There’s a lot to gain from moving your business online. With a strong web presence, you have access to a much larger audience, advanced marketing tools and platforms like social media that can help you build strong relationships with your consumer base.
However, there’s also a lot of room for error when moving your business online. Fortunately, you can avoid most of the common pitfalls with the right planning.
Here are 10 tips for moving your business online.
1. Start With Your Website
If you don’t have one already, you’ll need a website. It will be the central component of your brand’s online presence — almost everyone who encounters your company online will hit your site at one point or another. While other elements of your web presence — like social media accounts — are important, having a strong, well-designed website is key in moving your offline business to the web.
If you don’t have much experience with web design and development, it’s a good idea to outsource this step. Hiring a web designer and developer is one option. You can also use a website builder — like Squarespace or Wix — to quickly design your site without needing to learn any code.
2. Build a Social Media Strategy
You’ll also want to start building your social media presence as you develop your website. Start slowly — focus on just one or two of the major platforms that’s most relevant to your audience. Right now, the big three are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and each has its own distinct user base. Instagram’s users are much younger than Facebook users, for example. Twitter’s user base also skews younger, but not as much as Instagram — and it’s also not as widely used as either of the other platforms.
In addition to being the most popular, these sites also have some of the best social media analytics platforms available.
Even if you feel like you can tackle more than just one platform, it’s a good idea to start small — especially if you haven’t run a social media page for a brand before. An abandoned or sparsely updated feed can give the impression you’re out of business or don’t care about communicating with customers. If the choice is between doing one social media platform well or a few poorly, then focusing on just one will be the better option.
3. Plan for Maintenance
Have a plan for when your website goes down or if different elements break. You should also expect any high-tech features — like automated chatbots — to need tweaking even after your website has gone live.
You may be able to handle website maintenance yourself, and some web builders will provide a support line that connects you with technicians in case of downtime or glitches. It may be worth it, however, to hire staff specifically for this task.
Contracting out your website’s maintenance can provide you with a few different benefits — like enhanced coding or some extra web development expertise.
Hiring maintenance staff is also a good idea if you don’t have a lot of experience with web design or technical know-how. Your team can ensure your online migration is as smooth as possible and also clue you in to good data migration practices, like keeping a regularly maintained backup.
4. Find an E-commerce Platform
If you plan on moving your storefront online, you will also need an e-commerce solution so you can sell your products over the web.
Ideally, you’ll have some kind of storefront up and running at the same time as your website and social media presence.
If you don’t have much experience with web development, you should look for a solution that already exists, rather than try to build your own or have one developed. E-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce can help you quickly develop and implement an online storefront.
Gather Product Information
Once you’ve selected your e-commerce platform of choice, start gathering the information you need to build a successful online storefront. For all the services and products you offer, gather information like names, descriptions, photos and prices, and start building your online catalog.
Having this data on hand before your store goes live will ensure a smooth setup.
6. Have a Plan for Returns and Refunds
Going online can make your returns and refunds a little more complicated. Your new customers won’t be able to just show up at your store and ask for them. You’ll need to plan for how people can return items to you and be refunded or receive a replacement item.
Many e-commerce platforms and tools will come with features that make this part easy. If you decide to develop your own shopping platform, however, you’ll need to also consider how you’ll manage this.
7. Learn the Basics of Online Marketing
Familiarize yourself with your options for ad campaigns and social media marketing, as well as common online marketing terms — like conversion rate, SEO or A/B testing.
If you haven’t used an online marketing platform before, you should do some research and experiment with basic features. Consider testing a simple ad campaign once you’ve launched your web presence.
8. Learn About Web Analytics
Before your website goes live, you should also begin learning how to use a web analytics platform, like Google Analytics. These tools can help you track important information about your site — like how long visitors stick around, your bounce rate and how long your page is taking to load. All this information will be valuable in fine-tuning your web presence.
9. Work With Existing Tools
Unless you have a lot of technical experience, you should generally avoid creating tools yourself. If you need something — like an e-commerce platform or digital chat window for your customer support team — someone out there has probably designed it already.
10. Regularly Test and Audit Your Web Presence
Once you’ve gone live, keep track of your analytics. Watch out for red flags — like high bounce rates or long loading times — that may suggest something is wrong with the design or tech behind your website.
You may also want to develop a regular maintenance schedule to ensure that all the tech that’s keeping your website running is up-to-date and secure.
Moving Your Business to the Web
Moving your business online can provide you with access to a larger audience and a great range of digital tools. However, it can also be tricky to manage. If you want to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, you should work with existing tools and learn the basics of online marketing.
Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.