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Going online for the first time? Here’s what all small businesses must do

A survey by Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) in June revealed that 50% of micro, small, and medium companies (MSMEs) in India were struggling to pay salaries and rent during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The situation may have improved since then, but the struggle continues. India’s small businesses need to adapt if they want to continue – or else, they are going to perish. 

The shift is the same for everyone: going online. 

The reason that India’s e-commerce sector picked up after the lockdowns was due to the change in customers’ shopping behaviour. Unwilling to leave the security of their homes, they looked for online options. 

Small businesses in other sectors are learning from this example, and finding a new life online. With more than 50% of businesses emerging from India’s Tier II and III cities, it makes sense for them to get a digital presence to take advantage of the massive, unaddressed opportunities made available by the internet and smartphone revolution. 

What should you keep in mind if you are a small business going online and looking to grow? Here are some tips that will help you gain more clients and expand on a small budget:

Choose the right platform

Choosing the wrong platform to create your online presence can be a huge mistake that can cost you – in terms of money and business potential. Opting for an end-to-end solution that has been created especially for all kinds of retail businesses is the best way ahead. The idea is to get a partner who takes you online and helps you use the internet to attract more customers, grow your business, and beat the competition.

Opt for a simple, functional website

Most small businesses going online for the very first time don’t need a custom-designed, super-expensive website. Choose a simple, functional website that offers all the processes you need to set up and grow your business online. This simplifies the process and lets you focus on what’s important to you: the business. 

Help customers to contact you easily

The idea of an online presence is to attract potential customers and convert them into paying ones. This makes it important to use your website as a bridge between you and the customer. A contact form on the website along with all correct and available contact details – address, phone numbers, email, and social media profiles – makes it easy for customers to connect with you. 

Create a database of potential customers

Every click doesn’t result in business, but having a database of interested people ensures that you can reach out with interesting and new offers and updates. Building an email list helps you communicate with website visitors at a frequency that suits you – daily, weekly, or once in 15 days or month. Collecting phone numbers can also help create a database that can be used for message-based marketing. 

Improve your website’s speed

The average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 7 seconds from 2000 to 2016. This means that if you don’t grab a prospective customer’s attention at the outset, you risk losing it – and him or her. The fact that a one-second delay in page load time can lead to a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction means that you need to improve your website’s performance. 

Make data-based decisions

Growing your business becomes easier if you use data to plan future strategy. You can use analytics to see how many visitors visit your site, where they come from, what they do on the website, and how long they stay. It is important to track these data points regularly and change your strategies accordingly to tap every opportunity. 

Convert website visitors into customers

Did you know that 98% of your visitors leave your website without doing anything? And that more than 70% of people who visit your website will never find it again? Think of every visitor who drops off your website as a potential customer you are losing. What can you do? Convert casual website visitors into loyal customers by creating targeted messages for them to finish their purchases. You can also create a newsletter that they can sign up for before they leave the website. Staying connected is the first step to optimising the conversion rate. 

Use social media to increase traffic

Social media channels can be the easiest way to increase traffic to your website. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels have highly engaged users – even in Tier II, III, IV, and beyond. Regular sharing of content will keep your social media profiles active, grow your following, and increase your client share organically. It’s important to focus on social networks that are important to your industry – for instance, Instagram may be more useful if you run a restaurant while a Facebook group could help draw more parents if you run a coaching class. 

Win more customers with social proof

Social proof is a simple idea: people tend to follow other people. The concept is that since so many other people behave in a certain way, it must be the right behaviour. So if a restaurant is crowded, it must be popular; if a product is sold out, it must be great; and so on. You can use this concept by using your website to share social proof of your popularity – via testimonials, reviews, statistics, and other numbers. 

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