Small business owner setting up her online store for holiday sales
Running a business

How to Move Your Small Business Online

These days, most people turn to the internet to discover businesses, research products, and shop from stores online. If your company does not already have a presence online, with an existing website or social media pages, you could be missing out on a significant revenue stream, reaching hundreds of thousands of potential customers.

If you haven't already, now more than ever is the perfect time to migrate your brick-and-mortar store to an online business. Here’s how you can move your small business online.

These topics will help you understand more about digitizing your small business: 

1. Do Your Research

To move your offline business online, you will need to consider a few things before jumping headlong into this new project. The first step in migrating your company online is researching the various website platforms, social media channels, and industry competitors that you will use or meet online.

Spend a few hours referencing your business’ industry competitors. Check out their websites and social channels to determine what they are doing right and what you can improve upon for your business services. You will also want to follow your target market online. What social media platforms are they using? What are they saying about the current online services offered that are similar to yours?

By researching these topics and exploring the options available to you, it will be easier to make critical business decisions that will benefit you in the long run.

2. Choose a Website Hosting Platform

Part of your research should be devoted to learning about the numerous website hosting platforms and services available to you. These services offer businesses the ability to build websites and store their website files online.

Hosting services offer an array of packages that allow businesses to build their sites and host customers online through ecommerce platforms. Depending on what you need to create a small business online presence, it will only cost you a few dollars a month to secure these services.

Before pulling the trigger on a purchase, ensure your chosen hosting service offers your business the tools to succeed. Here are some things to consider when buying a web hosting service:

  • Website building tools
  • Bandwidth
  • Storage options
  • Scalability
  • Accessibility
  • Security
  • Customer support
  • Backup protocol

3. Buy a Domain

Once you have a hosting service in mind, you will need to pick out, register, and purchase a domain name for your online business. A domain name refers to the name of your website, which is the address of your URL.

Try out this easy-to-use domain name search tool to discover the perfect name for your business’s domain. Check to see what domains are available to use and how much it will cost you to buy for a one-year registration.

Remember, you will want to choose a domain name that includes your brand name without being too long. You will also need to consider the domain’s extension based on the region or country you are operating within. For Canadian businesses, this would be the .CA extension.

4. Build a Website

After signing up with the website hosting platform, and purchasing and registering your domain, it is now time to build your site’s infrastructure. In most cases, quality hosting services offer building tools to help you create your business’s website.

Now is the time to map out your website to determine what type of pages you need to make for your business’s services. When starting a small business, online websites will generally possess a landing page and home page, an about us page, as well as product and service pages, a shopping cart, and a checkout page.

Learn more about building a website for your small business.

5. Fill Your Website with Content and Products

Once your business’s website is up and running, you will need to flesh out the pages you created with content for your products or services. Writing compelling and attention-grabbing copy is essential to creating a strong presence online. So take your time when writing your business’s ‘About Us’ page, and explore the mission of your business and its origins.

These days it is also a best practice to create a blog for your business site. This is where you can write articles about topics within your industry and grab the attention of past, present, and potential customers. Quality website content and authoritative blogs can also really help with search engine optimization (SEO).

Whether it’s content for your website or social media channels, high-quality content is what improves your presence online and gets your e-commerce website noticed.

6. Create Social Media Profiles and Business Pages

Part of the process of moving your business to the web, should include the creation of social media pages. Social media marketing is an essential part of building a strong presence online.

Depending on your target audiences’ popular social channels, you should go where they go and create business pages and accounts on those platforms. For example, suppose your target customer base predominantly uses Facebook or Instagram. In that case, your business should create and use a Facebook page and Instagram account.

Once on these social platforms, you can use them to announce your online move, as well as sales and promotions, quality blog posts and content, online marketing campaigns, and general customer support and interactions.

7. Announce Your Move Online

One of the most straightforward yet essential steps to moving your business online, is telling your customers about your new move. Announcing your online presence to target audiences will inform past, present, and potential customers that your products or services are now easily accessible at its new website and online location.

8. Provide Support to Customers

After everything has been set up and you’ve announced the big move to your audiences, you may be wondering how to run an online store. Many of the responsibilities you had with your brick and mortar store will be the same. However, you may have to adapt some of your services to this new platform.

Customer service is an integral part of this online migration. Larger businesses will typically have a help centre or chat line that customers can use to inquire about products and services. However, your small business may not have the resources for this undertaking. Consider creating a contact page for inquiries and using your social channels for customer support instead.

9. Stay Connected

Once you have successfully created a website and effectively moved your business to an online platform, it’s vital to stay connected with your new customer base. To continue to build a strong presence online and stay connected with target audiences and past and potential customers, you will need to consistently interact with them through your website and social media pages. This is where a social and content strategy comes into play.

Take time to plan out a publishing schedule and content calendar to help your business periodically and consistently push content online using your website and social pages. A continuous stream of quality content and customer interactions will help keep you connected to your audience while growing your online store.

However, it is important to remember that establishing a strong presence online will take time. Content can typically take three months to mature online, meaning you will not see results overnight. Be patient, stay motivated and consistent, and your business will continue to grow.

10. Use the Right Cloud-Based Tools

Using these steps, you too can move your small business online to create an e-commerce platform. But once online, you’ll need the right tools at your disposal to learn how to run an online store and keep up with its demands.

For example, you can pair your small business online with the right cloud-based accounting software, like QuickBooks Online. This software provides users with comprehensive features like expense tracking, cash flow planning, invoicing, and financial reporting to ensure that small business owners have the tools they need to succeed. Sign up for a free trial and use QuickBooks to help facilitate the growth of your online business today!

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