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8 Key Elements for Building an Online Business During the Pandemic

win the race

Nobody was expecting a global pandemic. Yet in 2020, Covid-19 came into our lives and the definition of normal has changed ever since. Most businesses came to a bottleneck during the pandemic. People mostly stayed at home and most of the physical stores closed. It was a sudden shift, so there was either little or no money to spend on emerging needs at the beginning and people were starting to buy all their needs online.

People walking in the streets, wearing face masks

After lockdowns became the norm, businesses and consumers increasingly purchased goods and services digitally. According to UNCTAD, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, online retail sales increased by 20-25% in 2020 and make the share of online sales in total retail to 19%, while it was 16% in 2019 and 14% in 2018. Many countries also experienced two-digit growth in 2021.

I have experience in digital commerce and have been giving growth consultancy to enterprise brands since 2017. At the time Covid-19 spread started, I was a consultant, providing growth strategy to enterprise companies in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East. I have worked with multiple brands recovering from the pandemic and have gained familiarity with crisis strategies and tools. In 2020, I’ve participated a research team with UNCTAD for measuring the change of consumer behavior during and after Covid-19 in 9 different countries. This participation has given me some unique insights on how businesses should start planning for a major event like a pandemic. In my experience, the main idea is to start simple and to adapt and iterate quickly with consumer expectations. In order to achieve this, you need to understand some key elements.

Identify your target audience

target audience

First, you need to determine your target consumer group and understand their lifestyle to establish a correct strategy. Answers to questions such as how the pandemic will change their purchasing power, where they spend their time during the day, what their needs and concerns are the critical aspects of the your strategy.

Determine the technology tool set

technology

Once you have determined your strategy, you will choose the technology, since you use tech as the main infrastructure for reaching your audience. During this selection process, if you are starting from scratch, it may be a good idea to use SaaS or PaaS tools because they are providing quick ways to create your online store and the most demanded features by global consumers. With such a choice, the launch time of your online business can be shortened, you can start to sell your products and services immediately and can focus on the behaviors of your consumers. While deciding on tech, cloud services for your hosting could be an efficient solution; they are more cost-effective and help you to get a good service for optimizing your website speed.

Reflect your solution in branding of your business

branding business

The brand, business, and online assets of your company should reflect the lifestyle and characteristics of your audience in order to make a lasting impression on your customers. User interface and experience should project this similarity as well. Unique and engaging screens will help your visitors to navigate the shopping stages intuitively and mediate to complete the purchasing. Nielsen Norman’s 10 Heuristic Design principles may help you to create your pages effectively.

Attract your early adaptors

increase sales

After you create your designs, website and launch your online store, what comes next? You need to attract visitors to the website and analyze their navigational & purchasing behavior to increase your sales. In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies cut their advertisement budget to their online stores; because, there was an increased demand for products after physical stores being closed. This led to a rise in visitors to online stores. Some brands even had to implement waiting rooms to reach the website in order to give an adequate website speed and experience to their customers. There are algorithms and tools to understand website analytics, create insights, and take action accordingly. In all complex scenarios, there are a few metrics you can watch; how many people visited your website, which channels and sources they come from, how & how much they interacted, and the conversion rate in the shopping stages such as category and product page visits, adding products to basket, filling necessary information and completing the purchase. It is also important to how frequently the same visitors or consumers come and shop from your store to understand their loyalty to the brand.

Emphasize on your unique value proposition with quality content

quality content

One of the best ways to acquire visitors and convert them into shoppers is quality content. Catchy content that emphasizes your value proposition will increase the chance of clicking and being directed to your website in social media, search engines, and advertisements. People are searching for products on search engines, marketplaces and spending quite a significant amount on social media. So you need to leverage these areas to build awareness of your brand, products, or services. Many brands or businesses targeting the same or similar of your audience and the content you provided can be a key element to differentiate your brand. Establish your SEO and content strategy based on how people are searching the category you are in and what keywords they are looking for.

Digitalization of fintech during the pandemic is in your favor

digitalization

Pandemic has also accelerated the innovation in the fintech and payment sector related to the e-commerce. The “buy now pay later” approach spread quickly since it allows people to manage their purchasing power while still being able to shop products in their wish lists. BNPL applications gained a 2% market share globally and even in some countries, like Germany, that share reached to 18%, according to Statista.

However, fulfillment expectations hit the sky during the pandemic

customer satisfaction

Now you have transactions and products waiting to be fulfilled for your customers. The Covid-19 pandemic also shifted the expectations on the delivery of the physical products. Delivery in 3 days is now too slow for a regular shopper. Next-day delivery became a norm and many new companies utilizing the same-day delivery emerged. The ability to provide these options increases the conversion rates significantly; but if there is a failure in the implementation, it will decrease consumer satisfaction by an equal degree.

Now It is time to scale

scale up business

After certain momentum you acquired with your online business, loyalty will become a crucial element to gain stability in a fast-changing, unpredictable pandemic environment. Providing support channels, answering your visitors’ or shoppers’ questions quickly and establishing an effortless cancellation and return policy will help consumers to see that your business is on their side.

Every business needs a contingency plan in moments of crisis. Although circumstances could vary greatly, there are certain elements of strategy, design, and user experience that will make all the difference between a successful and failed online presence. Always focus on target audiences’ needs and desires carefully, understand the dynamics of the changing environment & behaviours and be consumer-centric at all times.

If you want help to prepare for next crisis, start an online business or expand and grow your business, Metheus is here to provide the best guidance and implementation on your business expansion.