Next steps once you have started trading online

Once you've been trading online for a few months, it's worth reviewing how everything is working.


9 min read

1. Review where you are now

First things first, you'll need to review how your new online offering is going, and there are a few ways you can do this.


Collate feedback from staff and customers.

Consider a quick social post or email regular customers asking for constructive suggestions. Use this to look at what is or is not working well, and identify opportunities or new ways of doing things.

Costs and pricing

Pricing is key to marketing and it’s always a tricky balancing act.

Staring to trade online may have impacted your costs. Now you’ll have several weeks of costs to help your projections. Work that into your thinking, asking for your accountant’s advice if needed.

For example, for small shops, offering free delivery may have been a wise decision for launch. Now you know what’s involved and the value it brings, consider if this is still viable, or whether customers might accept a small delivery charge if needed. Or vice versa, consider if delivery charges are putting customers off.

Many service businesses trial online alternatives, such as remote consultancy or classes, by offering free or low cost introductory packages.

If that's you, check if this is sustainable and necessary once you have established a customer base. If your service offers real value, customers will often be prepared to pay, or may not expect such large discounts.

2. Continuing your online offering

Analysing and prioritising

The feedback you’ve gathered will help you look at the ‘people’ side of your business, which is core to your offering:

  • Customers: What do your customers want and need?
  • Staff: What are your staff able and happy to deliver?

Then, you need to merge this with other business practicalities, for example any changing regulations, etc.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to balance everyone's needs and expectations.

  • Keep a positive mindset: Focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do.
  • Streamline your offering: You don’t need to sell everything you initially intended to - it’s fine to simplify things.
  • Prioritise what’s important: Don’t chase perfection. In the early days of trading online for many small businesses, ‘functional’ will often be acceptable. For your high-end cheesecakes, the flavour is more important than the design on the box. If you’re delivering online classes, the quality of the audio is more important than your background.

This approach allows you to test your offering and generate income quickly, then learn and adapt as you go.

Establishing an online platform

If you’re not yet using a platform for your online offering (for example if you are just working off an order list or Facebook posts), consider using an ecommerce platform. Look out for further support on switching to trading online and selecting the right platforms to run online classes.

Refining your online platform

If you launched your online offering very quickly, you may have had to implement an ‘MVP’ version (a minimum viable product).

This means that you might have a very basic offering to get you by, or you may not have implemented all of the features available to you.

If you’re continuing online, now’s the time to ask if your platform is working for you as it should. Is there an opportunity to do more with it? Read our action plan for managing your new online platform.

Look at automation

Many online platforms or apps will offer features to help you automate some of your online offering - whether that’s online purchases in an e-commerce store, online booking and appointment scheduling functionality such as Acuity or MeetFox or automated customer service responses such as chatbots.

3. Develop a marketing plan

You need a balanced approach to build your customer base by keeping your existing customers, and acquiring new customers.

Marketing an online service can bring new opportunities, For example, if you can usually only reach a local audience with your physical courses, you may be able to reach a much wider audience with an online service.

That said, it is important to focus on your existing customers and traditional customer base first.

Keeping existing customers

Keeping customers generally requires much less effort than finding new ones. Conversely, money can be wasted finding new customers if you can’t then keep them.

Even for businesses overwhelmed with high demand, this is still important as it impacts your business reputation and long-term future.

Update and engage existing customers

Use your existing channels, such as your social media platforms and your permitted email database, to keep your existing customers up to date with your products, services and any offers.

Maintain a focus on customer service

Customer service is key to customer retention. Although the logistics of your new online service could change, as long as you let customers know what to expect they will likely be more tolerant of delays or added steps.

Quick responses to customer queries are important for good service. If you find you’re run off your feet, select only one or two channels for contact (such as Facebook messenger and email) and state upfront that you will respond within a realistic timeframe - e.g. 24hours, to avoid frustration and losing customers.

Acquiring new customers

Unless you’re a business struggling to cope with demand, you’ll need to plan new customer acquisition. This will vary depending on your sector and your target audience, however some things to consider include:

Think local

If your service is local, think local initially.

Social media is often useful here. As well as posting, advertise on social platforms - for example run targeted Facebook ads in the city you serve. Push your new offering out to the local press. Also update your Google Business Profile for your new service.

Use known third party platforms

Consider using existing online marketplaces. This is ideal if you have only ever operated through physical premises and have no existing customer contact details or minimal social media following. For eCommerce businesses, platforms include Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. For digital products like online training and classes, options include Udemy, Teachable and Thinkific. Generally, you will pay to be listed on these, or pay a commission for each sale you make.

More active acquisition

Once you’ve proved your product offering and pricing meet customer needs, you may be ready to invest more time and budget in proactive marketing. Business Gateway can help you navigate through this and run regular events and webinars.

4. Remember everything will keep changing

As your business evolves, regularly review your products and services, pricing and promotion and keep testing, learning and adapting where you can

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