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4 Ways Businesses Are Capitalizing on the Shift to Online

With a little ingenuity, it's possible to keep the lights on and even grow your business.

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If you thought Americans had an online shopping problem, wait until you see the latest numbers. 

Luca Sage | Getty Images

According to a recent eMarketer survey, ecommerce is expected to see 18 percent growth in 2020. New consumers joining the online shopping craze and a surge in click-and-collect delivery options, such as curbside, are responsible for the rise.

As expected, businesses across the country have made moves to capitalize on this digital boom. In the past few months, we’ve seen popular distilleries pivot to pumping out hand sanitizer and live entertainment go virtual. 

With a little ingenuity, it’s possible to keep the lights on and even grow your business in the midst of the pandemic. Use these creative ideas to get the wheels turning and imagine how these innovative solutions could impact your bottom line before the end of 2020.

Default to Video

In the age of TikTok and live streaming, video is king. Shelter-in-place orders all but shut down in-person activities, so businesses turned to online video options to make their plans a reality. 

While it might seem less personal, translating live events to video-based ones has many marketing advantages. Digital events allow you to meet consumers where they’re at — their homes — instead of inviting them into your space, which makes them more accessible. Posting the video online gives the event a longer life and expands its potential audience. Hosting a free event offers marketing goodwill, and a paid event could turn a profit.

Aside from live events, consider how you could turn the in-person shopping experience into an engaging digital one. One fabric store in San Antonio took its buying experience virtual through Facebook Live video. Each fabric was assigned a number, and during the event an employee showcased each option to viewers. To buy, customers could comment with the fabric’s number and the yardage they wanted. 

How can you connect with your customers digitally while still providing a fulfilling experience? Take some tips from the entrepreneurs of all industries who have used video to creatively reach their audiences.

Virtual conferences are all the rage. Musical artists are using Facebook and Instagram to stream live performances. Bookstores are selling tickets to virtual book talks and mailing hard copies of the books to customers ahead of the event. Ballet companies are streaming performances to YouTube for free and potentially gaining a new following from it. With a little creativity there are tons of possibilities.

Related: How Your Business Can Make Professional-Grade Videos on a Bootstrapped Budget

Offer Essentials Online

Not all businesses need a brick-and-mortar outlet to thrive. Nurx, a telehealth company pioneering user-first, accessible healthcare, has seen a significant jump in birth control requests since early March. 

After filling out an online intake form and communicating virtually with a medical professional, Nurx patients can receive a variety of prescriptions delivered directly to their doorstep. Eliminating a doctor’s office and pharmacy visit is attractive, especially now that CDC guidance advises utilizing telemedicine and putting off routine care if possible.

Despite many cities reopening, consumers might not feel safe venturing out for business as usual amidst spiking case numbers. While your business might not be as suited to the web as Nurx, consider what essential services you could provide online and through video services. Above all, make it a high priority to get your inventory and brand online.

Related: Starting a Digital Business? Here Are Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Pick a Partner

When one Missouri farmers’ market saw a significant decrease in foot traffic this season, the market vendors decided to join forces. Together they launched online orders of curated market boxes that combined goods from a variety of businesses. The boxes were a hit and still regularly sell out.

Everyone wants the U.S. economy to have an epic comeback story, and when we work together, both consumers and entrepreneurs win. Consider adding bundles of local goods to your online store. For example, if you sell beer, look into offering a basket that pairs it with local snacks. If you plan to give the video event route a try, see if you can incorporate other local businesses or performers to sweeten the pot.

Related: How 5 Entrepreneurs Pivoted To Thrive During the Pandemic

Get it To Go

National brands have won big this year with their delivery and pickup options. Walmart’s ecommerce sales grew 74 percent in the first quarter thanks to its robust online options, such as grocery pickup and ship-to-store. However, your business doesn’t have to be a mega-brand to capitalize on the click-and-collect trend.

Anyone can offer curbside pickup — bonus points if it’s contactless. It doesn’t have to be fancy; you don’t need an app or complicated interface. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need a website. 

Simply allow customers to call ahead and place an order over the phone. Collect their payment information for easy curbside pickup once they arrive. Take it further and designate an outdoor pickup box or basket that you can place orders in when customers are en route. 

Before COVID, consumers probably wouldn’t think twice about local pickup or curbside options from their favorite small businesses. Now it’s a critical question they're asking. Providing these services encourages customers to shop local and with you. Offering flexible pickup could be the difference between consumers shopping with you or your competitor.

Related: Why Curbside Pickup Is the Right Thing to Do

There has never been a more lucrative time for ecommerce. You’re missing out on potential profits by not being present in the digital shopping space. If the movie industry can completely reimagine its business model and capitalize on online, you can, too. 

Peter Daisyme

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Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Hostt, specializing in helping businesses host their website for free for life. Previously, he was co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, which was acquired in 2012.