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From bricks to clicks: Everything SMBs need to know about launching online

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The number of people who search for and buy products and services online in Australia and New Zealand has exploded over the past year, meaning it’s more important than ever for small businesses in every industry to have a digital presence.

Whether you’re a hospitality business that has started offering home delivery, a retailer with an e-commerce site, a hair salon that needs to take online bookings or a tradesperson that wants to reach new customers, your website and social media channels are critical to your growth and success.

But it’s no longer enough to launch an off-the-shelf website and let it run in the background – you need to provide a personalised, convenient, omnichannel experience to attract today’s customers. Here are four key areas to focus on to create a competitive online customer experience.

Depending on your business, your website will either be a place where customers come to make a purchase, or simply learn what you have to offer and how to contact you. But whatever the purpose of their visit, there’s a good chance they’ll be using a mobile device, so you need to make sure your website is optimised for mobile. Another critical factor is site speed. Using a reputable hosting provider will help you avoid long loading times, which can turn off potential customers.

Beyond the basics, you should consider ways to integrate your website and your bricks-and-mortar business. If you’re a retailer, you could offer different delivery options, such as home delivery and click-and-collect. If you’re a hair salon, you could provide text message reminders when a customer books an appointment online.

With nearly 80% of the Australian population and 86.3% of the New Zealand population active on social media, it makes sense for your small business to have a presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest. But rather than posting in an ad-hoc way, it’s important to take a strategic approach to social media. Do you want to inspire customers with beautiful images and quotes, educate them about your business or industry, or drive sales? Set an overarching objective and plan out your posts with this in mind.

You should also explore opportunities around live streaming, where businesses demonstrate how their products work or give customers a behind-the-scenes look at how they operate. This is an opportunity to set your small business apart from big corporates, so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

For many small businesses, providing a personal touch is central to their service offering and a big part of their competitive edge. Translating this to a digital environment can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Live chat is a relatively easy way to provide the same level of individual service online as offline, and virtual consultations are a convenient alternative to store visits. But you don’t necessarily need to invest in technology to personalise the customer experience. Including a hand-written thank-you note in your online orders can go a long way towards building loyalty.

Not every small business needs to accept payments online, but for those that do, it’s important to provide a seamless and secure digital checkout experience, as well as a range of payment methods. In addition to debit and credit card and bank transfer, you should consider offering a buy now, pay later (BNPL) option, such as humm.

With more than 228,000 Kiwis and nearly 2 million Australians using BNPL, you can’t afford to ignore it, especially if you cater to millennials and Gen Z customers. Because humm makes it easy for customers to pay off their purchase interest-free in a timeframe that works for them, they’re more likely to click buy. And with a new breed of BNPL solutions targeting B2B transactions, such as hummpro, you can offer these benefits to your business customers too.

Don’t risk getting left behind by ignoring your digital presence. Small businesses in every industry need to invest in their online customer experience to continue attracting customers and growing.


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