How to Setup a Digital Presence for Your Offline Business: Fast-Tracking in the Time of Covid-19

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The global pandemic has turned out to be uncharted territory for all companies, whether they were large global players or local shops and tradesmen. Households have become much more dependent on home delivery, and this transition to digital is likely to stay after the quarantine.

Recently, analysts at Rakuten Intelligence compared the quarantine online order volume from U.S. groceries with the same period a year earlier and saw a skyrocketing boost - by 210.1%. According to EY reports, 65% of consumers today are visiting physical merchants less often, and 33% say they will shop at online retailers more over the next month.

There are quite a lot of things that local businesses cannot control right now, including the government reaction to the virus and consumer panic. Instead of fixating on those things, business owners and managers are now required to rethink their regular operations and fast-track the path towards digital transformation.

During these times, the quick positioning of your business on the web might be difficult, but nonetheless, it is a necessary step to adjust to changing markets. We believe the following steps will be essential for shaping the digital presence and smoothing the transition for many local players.

Make a blueprint

First, you have to identify the limits of digital transformation and how exactly your product will be delivered over the Internet. Not everything can be transformed into an online format; if you have a cake shop, consumers won’t be able to eat your branded pies over the Internet. However, even when you produce something physical, you can always digitize marketing and communication processes.

From the very beginning, you have to re-imagine the existing business model in the digital format. One way to do this is to migrate the current processes and add digital communication channels. This first step consists of simply adding digital channels, such as the website and social media, while all operations remain largely the same. However, if you wish to opt for a more profound digital transformation, you can create more effective processes and change the operational model altogether. For example, you may develop the app for suppliers and digitalize accounting and supply chain management.

For many small businesses, this necessity to go online is like a rush to fight a fire. To come up with a resilient long-term strategy, you have to take a step back from this rush and audit current business processes. To keep things in perspective, try to imagine what your company would be like in the next three years.

Craft digital assets

For many offline companies, such as local tradesmen, farmers, barbers, etc., setting up a website would be the next big step to going online. Business owners often fall under the illusion that digital assets are something standard, simple, and quickly done. At the same time, any significant investments are justified in the case of offline representation (location, showcase, interior design, etc.).

As your company goes online, digital assets such as social accounts and website become the only image-makers that create your foot traffic from now on. Make sure that your content is high-quality and catchy enough to create an engaging customer experience.

In addition to this, you have to constantly review the online behavior of your users and adapt digital assets to each stage of their customer journey. To identify lagging areas, you can map the marketing funnel by estimating the time users spend on each stage and how the conversion rates change along the way. Once analyzed, you can plan the content for each stage.

Communicate with patrons

Next, you have to go through all possible touchpoints with your existing customers and make sure they are informed and redirected appropriately. Update contact information and availability in Google maps, social accounts, and ad campaigns.

You should also prepare clear messages to your existing customers stating whether or not you are still working, how they can reach you, and what your operations look like during the pandemic. Depending on the business niche you are in, you can either place these updates at the store window, on the website, post and promote them in social media or send an email.

Acquire new customers and evolve

With any disaster, a silver lining is included as well. For example, if you were a local manufacturer or tradesman, now you can find new customers online, within wider geographic targeting.

Another opportunity is to try new digital channels, such as display or native ads. Users consume more digital content these days while being quite receptive to clicking on relevant ads. Therefore, there are a lot of opportunities to do flood advertising and win the market.

Also, keep in mind that consumers’ preferences and needs are constantly changing. For example, if you produce swimwear, you may not find the regular demand for it today. What you can do about it is to adjust your offering so that it can fit today’s reality. We suggest that you switch to selling sportswear or other products in demand during these quarantine times.

Conclusion

Worldwide lockdown is forcing many offline businesses onto the Internet. While in the past digital transformation may have taken years, now it could and should be done within days or weeks. Despite having to rush, a successful transformation effort is still achievable. The best approach here would be to establish guiding principles first and make further decisions with what is known already.

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