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You’ve got an existing business and up to now you’ve only been marketing, selling and operating through traditional channels – but now the world has gone online and you want to transform your business model.
How do you do that exactly?
According to this article by MITSloan Management Review, the 3 core strategies for digital transformation are:
- Sell the same products but through a different channel
- Use the same infrastructure to sell different products
- Same products with different infrastructure
I don’t know the exact ins and outs of your business. It’s a unique entity unto itself. I can, however, show you some of the things I’ve learned over the years that could help you succeed in the transformation from traditional to online.
Let’s dive in.
Quick tips for transforming to an online business
1. Make a list of all the ways your business can sell products or services online
Get your employees together on a virtual call (Zoom, Teams etc) and brainstorm what products you can sell online right now, what services you can offer and how you will fulfill orders.
If ever there was a time to think out of the box, this is it.
- Restaurants can sell meal boxes for delivery
- Chefs can offer online cooking classes
- Personal trainers and pilates instructors can offer online classes
- Schools and universities can offer online classes
- Hairdressers and barbers can offer online style consultations and tips for cutting hair at home
- Retailers must now offer online shopping as a default
- Music artists and performers can offer online concerts
- Whiskey makers, wine farms and craft beer makers can offer online tasting experiences, send customers tasting kits and deliver online (when the ban on alcohol sales is lifted)
2. Discover new distribution partnerships and channels
Courier and delivery services are fast-tracking the move to online and offer partnerships with businesses for order fulfillment.
If permitted to do so under lockdown regulations, you or your employees may be allowed to perform deliveries yourself.
3. Support new payment methods and models suited to your customer
In the age of mobile money, ewallets and bitcoin, there is no excuse to rely on cash. Cash shouldn’t transfer hands due to the risk of the virus spreading, so a simple electronic transaction is much safer.
Snapscan, electronic fund transfers, geo-payments and mobile money are secure, safe options that require no physical handling of currency or entering of PIN codes into grubby swipe machines.
Subscription models are growing in many industries and could start applying to even basic retail goods. Subscription models also guarantee monthly cash flow.
4. Basics you will need to go online
- Website that showcases your goods and services and enables online transactions through secure payment gateways, placing of orders and customer support
- Facebook page that showcases your goods and services and offers messaging with customers
- Instagram account for visuals of your goods or services
- WhatsApp for customer support
Can you get away with running a business without a website? Yes, of course you can. Some people run businesses purely through WhatsApp only. You will find it a lot easier though if you can at least display your products through a professionally designed website.
How to set up a website for your online business
First, define your website objectives:
- Will people be placing orders and paying through the website? If so, you need a shopping cart and payment gateway
- Does your website need photos of your products or services? Where will you get these from? Who will update the photos? How often?
- How will website visitors or customers contact your business?
Once you have answered the above questions, you can start looking at website options.
Option 1: Build a custom website from scratch
You can use a good WordPress developer to create a website in WordPress, or you can opt to use other content management systems like Joomla or Drupal. WordPress is the most popular and user-friendly option.
Option 2: Use an all-in-one solution with a content management system and an ecommerce platform built in (e.g. Shopify)
Shopify lets you set up product pages, contact forms and a shopping cart – and integrates with most payment gateways (including PayFast in South Africa). This is a good solution if you want transactions built directly into the website and you don’t mind handing over a transaction fee to Shopify.