How to Take Your Business Digital During Lockdown
March 31st 2020 | By Steve Grant
Just recently we looked at how to put SEO and digital marketing to best use in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 situation. This is definitely a time for planning rather than panicking. It’s not a time for knee jerk reactions, instead where we can, we need to be re-thinking campaigns rather than pausing them, maintaining a presence and supporting rather than promoting.
The lockdown advice issued on 24th March sadly forced so many ‘non-essential’ businesses relying on physical visitors to temporarily close, something that is going to hit smaller operations a lot harder than the big brand chains. In the past week however, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see so many of these smaller businesses fighting back, using a splash of imagination and creativity and some fantastic digital technology to take their offerings digital.
In this post I’m going to look at some of my favourite examples of how physical businesses have gone digital, as well as providing some practical advice on how you might be able to do the same.
First things first: get your website in order – and use it to your full advantage
If you’ve relied on your physical location for sales in the past, your website may have simply served as a shop window, showcasing your offering and enticing people to visit you in person. But now you’re closed, you’re going to need to redirect your visitors to either order online or by telephone.
If you’re already set up for e-commerce and online sales, and you have sufficient stock or continued access to it, all good, but now it’s more important than ever to drive those online sales volumes, so you’ll need to make sure the website is equipped to serve you well.
- Are your product descriptions compelling and descriptive enough to close a sale? Here’s some helpful advice on writing great ecommerce product descriptions.
- Can people find precisely what they are looking for? Check your user journey is a smooth one and take a look at your Analytics to check visitors aren’t dropping off without making a purchase.
- Are you providing ample information about returns and shipping charges? Abandoned baskets may be a clue here, if you are losing customers right at the final hurdle, it could be they were surprised by delivery times and rates.
- Are you making use of upselling and cross-selling opportunities? You know the type of thing… “People who liked this also loved this…” It’s worth presenting related products to customers who are ready to buy.
- Are your product images well-optimised? This is important not just for site loading speed (slow websites are not good for business) but also for your search rankings. Image SEO is massively important, especially for ecommerce.
- Are you ready for an increase in orders and enquiries? Chatbots could really help guide your shoppers through the buying process and help them find precisely what they need. They are also valuable in terms of freeing up human customer service personnel by answering common questions and referring more complex enquiries. Live chat can also be a huge help with customer support, offering real time assistance to shoppers who may have technical queries or want to check details ahead of making a purchase. Live chat is actually known to increase order value as well as build customer relationships.
Not selling online? Consider it if what you offer can be packaged and posted and if it can, this could be the ideal time to think about upgrading to an ecommerce website. If it can’t, it’s time to get creative like the businesses I’ve listed further on.
If you’re a local business maybe selling cakes or produce or handmade gifts, or even a local pub, think about whether you can carry on with local deliveries. Of course they’ll need to be contactless payment in advance and doorstep drops to stay in line with Government guidelines, but that should be fairly straightforward.
What you will need to do though is make sure you communicate to the local public what you’re doing. This can be done through your digital campaigns, which is my next stop, but you can also use your website to help with this.
- Add a welcome banner to your home page explaining what you’re offering. Here’s an example:
Our shop may be closed but we’re still here for our valued local customers!
Call or email us and let us know what you need.
Pay by card and we’ll arrange your safe distance doorstep delivery as soon as we can!
- Be sure to list exactly what you are offering, preferably with photos, so it’s clear what people can buy and how much it’s going to cost, including delivery.
- Consider investing in a virtual mini video tour of your shop. It’s a great way to connect with customers and help them feel they’re really shopping!
- Provide as much useful information as possible to reduce the number of calls: you’re going to be busy!
- Set up an easy online payment facility to save taking payments over the phone. PayPal, Stripe and Google Pay are just some examples and there are more here.
An important note about website hosting
Whether you are direct selling online or taking enquiries for local deliveries, you’re going to need to make sure your website will support you through these times of increased visitors. What you don’t want is poor hosting that will let you down as soon as your web traffic increases. It’s important to consider the true cost of cheap website hosting and how it could be a false economy.
Go digital with your marketing – and redirect traffic to your online home
It’s time to make the switch to digital marketing formats. If you traditionally advertise offline, perhaps in newspapers or magazines, on buses or trains, billboards or via sports sponsorships, these methods are going to be pretty much redundant for the foreseeable future.
If you’re already using digital strategies to market your business but usually direct customers to your physical location, now is the time to put them on a redirect. Another checklist for you:
- Update your Google My Business listing – put up a post saying that whilst you may be closed to visitors in person, you are most definitely open for online sales or local delivery enquiries by phone or email.
- Put out regular posts across all your social media platforms saying the same thing, and boost them for greater reach if you have the budget. On Facebook you can pin posts to the top of your feed so they are always seen straight away by visitors to your page. Change your cover banners too for instant impact.
- If you are running paid advertising campaigns, amend them so they push leads to your website rather than your physical location.
Great examples of going digital
There are lots of brilliant examples being shared across the internet and featured on TV showing how a range of businesses have adapted to the coronavirus lockdown situation by taking their offering online. Here are some of my favourites.
Virtual children’s parties – and adults’ ones too
With 692,000 children in the UK set to miss out on planned birthday celebrations during lockdown, and 83 per cent of birthday celebrations cancelled as far as July due to the uncertainty, a huge gap has revealed itself in the market for virtual parties. Check out Bella Parties which is now offering games, singing, dancing and more, all broadcast directly into the homes of the birthday boy or girl and all their friends. If children’s parties are your business, it could be time to take them online.
In fact, if you work in any sector of the entertainment industry, going virtual could be the only way to keep your bookings alive during this time. As recently reported on Wired, Zoom birthday parties, house party hangouts and virtual pubs have been proving that social distancing doesn’t have to mean total isolation.
Parties are bound to be going ahead using the power of technology. Milestone anniversaries, special birthdays, welcome to the world celebrations: who would want to miss those? So, if you are a performer, perhaps a magician or a singer or musician, why not get yourself set up for remote performances and start promoting yourself as a virtual party performer?
Online music lessons
Imagine how many people have been enjoying learning to play a musical instrument, or how many parents don’t want their kids to miss out on their music lessons while school’s out. If you’re a music teacher, you could take a leaf out of Fishers Music Academy’s book and start offering virtual music lessons. As Fishers says, music is all we need right now!
Here’s a great resource for you if you’re looking for tips on how to teach music lessons via Skype.
Remote fitness and sports classes
A children’s martial arts class in Worcestershire has moved its sessions online to help keep kids active amidst the coronavirus situation. As head instructor Ben England says, kids need to stay active whilst off school and they need structure throughout their days too. This is just one of a number of online initiatives launched by fitness businesses during the crisis.
A yoga studio in Derby is offering remote classes by video call, keeping a service running that is so important to mental health during these times.
Fitness group Frame runs classes across London, employing over 100 staff and 200 freelancers. Before the crisis the business was taking around 70,000 bookings every month. Of course now all the studios are closed, but they’re still keeping members moving with Frame Online, a selection of virtual classes offering the likes of total body workouts, dance cardio, Pilates and bodyweight hits.
Need help going digital?
If any of these ideas have got you excited, but you could use some help getting set up or running your newly digitalised operation, why not talk to Figment? With a dash of expertise, a splash of strategy and a good helping of the right technology, you could be keeping your business alive and kicking throughout this crisis.