The high street is not what it once was, and many small businesses are struggling to grow their physical businesses and storefronts due to the intense competition of the internet and online companies.

This has made many businesses decide to grow their business online to help support their physical locations, especially since there any many applications and software that can help you to create a business online extremely easily.

If you are looking to grow your business on an online platform, then this guide will instruct you on the best ways to create, market, and promote a digital business. 

Take Out Business Insurance 

Physical businesses should always have business insurance in order to protect their stock and their storefront from loss or damage. They should also have taken out liability insurance so that the public and their business is protected should an injury occur or a claim be made against them. However, online businesses still need insurance in order to protect their stock and assets, although many entrepreneurs forget to take out business insurance when setting a business up online. If you are wondering how to get the right insurance for your company, Hiscox’s advisory team can discuss your options and help you to decide on the right insurance for you and your company, giving you the claims service and instant cover you need to enable your business to be protected at all times.

Write a Business Plan

A business plan should be the backbone of any physical or digital business, regardless of the platform on which it has been set up upon. Business plans should include a vast range of comprehensive information from which you can base the running of your business on, such as the outgoings and expenses of your business such as bills, marketing expenses and taxes, the potential cash flow and any marketing methods which you will use. This business plan can then be used to understand the growth potential of your business and to make and adjust goals and targets for the future. Your business plan should be adjusted over time as the figures of your business change in order to create constant targets for your business and monitor your progress. It’s also advisable to form an LLC (if you haven’t already). Using a business formation service can be a big help with this step.

Create a Professional Website

One of the biggest differences between a digital and physical business is the creation of a website that is integral to the running of an online business. Websites are the meeting point between a business and the customer, where you as the owner can communicate with potential customers, showcase your products, broadcast information such as your physical location, and where customers can buy your products quickly and simply. To create a professional website, you should use a free website builder online to create a smart template which you can then customize, make your website mobile-friendly by fixing loading times and downsizing the graphics, and check that your website is easy to navigate and that its information is clear. This will mean that customers are more likely to stay on your website for a longer period of time rather than clicking instantly away from it.

Utilize SEO 

Once you have set up your website, it is important that you utilize your search engine optimization, or SEO, to ensure that your website appears on the first page of search rankings when a customer searches for companies like yours. Many people do not browse past the first page of results, and so maintaining good SEO is key to allowing more customers to discover your business. You can utilize SEO by establishing the keywords of your business and infiltrating these within your webpage, by posting reviews and testimonials to show that your website is trustworthy, and by creating and consistently posting to a blog which can show your website to be constantly active. These options will improve your chances of coinciding with Google ranking factors, of which there are many, and so rising up the ranking system. You can also promote your physical business through local SEO by mentioning your location on your website, for example. 

Set Up Social Media

In the early part of 2019, Facebook had over 2.45 billion active users, and these users have the potential to become your customers. By setting up a social media profile, you have the opportunity to connect with a wide range of people who may not know about your business or your online store. Then, you should set up a page on as many channels as possible such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. You can use this page to communicate and provide updates to your followers, run promotions and competitions that can be shared widely, and create easily shareable content that follows trends such as GIFs, which can then grant your business more attention. What’s more, social media is a great platform to communicate with your customers by responding to comments and direct messages as this is an easily accessible platform for both parties. 

Find a Reliable E-Commerce Platform

E-commerce platforms allow small online businesses to perform monetary transactions between themselves and customers. Receiving payment is one of the most important aspects of a business as this is what keeps it running, and so it is vital that you can make this process as easy and simple as possible for both parties. E-commerce platforms, if not reliable, can often crash or need maintenance, leaving your clients unable to make purchases and you unable to make money. What’s more, if e-commerce platforms are difficult to navigate, or do not seem trustworthy, this can put clients off buying products from you, and clients can end up leaving their products in their baskets without following through with payment, which is called shopping cart abandonment. You should not only find a reliable e-commerce platform, but you should give customers multiple options through which they can pay for products, such as Paypal and Apple Pay to ensure that there are no obstacles to their payment process on laptops, tablets or mobiles.

