Action plan for managing your new online platform

At the start of the pandemic, many businesses rushed to create a new online presence to sell their products and services.

Guide

5 min read

1. Overview

There was a sudden growth in the number of businesses using tools such as:

  • Website builders including Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress and Wix
  • Ecommerce functionality such as Shopify and Selz
  • Learning management platforms like Google Classroom or Facebook Units
  • Third party marketplaces, for example, Etsy and eBay for products; and Udemy, Thinkific and Teachable for training content

Many of these platforms are so user friendly, it’s easy to get them up and running without much technical support.

But if you had to launch an online service or adopt an online platform quickly, you may now be ready to:

  • Review how it’s performing
  • Find out more about available features that could help your business
  • Present your business, products and services more professionally

2. What do your customers think about your online platform?

Before implementing new features or refining your shop front, it is important to consider how your customers are getting on with your chosen platform and adapt as necessary.

  • Review how people are using it. Many platforms offer stats and reports on how people are using the platform. Review these regularly. If you have Google Analytics on your site, review your reports to see how many people are coming to the site and how they are interacting with the platform through to sale.
  • Check for comments, feedback and reviews that users have left on the platform and respond as needed.
  • Gather feedback on the platform or service from existing customers - what is their experience using it? This can be done by running surveys with tools such as Survey Monkey.
  • Depending on your business and investment in the platform, you may still be able to change platforms if you feel it’s not working for you and your customers. For example, if you’re basing your training courses on Facebook but finding Google Classroom offers a better experience for your new approach, then you can swap over, provided you communicate it clearly to your customers and provide support for them to make the switch.

3. Find out more about your online platform’s features

Most of the large platforms offer a wide range of features - many of which could be extremely helpful to your business moving forward. This may be especially useful if you’re newly running a hybrid business e.g. juggling a physical shop and an online shop; or face-to-face training combined with online courses.

  • Find out all you can about your platform:
    ○ Read the help centres and user guides that are available on many of the platforms.
    ○ Head to the platform’s blog section for more insight into new features.
    ○ Large platforms like Shopify and Udemy also have forums.
    ○ Look out for the regular ‘how to’ emails that platforms send registered users.
  • Test new features by trialing those that look relevant to your business needs and review their effectiveness.
  • Implement customer communication features and auto-responses if relevant and permitted. Many platforms offer customer communication features (such as chat functionality, or messengers) and even elements of auto response (such as confirmation emails, abandoned cart messages, retargeting and cross-selling). These could help with customer service moving forward.
  • Integration with offline business. As you move forward, consider how your online and offline business can be streamlined, and think about how your platform can help to integrate these. For example, Teachable courses could be offered to physical customers, or your stock management could be run through your ecommerce platform to ensure alignment.
  • Review the features available within each price band for the platform, and consider if it is worth upgrading to the next level of package.

4. Refine your shop front

If you had to launch your online offering very quickly, you may have had to implement a ‘quick fix’ version, adding products or services quickly. Now is the time to refine your shop front and focus on improving sales conversions.

  • Add on a wider selection of your stock (if you had to launch with a smaller range of your products).
  • Improve product image quality - using stock images from the manufacturer or retaking shots. If necessary, find a quick online course on this - many are free, and cover how to get the best out of the camera on your phone without having to invest in professional camera equipment.
  • Consider providing more photos per product, and think about different aspects of the products such as photos of the product in the box (especially useful for gifts) as well as in-situ photos.
  • Rework product descriptions to help convert to sales (take into account any questions customers keep asking which could be avoided with better descriptions and make sure you are really selling the benefits of the product)
  • Don’t make customers think! Take a moment to step back and click through your site from homepage to completion - did anything not make sense? Was any part of this process hard to use? Fix these now to remove any roadblocks to purchase.

5. Maintaining your online platform

Remember, once your platform is up and running, you will need to regularly review and maintain your presence.

  • Update delivery information and COVID-19 content as guidelines change.
  • Regularly review usage statistics and reports to identify any issues or opportunities.
  • Regularly check for comments and respond as needed (if this functionality is on your platform).
  • Update product descriptions and images if things change.

Keep an eye out for new features as they become available.

For further advice on selling online, watch our online tutorial on switching to trading online and keep up to date on Business Gateway live webinars covering eCommerce here.

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