The onset of COVID-19 has taught us all many things, the primary being the ability of the environment and human beings to adapt to change. The lockdown imposed due to the pandemic initially threw the world into a rut– how will we work? How will businesses function?How are businesses going online? How will the world not collapse?!
The answer to all the panic-stricken concerns resided in one single superpower: adaptability.
We began working from home, students began studying online, almost all routine activities shifted onto the digital landscape, and businesses devised strategies to remain afloat during the trying times.
It suffices to say that the world experienced over 20 years of behavior change in just the span of a few months!
The remarkable ability to pivot and adapt helped business owners evolve their strategies and, therefore, survive. The primary lesson learned from the situation is that all businesses require an online presence.
The companies that did not have an online presence and relied solely on the traditional brick-and-mortar system took the biggest hit. In contrast, the businesses with a robust online presence and solid consumer base were the ones that flourished the most.
Furthermore, it is essential to realize that the pandemic has altered the course of our lives to a significant extent, and it will continue in that direction. People are generally more comfortable with the digital landscape.
This comfort is expected to grow continuously in the coming years and result in a dramatic increase in e-commerce stores and online businesses’ popularity.
Therefore, if a company is to survive long-term, it is essential to explore the digital realm and build a robust online presence.
The Biggest Challenge
Okay, so you know that your business needs to shift online as soon as possible. But of course, the task at hand is enormous and seems quite daunting.
All the little challenges you may face while shifting your business online can be encapsulated by one umbrella challenge: the lack of experience.
If you have been running a traditional, physical business for years, you may not have any experience in the online realm, which scares you. However, this challenge subsides to a significant extent through due research and awareness.
If you are aware of the problems and challenges that your business may face while going online, you will be better equipped to handle them or may even avoid their inception altogether.
Let us then rephrase our initial statement: the biggest challenge for businesses going online is not the lack of experience but is, in fact, the lack of awareness of the owners.
Read more: How Small Businesses can Improve Crisis Communication with Customers in 2020
How Do You Tackle this Challenge?
There is a straightforward way to ensure that you attain the expertise required to shift your business online, and that is, to conduct rigorous research.
Your research should be practical and theoretical to be fully aware and prepared, not only to tackle any issues but also to enable your business to flourish in the digital marketplace.
To help you kickstart your journey to the online world, we have gathered a few obstacles that are likely to be faced by businesses that are to be going online in 2021.
Read more: Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for your business?
Maintaining Culture During Work from Home
Now that the lockdown’s initial shock has subsided, people have become more comfortable with the work-from-home situation.
As organizations have tested these new waters, most CEOs report adopting a hybrid model of working from home, which will essentially consist of meeting employees’ needs to work from home while balancing the benefits of the office environment.
It is highly likely that even after the pandemic is over, the work-from-home model will follow us into 2021 and beyond. While there are numerous benefits to working from home, it is quite challenging to maintain a healthy organizational culture when everyone is working remotely.
The processes of training and on-boarding are also more comfortable and more beneficial in the physical office environment. There is an immense communication gap among the employees, which can be quite challenging to deal with.
Therefore, it is essential to be fully aware of the challenges that occur when your employees are working online. Be sure to try out and test various scenarios and design the hybrid (or non-hybrid) model that can work best for your kind of business.
A significant challenge faced by online businesses is the verification of online identities of the visitors who register on an e-commerce website.
The information they entire on your site may not be legitimate, and you will not be able to decipher whether or not they are interested in making a purchase.
For instance, cash-on-delivery orders made through fraudulent phone numbers and addresses can result in significant business losses. It is pertinent to conduct rigorous online identity verification for every prospective customer to avoid such swindling scenarios.
There are numerous ways to avoid such a scam. Firstly, you need to be aware of any form of details that seem suspicious.
This can range from an unusually high number of orders or even zip codes that are incoherent with the state or city specified. It is a wise move to send an automated verification link to every consumer that signs up on the website.
