We live in uncertain times. You’ve probably already been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some way and the upheaval is set to continue.
If you run a business that relies on in-person contact with your customers you’re probably worried. Maybe you’ve had meetings, events or appointments cancelled or postponed, or seen a reduction in footfall (and therefore spending) at your premises.
The situation is unprecedented and fast-moving, so it’s hard not to go into panic mode (I get it, I’m trying hard to not get too stressed out too!). Your health and that of your staff, customers and community has to come first. But that doesn’t mean the health of your business can be ignored. There are ways you can adapt so you can still serve your customers during the crisis.
I want to help you weather this storm so today I’ll share tools and ideas to help you take your offline business online.
Any links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links, which means if you buy through them I might get a small commission (that will probably be spent on pretty fonts). This is at no extra cost to you and I only share products and services that I use and love.
1. Meetings, events and training
With the increase in people working from home, virtual meetings are on the increase. Instead of having your clients come to your office or meeting with them in a coffee shop, you use an app like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts.
This works great for client consultations and coaching, and has the added benefit of saving you and your clients time because you’ve just removed the travel time you’d usually have.
Zoom can be used for both 1-1 sessions and group classes. You can share your screen and can even record your sessions, making it great for delivering training sessions too.
You can even use it to deliver events that might otherwise be cancelled or postponed. That conference you’ve spent ages organising can be turned into a virtual event. With that comes new opportunities too, as people who were previously unable to travel to your event may be able to attend now that it’s delivered virtually.
2. Getting rid of cash
Many retailers, cafes and restaurants have stopped accepting cash for the moment and if you’d like to join them it’s pretty easy.
If you don’t yet have a terminal to accept card payments, options like iZettle or SumUp offer affordable solutions. You can take card payments in person using the card reader or even email the customer a payment link so they can pay online or using their phone. Both card readers also have options to integrate with your website so you can start taking payments online.
3. Selling online
If you don’t fancy getting a card reader, or it won’t fit your business model, you can also use your website to take payments. No matter what type of business you have, there’s an option for you.
If you sell products
If you’re a bricks-and-mortar retailer and either want/need to close your premises, or are worried about falling levels of customers stopping by, why not start selling your products through your website.
Selling via your WordPress site is pretty straightforward with plugins like WooCommerce. That turns your website into an online shop, so that people who are self-isolating can still get your lovely products. And obviously the beauty of online ordering means you can start selling to people outside your local area too, so you could find yourself some new customers.
Listing your entire stock can be time-consuming if you have loads of products, so to stop yourself getting overwhelmed I’d recommend starting with your best-sellers. Then you can work through the rest as and when you have time.
If you sell services
If you sell services you can also add online payment to your site. This is super easy when you have set prices, like my logo design packages, or a coach who charges the same for each type of appointment. By adding PayPal or Stripe to your site, people can easily pay for your services by credit or debit card.
Both payment options can easily be added to your WordPress site using a plugin:
If your business is appointment based, like hair stylists, life coaches, massage therapists etc, you can take this one step further. You could use an online booking calendar like Acuity* or Calendly to let people book their appointments online. The scheduler connects to your Google calendar so people can see your availability and choose the slot that works best for them. Both Acuity* and Calendly integrate with PayPal and Stripe too, so people can pay for their appointments when they book them.
If you have repeating payments
If you have people you work with on a regular basis, like every week, month or quarter, or you offer your customers payment plans, you can ask them to set up a Direct Debit so those payments are now taken automatically.
By using a service like GoCardless, you can create a Direct Debit agreement with your customers so you can collect their regular payments without touching cash.
4. Generate some cash by selling gift vouchers
If you’ve already seen a dip in customers and are worried about cashflow, you’ll be thinking about ways to generate some quick cash now.
Creating special offers to get more people through the door may be tricky while people are self-isolating or avoiding non-essential trips out and about.
But you could start selling gift vouchers instead. You’ll get some money right now by selling the vouchers, then you’ll get those people through your door later once things start getting back to normal.
If you have WooCommerce on your site, there are plugins like YITH WooCommerce Gift Cards that offer an easy way to add gift vouchers to your online shop.
Gift Voucher for WordPress is another option, that can work with or without having WooCommerce on your site.
5. Food delivery and takeaway
Cafes and restaurants are suffering particularly at the moment. They face fewer customers coming in but the same rent, rates and staffing costs to cover.
But people still need to eat and still want to enjoy lovely food. Why not start offering delivery and takeaway options for those people who aren’t able to dine-in with you as they normally would.
Or you could start selling meal kits for people to prepare at home; package up all the ingredients they’ll need, pop in a step by step recipe and it’s perfect for anyone who needs to self-isolate.
WordPress plugins like RestroPress offer you a simple way to set up online food ordering and payment.
Adapt to attract new customers
Our lives and our businesses are being turned upside down, but there are ways to adapt and plenty of tools to help us change how we operate to keep business going and keep serving our customers. Some of these changes can do more than just help your business survive too. Taking your offline business online can even bring benefits, like helping you reach new customers and audiences to ultimately help your business grow.
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