It’s not surprising that the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions has had a dramatic effect on the business life of the UK. From shuttered cafes and restaurants to empty offices as much of the workforce stays at home, for many businesses relying on some form of human interaction, the lockdown has placed immense pressure on the bottom line.
The figures are stark: recent research revealed that during the most recent lockdown in Wales, the week of 24th-30th October 2020 saw an 88% revenue increase of ‘non-essential items’ in online stores. And, according to Growth Intelligence, 85,000 businesses launched online stores or joining online marketplaces in the four months from April 2020.
For some, the pandemic has been the catalyst for a move towards e-commerce. Whether that means selling existing products and services or developing new ways to generate revenue via online channels, e-commerce has boomed.
Many businesses in the UK with a small online channel that formed a small part of the overall revenues. But once lockdown came in, it was clear that the e-commerce side of the business required greater investment to keep existing customers engaged, and attract new ones.
The key to developing a successful – and sustainable – e-commerce offering is to effectively retain ownership of the key elements. That extends to your website, URL, and, most importantly, your customer relationships.
“You want to fulfil things yourself if you’re an SME: that means packing and dispatching it yourself,” says Paul Beare, who helps smaller businesses manage their finances and ensure that costs are kept under control.
“Yes, it can cost more initially, but if you pack the box yourself you can put a leaflet in there advertising your other products. It means you can brand your packaging, and start to build your relationship with your customers. PrintWorx offers a range of solutions to assist with this.
“And as you go on you will gain more customers who know you and like you and are happy to recommend you,” he says. “So of course while you want to make a profit, you want to build your customer base at the same time.”
Paid social advertising is another way of quickly and effectively engaging with customers. Paying for ads on social media allows companies to target people based on their interests, and to go after customers that they already know have an interest in the company’s products.
Crucially, you don’t have to spend silly money to experiment. Certainly, Facebook and Instagram allow smaller businesses to stay keep things low budget and you can tweak it as you go along. In comparison to a print advert, it is far more responsive, in that you can turn it off straight away.
“Finally, if you don’t have a website, just do one yourself,” Paul advises. “Using something like Squarespace might only cost you £30 a month and you can put add-ons into that. And you can create a basic product page up really easily, and then use social media to get your message out. That allows you to put a certain amount of money behind an advert per week and you may see orders go up.”
Our Natasha Robinson started an Etsy store. She makes crocheted baby gifts with it starting as a hobby making toys and blankets for her daughter. She wanted to have something of her own during maternity to focus on besides being a mum. TheLittleFoxStore.Etsy.com is where you can find her items.