Many small businesses have felt the pressure to move their business online due to the unexpected economic challenges resulting from the pandemic. In some instances, moving online can bring significant benefits and help avoid the risk of having to close your business.
However, there are so many other operational elements that need to be considered and put in place before moving a business online, such as the cost and time involved in the new digital technology and infrastructure. Utilising social media and not a website, provides a low-cost alternative, but, if you need to sell online, then this opens up a whole new set of challenges. You will need a website with an e-commerce system, along with imagery, content and details of your service or products so that you maintain the same quality and detail that you offer in person.
What are some of the main costs involved?
- The costs associated in moving online would be the creation of a website, domain, hosting, and an e-commerce system.
- The cost of an online payment portal and the associated transactional fees.
- Packaging and delivery costs of your product.
- If you provide a service, you may need to create online webinars or videos, all which require equipment, software, skills and experience.
For many, moving online is worthwhile, but how you transfer your business online will largely depend on the kind of business you have and where you operate. For example, restaurants and cafes located in towns and cities can sign up to delivery companies like Deliveroo and UberEats, while rural businesses may need to set up their own website and delivery services which could mean additional costs.
If your business is suitable to move online, there are several benefits you are likely to enjoy, such as:
- Reduced overhead costs by removing the need for traditional office/premise-based business.
- Lower staffing costs
- Lower stock and raw materials held at your premises for customers to view and try.
- Reduced operational costs, rates, fees, utility bills.
- No geographical restrictions to your customers.
Many small businesses are adapting their ways of operating, with people working from home, con-ducting business via email, phone, and online video conferencing such as zoom or skype, but there are still limitations.
What is often forgotten by those advocates for moving a business online is the reality that it is not viable for every business. It is always good to con-sider the feasibility and whether you can use digital technology to continue to deliver your offerings. But for some sectors, it is just not a realistic or practical option, because the type of product or service fails to translate into a virtual offering, for example, hairdressers and chiropractors.
One of the vital factors for any online business is ensuring that all your customers can access your business.
Sadly, some demographic groups may not be able to continue to use your services or products because of access limitations; this could be due to the age demographic of your consumers and a lack of knowledge, or familiarity of being online, feeling that online purchasing is not secure or not having access to the internet. The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) reports that almost 20% of British people are not using or do not have access to the internet.
So, is it right for your business?
The answer is…. it depends on your business!
Are your business offerings able to be translated to an online audience, do you have the available resources and digital support to do it and do you have time and money to set it up. If the answer is yes, then it would certainly be a great way to provide stability in the event of business uncertainty.
Heidi May, Business Advisor, Oasis Business Support, www.oasis-support.co.uk