Get Your Finances in Order

Keeping track of your finances is important when you are transferring your business online or if you are dividing reinvestment between two different resources: your store and online interface. To get your finances in order, you should download software applications which can help you to keep control of your finances with ease. The best accountancy apps make it simple for you to do this by tracking your expenses, storing your receipts, projecting your income and cash flow, analyzing your costs, and allowing you to create invoices for clients with simple templates. This will enable you to get ready for the end of the tax year as well as know how much profit you are making. You can also keep finances in order by hiring a financial advisor and accountant, separating your personal and business bank accounts, and cutting down on essential expenses such as energy bills. If you need to increase cash flow, you should also think about running promotions or package deals which can help to create an instant flow of money into your business to help you start up online.

Attend Networking Events

If you want to promote your physical storefront and business, you should seek out networking events in your local area for small businesses or those that are specific to your industry. Networking events will help you to make connections in the business world, find new clients, understand the competition, and potentially find investors, business partners or mentors who can help to make your business a success. Many networking groups even have presentation slots where you can promote your business through pitches and public speaking. You may also want to create business cards for events like these as this is the perfect opportunity to spread the word about your business, especially since many networking groups rely on referrals. If you want to advertise your online business, you can still attend networking events, but you might also want to find online networking groups or forums which specialize in online businesses. 

Use E-Mail Marketing 

Although there are now modern alternatives such as social media, you should not forget the advantages of email. Email is inherently professional, and you can contact almost anyone without knowing them personally by email on a business basis throughout the day. Email marketing is also great for communicating with customers as you can create custom and personalized emails that can travel straight to potential client’s inboxes. By getting people to sign up to a newsletter, you are making sure that only people who are interested in your products already are receiving information that they might be interested in. There is also much more chance that they will read emails sent directly to their inbox. To send emails to a wide range of people, you should consider using email organizers such as Mailchimp which can help you to keep track of your mailing lists and send extensive group emails in a secure format.

Don’t Forget Physical Campaigns 

However much you are focusing on the advantages of digital and online campaigns, if you are keeping both a physical and an online store alongside each other, physical marketing campaigns can be just as important as online marketing.  Physical marketing is especially important if you are trying to appeal to the community or people who are less likely to be accessing social media and the internet, such as the elderly. Physical marketing campaigns are simple to organize, and they can consist of a number of different methods such as leafletting on the street and in residential areas, attending community events in your local area to promote your brand, and fixing banners and advertisements in shop windows or near  to roads and walkways. This will help to raise awareness of your business in your local area regardless of algorithms or any of the battles that you might find on social media- people will see your advertisements regardless of what they choose to view online.

Consider Advertising

You should also consider adding your advertisements to other places on the internet to attract a range of viewers that will be interested in similar subjects to that of your website. Advertising services such as Google Adwords are perfect for this as they will place your advertisement on other websites in banners. However, you will only pay for this advertising every time someone clicks on your advertisement, and you get a view on your website, rather than paying in bulk for advertising that does not convert into sales. You should also connect with bloggers and other businesses to run guest posts which can promote your business and open up a different follower base to you, and ask other bloggers to feature your items or provide backlinks to your products in their blog posts.

Use Existing Sales Platforms

If you are thinking about moving your business online but want to do this without the commitment of running your own website and promoting it, you should look at adding your products to existing sales platforms and marketplaces. These include services such as Etsy, which advertises handmade and craft products, and this option is particularly good for creative businesses whose products are unique to them. The only downsides to this would be that there are a lot of competition on platforms such as these. However, these marketplaces make all of your transactions secure, enabling you to know that you will receive payment safely and on time, and that your business will not make a loss from any transaction. 

Bottom Line

Many entrepreneurs may feel daunted by the prospect of moving their physical store online or by creating an online website to complement their high street shop. However, creating an online e-commerce site does not have to be difficult once you are able to establish the basics of the process.

By following the tips in this guide and implementing them into your business, you will be able to flawlessly combine and replace the physical with the digital, through boosting your digital marketing, organizing your finances, and protecting your business against emergencies. 

Here at ZenBusiness, we can start your dream business for free (+ state fee), helping keep your startup costs low and providing a resource you can count on.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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