COVID-19: Take Your Business Online ASAP

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has forced traditional business models across the globe to implement innovative tactics to stay afloat and ensure their survival, not only in the current period of mass uncertainty, but in the months to follow. One of the most common “quick fixes” in times of lockdown and reduced interaction is going online – to shop, work and communicate. The now-burgeoning online scene in South Africa allows a majority of businesses to remain almost entirely operational, and significantly reduces the need for a communal workspace, giving staff the opportunity to work remotely. Here are a few ideas on how to step into a digital space no matter your industry, as well as some of the most user-friendly platforms to launch an e-commerce revenue stream in a matter of minutes.

The Restaurant Industry

As more and more people start practicing social distancing and self isolation, the restaurant industry is likely the first to feel the effects of the outbreak. Setting up an online store is a great way to counteract the reduced numbers coming through the door. Consider signing up to Uber Eats, Mr D or other food collection and delivery services. This could also be the perfect opportunity to go the whole hog and launch the online click and collect meal service you’ve been planning. Customers can order menu items, customise them to their desire, and collect from the shop, or have them delivered at an additional fee. If your restaurant also stocks branded products, consider selling those via an e-commerce platform as well.

Professionals & Service Driven

If you run a professional or service-driven business that isn’t suited to the traditional e-commerce product model, don’t despair! There are plenty of other channels available to keep things running in the digital sphere. For example, turn important events and meetings into online webinars, or group Skype/Zoom conferences. Since these platforms only require internet and web cams, they typically pose no additional costs, and they have the added benefit of keeping things fresh and exciting – something we all need in times of hardship!

Health & Wellness Businesses

Similarly to professional services, personal trainers can also take advantage of live broadcast software. How about hosting an online group workout class? Use your existing clients to share the event on their social media accounts for a discounted rate. Those interested can then sign up, pay via an online gateway, and join the class at the scheduled time, or save the live stream as a video to watch later. This is also a great opportunity to partner with brands, such as workout gear and healthy consumables, which can be promoted on a YouTube channel. Remember that influencers don’t need to see their audience face to face!

The Best Online Tools to Get You Started

Shopify

Shopify is a great option if you’re wanting to launch an online store as soon as possible. Your new shop can be a separate entity to your current website or simply linked via adding a button on your website. Not only is the Shopify platform designed specifically for e-commerce on both a small and large scale, but it is fully customisable, and does a lot of the tricky web design work (think CMS, SEO, social integration and more) for you. Shopify supports almost all payment gateways, allows for coupon and discount code creation, and also has a host of add-ons if there’s anything you’re missing from the basic theme. Overall, this e-commerce platform offers unmatched support by guiding you through a step-by-step online shop creation process, and its functionality gives you all the control of a brick and mortar store. Get started here.

WooCommerce WordPress Plugin

A recent estimation showed that around 35% of websites are powered by WordPress… That’s over a third of the web! If your business site is one of them, then launching an e-commerce store is as simple as adding and activating a plugin. WooCommerce is free, integrates seamlessly into an existing WordPress site, and is highly customisable to your e-commerce needs. For example, you can sell tangible products such as clothing and consumables, or digital products such as software, eBooks and more. It also has functions for bookings, subscriptions or service-based offerings. Set up your WordPress site here, or view the WooCommerce plugin. And if you need delivery integrated as well there’s a plugin for that too!

Squarespace

Squarespace is a plug and play solution for when you need a modern fully functional e-commerce setup FAST. It’s templates are user friendly and appealing, which is great if you don’t have the time to launch into an in-depth creation or customisation process. It also accounts for product, services, digital, subscription or in person sales, and has an app which makes it easy to access and run your site on the go. You can also collect customer emails and create mailing lists, allowing you to sell and market from one central platform. View all of Squarespace’s e-commerce templates here.

Wix

Wix is one of the most user-friendly website building tools, requiring almost no previous web design experience. There are hundreds of templates to choose from, including a variety of product galleries, and customisation is as easy as drag and drop. A major plus is that Wix takes 0% commission on sales. You can also sell on multiple channels, manage fulfillment, and target shoppers with Wix’s integrate marketing tools. Get started with Wix here.

Taking your business online can be daunting, but there are a variety of platforms available that make the process simple, streamlined and speedy. No matter your business model, it’s vital that you begin to claim digital territory to survive, not only during this trying time in particular, but in the digital age as a whole. We’re here to provide support and growth opportunities for local SMEs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond!

Sources: Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Wix

Craft in partnership with 4theNOW is able to offer web design & eCommerce packages tailored to the needs of SMEs. 4theNOW is a Cape Town based web design agency specialising in UX/UI, eCommerce and product development.

View Craft’s Web Design and eCommerce packages here.

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