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How To Transition Your Physical Business Online

Written by Ryan Terrey
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The impact of Covid-19 has been massive, in many areas of our life, especially for business owners. The lockdowns meant that physical stores were closed, and we as consumers ended up changed most of our shopping habits to online. Many businesses thus, had to quickly switch from being a physical-only store to also be an online store.

As things start to open up and go back to the new ‘normal’, it’s clear that the shopping habits learned in lockdown have remained, with a 9.1% increase in online purchases during the second quarter of 2021 (quarterly retail e-commerce sales).

What we want to do is help you get your business online to take advantage of this growth that will come especially from ‘revenge spending’ at the end of this year and into the new year. By transitioning your physical business online, you’ll be able to easily scale your business up and get a lot more customer reach, without a huge marketing spend.

Why transition your business online

One great reason to get your business online is the increase in potential sales channels. You can have an online storefront catering to anyone around Australia, and the world. The number of people you can get your products and services to is amazing.

You also get a chance to review your business model to deliver more. Transitioning to an online store is more than just having the same products and services on a website. You could deliver online services, such as webinars and help videos. You can deliver online content, like blogs and digital specials only as well.

The Covid-19 pandemic has permanently shifted the retail landscape. It has shown that if you can’t transition to an online model for your business, you’ll be left behind by those who can.

Advantages of moving your business online

There are some genuine advantages and dollar savings you can make by shifting your business to an online model.

  • Rent - hosting a website can cost you around $250 a year, depending on where you look, which is a lot cheaper than a month’s rent for a bricks-and-mortar store, and depending on your marketing strategy, you could get more reach than a physical store
  • Utility costs - you don’t have to pay for heating or cooling, lights, or any other upkeep you may need to pay for in a physical store
  • Wages - if you’re not busy, there's no need to pay for one or two staff to wait for a client to arrive
  • Opening hours - you can work on your online store whenever you feel like it, and it's technically open 24 hours a day, allowing you to get sales 24/7
  • Dynamic stock - you can update your store or take something offline quickly and easily, while easily showing your customers things like stock levels

Step 1: Build a website

The first thing you need to do to have an online presence is to get yourself a website built. The budget for this can vary from paying your niece or nephew a few hundred dollars to put something up with Square or Wix, or you could up your budget to a thousand dollars or more and get a Shopify or WordPress site built for you.

We can’t tell you how much to spend, your budget can be tight thanks to lockdown, but we can advise you to do your due diligence especially if you're paying someone else to do it for you to ensure you get the best quality website for your budget.

Make sure that you know what you want from your website and which Content Management System (CMS) will suit it best. If you’re focused more on retail and selling products, Shopify could be an excellent platform to have for example.

If you want to have a store, have some blog content and other content styles, and perhaps lean towards a WordPress or Hubspot CMS. These can host more content for you to reach organic search audiences with.

Step 2: Marketing

Now that you've got your store online, you need to market it so that you can actually get traffic coming into your 'shop'. Just as you could have salespeople handing out flyers or testers in front of your physical store, or have a beautiful storefront with professional banners or posters, you need to do the same to ensure people come visit your store online.

We suggest four main ways for you to market your new online business:

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - This is the practice of making your website so awesome that Google, and the other search engines, find you when people are searching for what you’re offering. You need to do some keyword research, create compelling content which includes these keywords; you need to set up your website so it is easy to crawl by Google; it's also a good idea to have other websites linking back to you. These are called Backlinks.
  • PPC - Pay Per Click marketing. This is where you set up a Google Ads account and find keywords related to what you sell. Then you bid on them and pay for your Google Ad to appear at the top of search results pages.
  • Social media content marketing - get your brand out on Facebook and Instagram, TikTok, and the like. You can target your audience with some scary precision through their advertising platforms and lead them to your website and fantastic deals you may have.
  • Email marketing - Email marketing is still very effective. Collect the contact details of your customers, and create a promotional newsletter, weekly or fortnightly, to remind them who you are, what ways you can help them, and what special deals you have for them.

Want to learn more about how you can take your marketing from 0 to 100 and start speaking to the right people, at the right time, with the right messaging? We offer Marketing Training in our Resource Centre and through our Memberships that can guide you down the right path to success.

Step 3: Promote your business

Now you get to promote your business. Promoting is a little bit different from just purely marketing. You generally start with brand awareness before you start promoting offers or discounts for example. Then you move them to conversions.

Here are some ways to promote your business:

  • Offer referral rewards - tell your current client base to refer people to your business with the promise of rewards for them
  • Sponsor relevant events - yes, you’ve gone digital, but your customers are still out in the real world, and you could get in touch with a whole new audience if you sponsor the right events 
  • A free offer when they sign up for your newsletter - this is good for building your email list and a way for you to show you are helping people with your products or services
  • Get out and network - again, real people shop online, so meet real people in the wild whether it's at an industry event or a community meetup
  • Word of mouth - this is often organically done through just having a great product or service and customer experience, so make sure your delivery is representative of world's best practice
  • Tell stories - whether you're talking about a customer success story from your product or story, or your own journey with your target market's similar challenges, using stories can help people relate to you, whether you do it on YouTube, through a podcast, or even at an event

Combining promotions is always good. The referral program mentioned to everyone you meet is an excellent way for them to tell their friends and drive customer numbers to you.

Key takeaways

The past two years have been a burden for many business owners and entrepreneurs. The loss of foot traffic, the loss of business, it has hurt a lot of people and business. But it's important as business owners to remember to focus on the things you can control, not the things you can't.

That means being flexible and agile in everything from your business model to your delivery, to your marketing, and leadership. That's how you can stay relevant and successful during these roller-coaster times.

The Entourage is here to help train you to adapt and grow and succeed. We have training programs for businesses that can show you how to go digital, combine online and offline retail, and so much more. Get in touch today, talk to some of our team and see how you can get the fire in your belly burning for more.

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