Tips for taking your business online during COVID-19.
One of the most effective ways businesses can position themselves to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic is to increase their online offering and reach out to customers at home. Below is a brief guide to and resources to help achieve this shift.
You can also check out these Free Ways to Promote Your Business Online.
Latest Update - February 3rd, 2021: The Launch Online Grant Program provides grants of up to $7,500 per business to help cover the costs of launching or upgrading an online store during the pandemic. Apply online until all funds are distributed.
Create a Website
A website acts as your digital storefront, attracting customers in and displaying your products in a conveniently organized manner. View Small Business BC’s free Get Online with Shopify webinar and build a basic Shopify store for your business in just three hours. This informative webinar starts with the basics, and leads you through everything from account settings to setting up your payment provider. Need tailored advice? Small Business BC’s Talk to a Website Expert advisory service offers a one-on-one consultation with a website expert.
Build Your Product Catalogue
What products are you planning to sell online? You’ll need to show customers what these products are and what they look like. Digital Main Street have created this useful guide on how to take professional-style product photos with minimal equipment. Next, write simple product descriptions and attributes such as size, colour etc.
Nail Down Your Logistics
Each time a customer purchases a product online, it will need to be picked off the shelf, packaged up and shipped. During COVID-19, additional strain has been placed on Canada Post, meaning some delivery times are longer than usual. Ensure customers are informed of this. Alternatively, if you are only planning on delivering locally it’s advised to look into alternatives such as hiring delivery staff, or delivering yourself if possible.
Keep it Secure
If you’re handling payments online, you’re going to need robust IT security. The risk of damage to business reputation is too great to skimp on security. Make sure your site can encrypt and secure the data being provided by your customers. Many platforms, such as Shopify, have powerful built-in security features that will satisfy this need. Alternatively, speak to Small Business BC’s Technology Operations Expert to assess your options.
Optimize for Mobile
The COVID economy has seen a sharp increase in online shopping and, more specifically, mobile shopping. Take advantage of this trend and make sure your business is responsive and overall mobile-friendly. Doing so will increase your chances of getting online sales and increase your brand awareness among an attentive audience.
Not sure where to get started? Familiarize yourself with the world of mobile optimization with Small Business BC's article, Why Your Business Needs to Get Mobile. Then, test your business website's mobility with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
Building your online presence is only the first step. Now it’s time to let people know you’re open for business. The good news is, there’s a plethora of online tools – many available for free – to assist. For inspiration on tools to research, read Small Business BC’s article on Digital Marketing Tools for Small Business.
Another great resource is the online Alacrity Digital Marketing Bootcamp. It offers 228 hours of content to help you build your digital marketing skills, as well as access to experienced mentors and connections in the tech sector. Businesses can send one employee free of charge. The bootcamp is open to businesses and employed and unemployed British Columbians, with priority given to employers and individuals impacted by COVID-19.
The Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency (DER3) Program offers free, one-to-one business and technical expertise for companies that want to better engage with the digital economy. When required, the program will also match businesses with regional service providers who can deliver contracted solutions.
The Digital Development Assistance Program is a new initiative of the Burnaby Board of Trade that provides small businesses, non-profits and solopreneurs with direct, hands-on support to build, optimize, and enhance their digital activities for free.
Unbounce Small Business Care Package
Unbounce have gathered a range of tech company supports available to small businesses looking to transition online. Refer to their Small Business Care Package to find free resources, offers and deals that will help reduce the cost of transitioning online.
Canada Post Shipping Solutions
Canada Post's Think Small Program supports small businesses with offers and incentives, including shipping discounts. Until July 31, 2020, small businesses can receive discounts and savings on regular rates for shipping in Canada, as well as additional savings on local shipments.
Other recommended resources include:
Digital Main Street: Digital Main Street offers a free assessment tool that highlights the steps businesses need to take to move online. They also offer a range of webinars, case studies, and tools.
Zoom: Connect remotely via video conference, phone, or chat with team members and customers either one-on-one or as a group via this popular software.
Moz Academy: Moz offers a crash course in search engine optimization (SEO) that equips users with the basics needed to grow their online presence and move up in Google search rankings.
Canva: This simple and intuitive, free graphic design tool allows users to easily create professional looking graphics for their website, social media and other marketing collateral.
CanExport SMEs program: The Government of Canada has pivoted the CanExport SMEs program to help small businesses access global markets when international travel is restricted due to COVID-19.
Launch Online Grant Program: Provides grants of up to $7,500 per business to help cover the costs of launching or upgrading an online store during the pandemic.