How traditional businesses make the step to online sales

Here, we offer tips on the processes to get in place to facilitate and grow your online sales.

Despite the economic turbulence of the early 2010s, the UK’s online economy has proven increasingly robust. For example, the number of eBay millionaires has risen by 50 per cent since 2013 – from 443 to 663.

An eBay millionaire is defined as a business registered on eBay.co.uk with a turnover of £1 million or more. According to the latest data from the marketplace, the rising number of millionaires has been driven by booming online sales of fashion, furniture and electronics.

But the prevalence of such operators belies the fact that many businesses still don’t have a website which is surprising in this day and age. It may be the case that your business is a high street operator that relies on walk-in trade, but traditional businesses such as these can really benefit from having an online presence and giving themselves a better chance to be found.

But how can a business go from being a traditional operator to selling solely online? There are a few key considerations to make.

A functional and attractive website

In order to maximise your online sales, you have to be conscious of the whole of the customer’s journey, from arriving at your site through to completing their order. If any stage of this chain is below par, they can easily lose interest, causing you to lose out to a competitor. That’s why a seamless online experience needs to be offered, as can be seen at RoofWindows.co.uk. The company has built a trusted brand which offers a range of roof windows, blinds and accessories, making the best use of its online medium.

You too must make sure you have a website that is user-friendly, well-designed and, ultimately, easy for customers to order through. To ensure you have a good-looking website, there are many website builders, such as Squarespace and Wix, that offer a low-cost subscription service and allow you to get your branding across in an effective way.

Next, your payment procedures needs to be on point. You’ll need a merchant account and payment gateway to process the payments. Are you offering as many ways to pay as possible, from PayPal to debit card? Is your online security on point? For more information on taking online payments, check out our article here.

Thirdly, you need to be able to be found to make the sales in the first place. Make sure you’re listing on Google My Business and any other relevant local directories and that you have a social media presence. Generating content regularly on your site will give you things to talk about through social channels and give people a reason to visit your site, and in turn buy from you.

Overall, make sure you are using online to display your product in the best light. This means the best photography possible, perhaps video content to make it easier for visitors to understand your offering, and a seamless browsing experience. Putting it all together will mean a greater chance of a sale.

4 ways to supercharge your online sales

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO of website for freelancers PeoplePerHour.com provides some top tips on how to make a big impact on the net.

Social network

With the phenomenal spread of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, you now have a massive target audience at no cost. The trick is to do it intelligently so it’s not perceived as spam. Create an audience in groups and forums and gradually build your credibility. Then – and only then – hit them with your message. Most people make the mistake of putting their brand out straightaway with limited or no impact.

Use white-hat SEO

Many people still perceive search engine optimisation (SEO) as a black box and shy away from it completely. Equally, many companies make the mistake of wasting money on agencies that promise first page rankings but never deliver. So, it’s worth educating yourself a little about SEO, and you’ll soon realise that there’s no black magic. A good start is to simply type in the search terms relevant to your business and see who comes top. You can then use a plethora of free tools available on the web to analyse those sites. For example, Yahoo!’s ‘Site Explorer’ reveals how many sites link into them – itself a key determinant of SEO. And there are a myriad of others like SEOchat.com, which tells you the density of the relevant keywords on those pages. Those sites will also identify what other factors determine page ranking (there are dozens of them).

Create a user community

Allowing your customers to interact with one another online and share feedback can be the best way of developing a sense of ‘belonging to your brand’. A common mistake is to over-censor the community to avoid ‘negative publicity’. Often, if you let your customers complain about a perceived problem it’s the quickest and most effective way for the issue to go away. The chances are they’ll find someone else who’s encountered it that can guide them through a solution. In the meantime, you have a live and vibrant feedback system that will be invaluable to you in improving your product or service.

Open source applications

Web 2.0 brought us a plethora of open source and off-the-shelf applications for no cost – something never before accessible to this extent, especially to small businesses. Customising them to suit your purpose is also becoming simpler and cheaper by the day. For starters, if it’s open source you’ll be able to find myriad online resources, forums and communities to guide you through what you need to do. You’ll also find hundreds of coders who have worked with that technology before.

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics

Online sales

Leave a comment