This morning I got up and decided to do a little self- care and order some scones and a latte from a local shop that is doing curbside pickup during coronavirus. Their website was down, so I called the shop and let them know and made my order over the phone. They also had to call back to verify my credit card number- making the whole transaction very time consuming.

As someone who helps businesses with the their online presence and marketing, it occurred to me that many places- especially restaurants- have websites that basically functioned as billboards and places where you could see the menu online. But now, if you don’t have a reliable website shopping cart infrastructure, you could be losing business you may not be able to afford to lose. Those online shopping carts can be pricey on a monthly basis- so there’s tradeoffs, but so is tying up your one landline with orders as well.

I thought I’d put together a quick list of things to help small businesses navigate the move to being an online business, whether they wanted to be one or not.

  1. Check your website every morning. For most businesses, they rarely go to their own website- it’s kind of like a set it and forget it kind of thing. But these days, if your website isn’t working, you are out of business. You can’t just depend on foot traffic, so make sure your website is up, your hosting is paid, and everything is working.
  2. Make sure you website is mobile responsive/mobile friendly. This is age old advice, but there are still some people who don’t have a website that works well on a mobile phone or tablet. You need people to be able to order from wherever they are, especially in the days of curbside pickup. If your website isn’t super functional on your phone, get this fixed.
  3. Decide if you need online ordering, and if so, make sure you have the processes in place to deliver on this service. For example, a local pizza place may depend on people calling in orders, but if people start putting orders in n the website, is the kitchen prepared to take two streams of incoming orders? What gets prioritized? Work this out in advance of turning on online ordering.
  4. Collect Emails! And Data! A friend always says “You live and die by your database.” This has never more true than now. You need to be able to communicate with people about changes in hours, menus, whatever. Then send out email updates when it’s necessary- not every day- and if possible, segment your list based on interest. If you can send out special emails to the Pizza lovers on your list or the Scone aficionados highlighting what they love, they will feel more engaged and more likely to make a purchase.
  5. The Database you build today will pay off tomorrow. For people that already have collected emails from customers, now’s a great time to think of creative ways to keep your community engaged. On the scone run this morning, I ran into someone who owns a local beer garden. I know they have a great database of emails, so I plan on giving them some ideas on how they can keep their audience engaged even while they are on a corona hiatus. Even just having a space on your current website that says “Subscribe to our newsletter for updates” will let you get in contact with people as things (hopefully) return to normal.
  6. Clean up your database. In this time of quiet, this is a great time to look over your current data- think about getting rid of people who never open up emails, or, conversely, send out something to those folks with a compelling subject line to see if they still want to hear from you. If yes, it’s a win! If no, you can get rid of them from your list and likely save yourself some money at the same time with your email system of choice.

These are my quick thoughts this am- please share any you might have to add in the comments. Good luck out there and stay healthy!