels and creating a customer service standard operating procedure is crucial. Small businesses now have access to multiple digital tools such as social media, website, text, and email. The key is responsiveness as well as education. Include up-to-date FAQ (frequently asked questions) across all platforms to make sure commonly asked questions can be easily answered. Consider creating a short video about your product or services and posting it to your YouTube channel which can be included as a link on emails, webpages, social posts, and even texts. Make sure that all inquiries are answered in a timely manner, including follow-up contact with potential leads.
“Business Tips” was written by Alejandro Castanon, Business Development Specialist of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center.