Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives had to be moved online in an instant, and video conferencing, telehealth, remote work, and online collaboration are all part of the new normal. Small businesses and retailers, in particular, have been hit especially hard by this change with social distancing and travel restrictions in place.
If the bulk of your business is done through a brick-and-mortar storefront, the current climate requires some shifting in how you operate. The good news is that these restrictions and limitations can force innovation, and many businesses have been able to survive by leveraging tools and solutions designed to work with customers where they are — their homes.
Running a small business online or opening a new online storefront involves getting the basics right. These range from reaching your customers and procuring supplies to running administration, finding the right eCommerce solution for small businesses, to following through with customer-centric fulfillment.
Here are the tools that can help you get started.
Taking Your Small Business Online: Your New Online Storefront
First things first… you’re going to need slick, up to date website to make it in the online world. Fortunately, there are many tools to create stunning, user-friendly, and responsive websites in minutes. Shopify and Wix are designed to be your all-in-one, eCommerce-for-small-business solutions. Website builders such as these allow you to choose from a wide range of templates and themes, register a new domain or transfer an existing one, create an online store, process payments, and manage shipments.
CRM — Customer Relationship Management
Eventually, you may want to scale. But, here’s where things can get messy if you don’t have tools in place to keep track of your customers and others that make your work possible. CRM tools are used to store data on all of those entities, from customers and potential prospects, to vendors and suppliers. Great CRM platforms integrate with a wide range of products and services, allowing you to manage and automate email, meetings, marketing, customer service, payments, and more. Some popular CRM platforms are Salesforce and Zoho.
Online accounting tools provide fast support, maintenance, and upgrades for a usually minor fee that gives you invoicing, reporting, and budgeting all from one dashboard. This saves you on the time and overhead associated with performing accounting in-house and allows you to focus on running your business. Some of the best solutions available are QuickBooks and FreshBooks.
With tools like Microsoft Office 365, you can bring your communications, document management, and team collaboration tools all under one umbrella. This includes video conferencing, file storage, messaging, calendar integration, and of course email — all with mobile support and from any device. In addition to team collaboration tools, Poly Lens provides advanced management, analytics, and insights to help improve your business decision-making, all from a single platform.
Poly also provides hardware essentials like to ensure that you sound professional even if you’re working from your home office. Choosing high-quality headsets, desk and conference phones, and video collaboration solutions are an integral part of operating a customer-facing business that require sales or services.
The EagleEye Cube offers top-quality visuals, automatic group framing, 5x zoom and legendary audio performance so you can connect with your clients or convey product demos virtually like never before.
The Voyager 4245 wireless headset system enables wireless freedom, comfort, and audio quality. This versatile headset is a great option for small business owners who would benefit from the ability to connect to desk phones, PCs, and mobile phones. With unlimited talk time, you can be sure to never lose connection with customers.
The Poly VVX D230 provides everything you love about your desk phone but gives you the freedom to get up and move around your office. This handheld phone offers Poly’s best in class audio so everyone can experience crisp, clear conversations. With the ability to handle up to ten handsets per base and eight lines, this phone was built to grow alongside your business.
Staffing and Administration
One area that the global pandemic has really undeniably changed forever is the staffing and human resource management space. The best HR and administration platforms help you manage payroll, send and receive forms, manage work schedules, set up interviews, and onboard new talent all from one place. The best ones are BambooHR and Ceridian.
If your work is task-based or you provide services of some type, you likely share employee assignments, track progress, and mark off completed work week to week or sprint to sprint. Keeping organized is especially important in the IT, SaaS, and services space, where turnaround times are generally short and performance of issue resolution or services provision expectations are high. Use Basecamp or Asana to assign work, check in with your team, and make sure your business continues to chug along.
Does your work involve confidential or highly sensitive information? Unless you outsource payment processing and your CRM, you will likely deal with a lot of customer and business data, so you need to think about online security. Ransomware attacks can bring your business to a halt, and data breaches can destroy your credibility. Use Carbonite for data backups and Barracuda or Malwarebytes for email protection, end-point security, and brand protection.
Bringing it All Together
It may seem daunting at first, but bringing your small business storefront online can be done quicker and easier than you may think. Most of the tools used in for small business eCommerce are built with business owners such as yourself in mind — so don’t get scared off thinking you can’t make the transition. The tools above are just our top picks of what’s available, be sure to do some research to find the perfect solutions that meet your business’ needs. We know your small business was no small feat to get off the ground, so we’re sure if you put your mind to this, you’ll have your business online in no time!