It is now a no-brainer that the dinosaurs of tomorrow will be today’s brick-and-mortar businesses that fail to establish an online presence. The ongoing pandemic has also all but put paid to the importance of getting your business online, as we are currently experiencing a global boom in e-commerce in all of its ramifications.
The future of work and business is embedded in the ongoing digital revolution, otherwise referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution. This revolution intertwines both digital and physical aspects of the business. Today, some businesses that provide digital products are way ahead in this revolution and those with physical products need to add the digital flavor in order to be a part of this revolution and not go extinct.
If your products are physical in nature and you are yet to start this journey towards establishing an online presence, or you have started and need more guidance, then the following points can potentially spur you in the right direction. The approach or channel you might want to choose will depend on your goals, which could be to get more leads, expand your customer base/clientele, increase sales of your products, etc.
1. Online Business Listing/Directory
The traditional business directories have given way to online business directories. Just like the virtually erstwhile voluminous books, the online business directories list details of businesses, which includes their names, address, contact (phone number, email, etc), associations, products, and services offered, to mention a few. Listing your business online provides a simple and effective way of getting your business noticed easily through search engines. It can also expand your customer base and expose and improve your brand engagement. The good thing is that majority of them allow you to list for FREE!
One of the easiest and most effective online directories is Google My Business which gives you an opportunity to list your business on the biggest global search engine. Your business profile on Google is automatically search-engine-optimized and potential customers can engage with your business by calling you, sending a chat, visiting your website, and even getting direction through Google Maps to your physical business location. You also get good analytics that gives insights into where and how people are engaging with you through your Google profile.
Other Business Listing sites to consider include Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Business Pages, Yelp Business Page, to mention a few. Other Local Business Listing Sites in Nigeria include VConnect, Business List, Finelib, NG Contacts, etc.
2. Expose your Business Online through Social Media
Today, the Facebook company, now known as Meta, is at the forefront of supporting the online business through their 3 leading social media platforms viz Facebook, Messenger, Instagram & Whatsapp. If you have a Facebook profile, then you can easily create a Facebook Business Page and even link your Instagram Business Account, as well as your Whatsapp for Business to it. Your Facebook Page, which is also a Business Directory offers you the opportunity to expose your business to your Facebook Friends, as well as using paid ads to get new leads.
Other Social Media platforms to consider, depending on your online business goals, are Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.
3. Set up a website to put your Business Online
Websites are excellent platforms to establish your business online presence and can be seen as a digital version of your business. It provides detailed information about your business, your core competence, history, products and services, contact information. Your website can be visible to potential leads and customers through search engines, depending on how optimized your site is.
For small businesses, I will not advise setting up a website as a starting point to put your business online, except if you are setting up an e-commerce store. However, it is a great channel to establish your online presence as you scale.
Doing it yourself requires getting a domain name and hosting services for your site. The hosting can be likened to the land where you site your business, while the domain name is your address.
4. Set up an Online Store for your Products & Services
It is worthwhile setting up an online store if you have a wide range of products and services to offer your customers. An Online Store is a digital version of your inventory, complete with the functionality of enabling customers to shop, add items into a virtual cart, and check out by making payment through various means (credit/debit card, bank transfer, payment on delivery, etc.). Of course, this is followed by a logistics aspect, which gets the physical product to the customer.
You can also set up your e-commerce store with the help of a developer, or if you are adventurous like me and have the time, you can build it yourself using the platforms mentioned above.
Just like your website, your online store also gets to show up in searches, especially when you do good search engine optimization (SEO) or you do paid adverts. Your products and services are exposed to potential customers through search engines.
5. Set up a store in Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces make it easier for small businesses to showcase their products to potential buyers through their platforms. Just like the physical marketplace, they provide the virtual space for buyers and sellers to meet. Here, I am talking about global behemoth marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, Alibaba, and local marketplaces like Jumia and Konga.
Marketplaces save small and medium businesses the cost and hassle of setting up an online store but charge commissions on every sale made on their platforms. Once orders are made, you as a merchant needs to ship the order directly to the customer or through the complementary logistics service provided by the marketplace. This exposes your products to a huge segment of online buyers.
If you are doing business in Nigeria, you might also benefit from the blogpost 5 Small Business Mistakes to avoid in Nigeria.
Please add your comments and ask if you have any questions.