First Steps to Taking your Business Online

Small businesses across the country were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, as restrictions start to ease up and re-openings begin, business owners can finally focus on rebuilding towards a new “normal”.

In addition to the financial support offered to small businesses by their Federal and Provincial governments, we noticed that many opted to modify their operations to help see them through this difficult time. Being nimble as a business is so important. Being able to quickly pivot your operations may be the make or break difference in unforeseen situations.

What did SMBs change?

We asked Canadian businesses what changes they made in response to COVID-19 restrictions

  • 23% of SMBs are now taking online orders
  • 29% are now taking phone orders
  • 34% are now offering pickup or delivery options
  • 15% are now offering a new product or service

Their response breakdown above highlights a trend towards making products or services available online in some capacity. Take Dispatch Coffee, for example. A specialty coffee provider who fuels our Montreal office’s coffee addiction. Their founder Chrissy Durcak says that they accelerated their plan to take their business online by over a year. The pandemic’s effect on shopping habits towards a more “digital-first” experience couldn’t be overlooked. Thanks to quick thinking and a nimble attitude, their online sales tripled in March and climbed 65% in April.

Shopify is one of Canada’s fastest growing eCommerce platforms. Their founder Tobias Lutke says current trends in the retail industry are 10 years ahead of schedule. Traditional brick and mortar retail is not extinct,  but COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having a multi-channel sales strategy. It can offer some protection, and even a growth opportunities for your business during unforeseen situations, like a pandemic.

Simple ways to take your business online

Get on social media

63% of the businesses we surveyed don’t currently have a website, but 62% of them are currently developing one, or are seriously considering it.

Getting online may seem daunting to many SMBs, especially those that have been around since before online shopping became so popular. Truth is, it doesn’t need to be complicated at all!

Social media is the fastest, easiest and least expensive first step you can take. Figuring out where your customers are spending their time online will help you narrow down which platforms you should be using. This guide from the Digital Marketing Institute is a good place to start. For some inspiration, take a look at what your competitors are posting. Keep an eye on their posts with high engagement (comments, likes, etc.) to understand what resonates with your customers.

Try a website builder

You may want to test launching your own website. There are a number of DIY website builders that are easy to use and don’t require you to know how to code. Here’s a list Optinmonster has created of the 9 best website builders for small business. As we mentioned earlier, selling online is a great way to reach not only your existing customers, but new ones. This guide from codeinwp is good starting point to learn more about how eCommerce platforms work so you can learn more about it.

Start small, keep it simple and you’ll be reaching more potential clients than ever. Stay tuned for more digital resource content in our resource center.