For many businesses and consumers, the “new normal” now involves non-physical transactions. Businesses are expected to offer their products and services online. This is reflected by the share increase of e-commerce in global retail, rising from 14% in 2019 to 17% in 2020. Furthermore, online sales skyrocketed by almost 50% in early 2020. In the time of COVID-19, the businesses and consumers that were able to quickly adapt to a digital model helped alleviate the economic decline due to the pandemic.
However, brick-and-mortar businesses and startups might have trouble making the switch to the virtual space. It’s an unknown territory with a lot of factors to consider. But part of the beauty of digital is its flexibility and affordability. The possibilities and options are endless.
To help you get started, here are a few tips for how you can offer your services remotely.
How to Take Your Business Virtual
1. Confirm (in Detail) What Your Consumers Need
Just like everything in business, you need a strategy. It’s impractical to dabble in all sorts of methods and hope something sticks. Think about the services you currently offer, and consider the following:
- How can your business continue to render a high-quality service seamlessly without face-to-face interaction?
- How can your customers avail of these services without being too inconvenienced?
Evaluate if your target market’s behavior has changed during the pandemic. One survey states the shopping habits of American consumers have changed by 34%, a percentage higher than any other country surveyed.
If you have an existing base of loyal patrons, talk to them directly about their needs and preferences. Do they want to speak with you over the phone? Do they like your website? Do they wish you were on certain platforms? Do they prefer call to text (or video calling) on a specific platform? Run a poll on social media, send an email with a survey link, or simply call them for a quick chat. You can make many informed decisions based on studies and stats, but getting feedback directly from your consumers will help take the guessing out of the equation.
2. Be Present and Available Where Your Customers Are
Almost everyone is online these days. But the world wide web is incredibly vast, and even if you had the budget to do so, it’s impractical to be everywhere and do everything all at once. With your customers’ behaviors and preferences as your North Star, consider these online touchpoints:
For just about everyone, from casual users to professionals and businesses, this is square one. Facebook is one of the largest social media sites, with approximately 2.89 billion monthly active users in Q2 2021. Furthermore, in Q1 2021, 3.51 billion users used one of the company’s core products, including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. You don’t have to be on every platform, but choose the ones that align with your brand identity and consumers’ behavior.
Social media also offers much flexibility in terms of content formats to post. Most platforms support text, photo, and video, although be mindful that best practices and media engagement rates may vary between sites. Many platforms also offer free live-streaming features, such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. These can enable you to connect with your consumers and engage in real-time as if conducting a workshop or event.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, social media is a quick and affordable way of broadcasting to customers that you are still open to serve them, albeit in a new form.
While social media helps you with reach, you are bound by the functionality of the platform. Having a website of your own gives you the flexibility to host a variety of features on one site. You can expect this to be a hub and point of contact between your business and prospective clients. Some examples of must-have features are:
- List of products and services, including in-depth descriptions, inclusions, and prices.
- Links to social media pages, e-commerce pages, and other relevant pages.
- Enabling clients to create accounts, save pertinent information, and access their transaction history.
- A hub for relevant content such as informative blogs, news, and press releases.
- FAQs, customer support, and contact information.
- Payment processing.
3. Optimize Your Business Processes for Digital
Once your customers know how to find you and know that you’re still open for business amid the pandemic, you must ensure that your customers’ experience is seamless and convenient. Factor in these elements when reevaluating your business processes:
Payment Processing Options
The pandemic drove the growth of digital banking and the adoption of alternative contactless payment methods like mobile wallets. Consumers have come to expect that businesses will let them choose the way to pay. Ensure that you are prepared to accommodate your clients’ diverse payment preferences, whether they want to pay via credit card, debit card, or a specific type of mobile wallet.
If your business offers both products and services, leveraging a POS system equipped with the right features to suit your needs will go a long way in streamlining your business processes. Aside from accommodating various payment processing options, a good POS system should also be equipped to accept gift cards and run loyalty programs. Pick a point of sale system that can be integrated with sales, CRM, or accounting platforms to consolidate the reporting and analysis of your business data. If your business runs on a physical-digital combo model, a POS system can simultaneously track transactions from both counterparts and keep your back-office updated in real-time.
Working on a website might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth investing time, effort, and thought in. Design it carefully to ensure that essential information is easy to find, sections are easy to navigate, and all pages are well-organized and understandable. Optimize your website for viewing on various devices and sizes. It might look good on a laptop, but if it’s not optimized to be mobile-friendly, potential customers using their phones might have difficulty navigating your website and decide not to continue.
One section you must iron out is your checkout process. The average rate for cart abandonment is 69.8%, with the following reasons cited as common causes: steep fee for shipping or taxes, mandated account creation or lack of the option to “check out as a guest,” complicated checkout process, and overall lack of trust in the brand’s handling of sensitive credit card information.
The digital age has acclimated consumers to “instant” everything — easily searchable answers, fast-loading web pages, and help right when they need it. Many consumers turn to FAQ pages for quick solutions to basic questions. But for more complex concerns, offer virtual customer support options such as a hotline, text line, or email address. For phone lines that are manned by personnel, be clear about your service hours. But if budget permits, consider assigning staff to answer queries outside traditional service hours or use a chatbot to accommodate basic questions 24/7.
4. Adapt to New Technologies
If your business is transitioning from a purely physical model, you can expect that it will take time and trial and error to find the right mix of platforms and virtual systems that work best for your team. You may need to retrain your staff on how to properly use these platforms. It’s not just a matter of navigating the different software and websites, but also building and reaffirming human relationships without physical contact.
Keep an eye out for the latest trends, features, and functions that you can leverage to provide better services in a virtual or non-physical medium. For example, many social media platforms offer free live-streaming features, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Live-streaming can enable your company to conduct workshops and events to establish your credibility. It also allows you to engage with your customers in real-time, which helps build a genuine connection because they can associate a real face and voice to the brand.
True POS is here to help ease your business’s transition to the virtual space. For all your point of sale system needs, contact us for a free quote today!