I started watching “Get Organized with The Home Edit” on Netflix and purchased several boxes of velvet hangers before I finished the first episode. I ordered them online, and they arrived on my doorstep the next day. Once I hung up my clothes, the obvious next step was to purchase some clear plastic bins for my scarves and shoes. Once again, I turned to the internet.
Retailers with strong e-commerce platforms, like Target, have seen a major surge in digital purchases this year. Enough to replace their in-store sales and then some. Target’s digital sales are up 275% since April 2020. And it’s on pace for its best quarter in 20 years.
The coronavirus is largely responsible for this shift to digital sales. But studies suggest that e-commerce will remain popular long after the virus has passed. Consumers have adapted to the convenience of online shopping, and many will continue to do so even after coronavirus restrictions have lifted.
More than half of consumers (52%) who shifted to digital grocery shopping say they won’t be going back into stores anytime soon. 60% who shifted to digital shopping for things other than grocery items say the same, according to a customer survey by PYMNTS.
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All this to say that business owners who don’t have an e-commerce system in place stand to lose big in the coming years. If you’re new to e-commerce or just want to make sure you have your bases covered, we have some tips.
1. Find an online sales system
Nearly 30% of current small business owners are selling more products and services online this year. Another 22% say they developed new products and services to better fit an e-commerce platform, according to a 2020 QuickBooks survey. Almost all of them say the coronavirus influenced that change.
If you’re not already online, follow these five easy steps to set your business up for online sales. The first step is identifying the best online marketplace for your business. If you sell handmade goods, vintage items, or arts and crafts, selling on Etsy might be the best place to start.
Of course, launching an online store is only half the battle. You need to ship online orders to your customers. Without a strategy, shipping orders might be easier said than done. Consider your shipping options, and send your products quickly and securely. Choose the best carrier, find the right packaging, and lower your shipping costs.
Embracing e-commerce gets a bit more complicated if you run a service-based business. It can be challenging, but offering in-person services online is possible. If virtual services aren’t an option, consider selling gift cards for your business. If you run a restaurant or grocery store, signing up with a food delivery service is a smart way to offer digital sales options.
2. Accept in digital payments
More small business owners (17% more) have invested in online payment systems this year, according to the same QuickBooks survey. Consumers are adapting to contactless payments, so small businesses should adjust their payment methods to match. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to start accepting digital payments and mobile payments for in-store and curbside transactions.
3. Delve into digital marketing
Despite the current pandemic, the majority of new business owners (58%) see more opportunities for their businesses now than they did before. 63% say their top priority is finding customers, according to the QuickBooks survey. They plan to advertise on Facebook, Google, and Instagram before investing in more traditional marketing tactics like emails and Google business listings.
Social media marketing has become an essential sales avenue in 2020. Focused digital marketing allows small business owners to reach people where they’re spending their time: online. Additionally, you might launch online ads or boost your online advertising with new promotions or campaigns.
4. Invest in remote teams
More than 1 in 4 current business owners say more of their employees are working from home this year, according to the QuickBooks survey. And they intend to hire more remote workers in the future. 23% of new business owners—people who plan to start a business within the next 12 months—intend to hire a 100% remote workforce. The majority (75%) say at least some portion of their future employees will work remotely.
But hiring and managing remote teams can be complicated. How can you be sure your remote workers are actually working?
According to a 2019 TSheets survey, they might be working harder than traditional employees. 59% of employers rated their remote workers’ performance “above average,” compared to their co-workers. And 99% said they trust their remote workers to work independently, at least to some degree.
That said, it’s a good idea to use employee time tracking software to hold employees accountable for their time. The line between work and home blurs easily for remote workers. Tracking work hours can prevent remote employees from working too much or too little.
However, remote work comes with its own set of challenges, even for business owners. You and your workers need access to collaborative tools, office supplies, and a high-speed internet connection. If your team is new to remote work, they may need help adapting to help them stay happy and productive. Finally, it can be difficult to maintain personal connections while working from home. So you may need to adapt how you lead, motivate, and inspire your team.
Small business owners everywhere are embracing e-commerce, investing in digital payment systems, hiring remote workers, and setting up social media. The majority of these business owners say the coronavirus influences these decisions. Only 1 in 10 says they made these changes without considering the coronavirus. In any case, small businesses hoping to thrive in 2020 and beyond would be wise to turn and face the changes.
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