How to Transition Your SMB Online

E-commerce sales are up. Is your business online yet?

online business
Tips on how to revamp your website, improve payment processing, and explore paid advertising and paid media

With COVID-19 cases again spiking across parts of the United States, small and medium-sized businesses aren’t experiencing a normal holiday season. But after months of sluggish sales and a lagging economy, small business owners are eager to take advantage of the uptick in sales the holiday months usually bring. While foot traffic has slowed nationwide, online sales are up. Here’s how to transition your SMB online this holiday season.

Revamp your website to provide a seamless UX

A basic site that covers what your business does and where it’s located won’t cut it if you’re transitioning your in-person business model to fully online. Given the reticence around online data breaches and payment fraud, you need a professional, modern site that conveys reliability. Consumer-grade services are available to users in every avenue of their life, from their music streaming service to the human resources information system they use at work. For a newly online business, this means you’ll have to provide a smooth user experience (UX) as well.

Consider the consumer decision journey debuted by McKinsey in 2009 to illustrate a move away from the traditional sales funnel and toward the more fluid “complex reality of shifting choices, decision criteria, and triggers.”

mckinsey graphic

With the consumer decision journey, McKinsey argued that there exist touch points throughout the cycle where customers are most likely to be open to influence, but that that influence isn’t exclusive to one brand or company.

Since every sale is up for grabs, so to speak, it’s up to SMBs to make it as easy as possible to find and purchase the products and services they’re after. This is where UX and user interface (UI) design come in.

If you’re averse to hiring a professional, use an all-in-one platform like Shopify to build an online store, or SquareSpace to build a website. The templates available on these platforms are clean, crisp, and designed with the buyer in mind.

Pay attention to payments

As the business owner, it’s up to you to provide a secure online portal to process payments while making it easy for the buyer to complete their purchase. The point of sale is the most crucial moment in the buyer journey, and buyers routinely abandon the sale with items in their basket for a variety of reasons. Research compiled by Amazon Web Services found that 27% of online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter because of a “too long/complicated checkout process,” while 35% abandoned their order because they were required to create an account to continue.

27% of online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter because of a “too long/complicated checkout process.”

The payment portal is part of the overall UX, so offer options to create a frictionless experience for customers, while keeping their data secure.

Two main types of payment processing exist for online retailers.

1. Merchant account and payment gateway

  • Apply for a merchant account through the bank your businesses banks with.
  • Merchant accounts allow you to accept CC payments in conjunction with a payment gateway (examples), which is like a virtual credit card reader.
  • Because you’re working with your existing bank, merchant account holders typically have access to strong customer support and can get an individual on the phone with ease.

2. All-in-one processing system

  • Like PayPal or Stripe, for example
  • Fees tend to be reasonable for merchants, comparable to the 3% you’d pay for traditional CC processing.

Thinking back to the McKinsey consumer decision journey and considering what we know about creating a seamless online shopping experience, as an e-commerce merchant you should offer both. Give users the option to select the form of payment that works best for them.

Invest in paid search and ads

Before you balk at the idea of paid media, remember that you likely had a marketing budget for your brick-and-mortar business as well. Online is no different.

While it is possible to earn money online without investing in paid advertising, you’ll be relying on the hard-earned, long game of SEO to attract new customers. Before you balk at the idea of paid media, remember that you likely had a marketing budget for your brick-and-mortar business as well. Online is no different.

The internet is flush with information on paid advertising and paid media placements, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Before you spend money on ads, you’ll want a basic understanding of what you’re doing and how things work. Get started with our tips below, and try a trusted resource like Hubspot Academy for a more in-depth understanding:

  • Set goals and KPIs for your paid media placements
  • Compile a target keyword list
  • Select your channels based on where your audience spends their time
  • Create a landing page on your website that individuals will “land on” when they click on the ad (Note: this should be a page directly focused on converting the sale, so not your website’s home page)

Every business comes with its own considerations and challenges. When moving your SMB online, focus on keeping things simple for yourself and your user. Create and easy-to-use online experience, commit to securely processing and storing customer information, and invest in advertising that caters to your audience.

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