Furthermore, you should also make an automated phone call to all consumers who place cash-on-delivery orders and then ask them to verify the delivery address. Check for any inconsistencies or discrepancies.
An easy and fool-proof practice is to use software solutions to detect any fraudulent behavior through multi-layered authentication. Such software programs consist of features like SSN verification, instant authentication, and identity checks to ensure that your online business is free from scammers and swindlers.
Cyber attacks are the biggest threat to any online business. Essentially, cyberattacks infect your website with viruses, compromising your website’s security and even your registered customers.
Cyber attackers can gain access to confidential customer data, including credit card details—which, of course, is something that an online business cannot recover from.
Luckily, however, there are plenty of steps you can take to avoid the possibility of such issues. For example, you could manage your servers by ensuring that a standalone server hosts your website. It is also essential to install security plugins and other safety components that eliminate the possibility of cyberattacks.
Furthermore, be sure to do continual backups of your entire database and regularly update your e-commerce platform.
Nurture Customer Loyalty
Another issue that businesses face when they shift to the online platform is how to nurture customer loyalty and build a strong consumer base effectively. Customer loyalties are, undoubtedly, quite flimsy. Even with the most seamless website designs and a wide range of products, businesses can lose customer loyalties within minutes.
Customer loyalty is essential because acquiring a new customer is over five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Customer loyalty, therefore, speaks volumes of brand integrity. And it is quite difficult to cultivate that valuable loyalty when there is no in-person interaction between the customer and the representative at the retail store.
Therefore, the development of that trust and loyalty demands much more effort and time in the digital landscape.
Customer journey and your service greatly influence consumer loyalty. So, make sure you cater to your consumer’s needs and provide them with an immaculate customer journey that makes them keep coming back for more.
Keep communication channels open and provide support to your consumers at every step of their journey. Having the option of 24/7 customer service or Live Chat can be immensely comforting to the consumer, whether or not they choose to avail of it.
Furthermore, to gain the trust of your consumers, you have to be transparent. Provide your phone number, email, and address at easy access and effectively communicate your values and policies.
Seamless Omnichannel Experience
When a brand shifts online, it is imperative to have an online presence across all platforms. Otherwise, all it does is communicate chaos and create an air of mistrust with consumers.
In this era of rapid digitization, consumers have various touch-points to indulge in. From their desktops to their phones, the possibilities and options are endless.
Businesses that cannot provide their consumers with a smooth and consistent experience across all the platforms will inevitably be left behind in the e-commerce rat race.
The first step you need to take is to uncover which channels are most important for your business by studying your target audience. Once you know which channels or platforms work for you, the next step is to optimize them.
It is imperative to maximize the channels such as live chats, mobile apps, help centers, or any other means through which consumers can reach out to you for support.
Be sure to provide your consumer with a personalized, one-on-one interactive experience when providing them with the support they need.
Furthermore, you need to remain consistent and keep track of all the interactions that you have with your customers. It would help if you directed conversations contextually, based on your previous interactions with that particular consumer.
You also need to make sure that you communicate the same brand values and policies across all platforms used by your brand.
The year 2021 comes bearing doors to innumerable opportunities for businesses to flourish; however, if the owners can only seize the opportunities if they are aware and prepared to handle the challenges that may arise with them.
Technology is empowering the world at Godspeed, and it is necessary to utilize it for the empowerment of our businesses. Our businesses are now functioning in ways that would have been impossible a few years back due to digitization.
There is no denying that the firms that move faster and further down the digitization path will be less disrupted by inconsistencies in the environment, such as those engendered by the pandemic.
For small, midsize, and even big businesses to survive in the future, it is imperative to have a unique online presence and be equipped for any challenges bestowed upon us in the future.
The past few months have taught us to adapt, survive, and even thrive in the face of unprecedented circumstances. Prepare your business!
In case of any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.