The coronavirus outbreak continues to have a growing impact on the global economy and has led to large-scale adoption of quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures. This has further caused a huge disruption across ventures like airlines, the travel industry, retail segment, transportation and some more. Affecting hundreds of thousands of people, the COVID-19 outbreak has brought our daily lives to a halt. This self-quarantine limitation hits the conventional work environment, especially for local or small businesses, in every part of the country. With small businesses having to temporarily close, many have already suspended their work or let go of their teams altogether. Here comes the importance of virtual business, wherein all or most of the business is conducted via the internet; temporarily at least, there are no physical premises to interact with customers face-to-face. This in turn makes it vital to enhance the business’ web presence and gain prominence in the major search engines. An experienced web design company in Long Island can assist businesses to start or update their websites in keeping with changing website standards.
As a step towards containing the coronavirus spread, government officials have announced temporary economic lockdowns. Even though each and every business suffers in such situations, local businesses or small businesses suffer the most. According to the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), in a survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), half of US small business owners said they cannot afford to pay employees for a full month amid the economic lockdown caused by coronavirus disease 2019, with 1 in 5 also noting their inability to afford wages for a week or less. Social distancing and other safety measures have severely impacted day-to-day operations for local businesses, and these changes can be challenging for customers caught unaware. Though a scary time for small businesses, the coronavirus situation has actually given a lift to virtual and digital business transactions.
Virtualizing business activities bring many advantages, and these include:
- Cost savings: Reducing the need for employee workspace saves money on overhead (expenses such as commercial building leases, utilities, insurance, etc.)
- Flexibility: Virtual business organizations can react faster to changes in the marketplace.
- Happier employees: Working from home creates a better work/life balance for staff
- A larger employee base: Since employees can work from anywhere, organizations can provide employment in rural locations or areas of high unemployment.
Companies that had previously been avoiding adopting or experimenting with remote working and video conferencing are being forced to become experts in those technologies-literally overnight. Moreover, Google search traffic is not diminished too much since the COVID-19 outbreak, so all small businesses could take this time to establish or improve their online web presence as soon as possible.
Here are the five steps on how to take your local business online:
- Design a simple website: In today’s digital ecosystem, having a business website is critical, because, it is the cornerstone of your online presence. Small businesses can create a basic website without any complexity in a few hours. As not every start-up can afford to spend money on a shiny, new website, Google supports such businesses with a free website builder. Some of the other Free Website Builders are Weebly, Wix, site builder, WordPress, and Yola.
While refining your site’s landing pages, make sure to optimize your landing pages for Google.
- Create a Google My Business account: Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. As COVID-19 shuts down businesses, more people who own local businesses would turn to Google to ensure they are open even during these uncertain times. By getting your business on Google My Business account, you can display your business hours, address, posts, photos, and even reviews across Google search and Google Maps.
You can create a Google My Business with several steps:
Step 1: Log into the Google Account you want associated with your business (or create a new Google Account if you don’t already have one).
- Step 2: Go to google.com/business and select “Start now” in the top right-hand corner.
- Step 3: Enter your business name.
- Step 4: Enter your business address.
- Step 5: If you go to your customers’ locations, rather than having them come to you, check the box “I deliver goods and services to my customers.” And if you work out of your house or another address that you don’t want to be publicly displayed, Check “Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region.” Finally, select your Delivery area.
- Step 6: Choose your business category. Try to choose the most accurate category possible – you’re essentially telling Google which type of customers should see your business listing.
- Step 7: Add your business phone number or website.
- Step 8: Choose a verification option. If you’re not ready to verify your business yet, click “Try a different method” → “Later.”
- Engage your customers on social media: As communication helps every growing business achieve its goals and meet its constantly evolving needs, social media is a great communication platform that small business can rely on. Social media marketing has the potential to increase customer engagement, notify company followers about current promotions, and encourage repeat sales.
If your customers have doubts if your business has changed during the pandemic or if they’re looking for updates to confirm whether and when you’re open, they may try to find your most recent posts on Facebook or Twitter. If they can’t find you on social media, they’re less likely to trust you’re still open. So, make sure to create a free business page on Facebook and give your customers a periodic update so that they know your business is still open.
- Get your products online with Google Merchant Center: With regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, traditional retail is battling with minimal store visits. Now, web-based business such as ecommerce is an alluring opportunity to keep your sales coming in, even if your customers are at home.
To start selling your products online, create a Google Merchant Center account and upload your products online. You can even use an automated product feed to help keep your products, prices, and inventory updated on Google. Once your first products are online, be sure to regularly optimize your Google shopping feed by following simple best practices for product titles, descriptions, images, and taxonomy to ensure that searchers can easily find your products online.
- Endorse your business online: Creating a website isn’t enough to attract additional traffic to your business, advertising online can. With effective search engine optimization, and by advertising across certain platforms such as Google Ads (Google Maps, display ads, Gmail, and YouTube), Microsoft Advertising, and Facebook ADs, Instagram, Messenger and so on, local businesses can benefit from some additional traffic. It helps to drive plenty of extra traffic, sales, and loyal customers for small budgets.
If you already have a GMB for your business, then make sure it is updated. That is, if any changes occurred to your operational time, phone number and so on, update it. Post a notice about any changes your customers should know about your business’s operations with respect to COVID-19.
With your company going digital, embracing transformation and working remotely, consider how you can add virtual events or experiences to help you connect with your customers. Continue educating your customers, serve their needs, and deepen your relationships with them and make sure that you balance your need to drive business and demand with genuine care and concern for your customers.
Beginning a website for your business is a low-cost investment that will help you to both establish credibility and reach a wider customer base than you ever could through traditional marketing techniques. Keep your website updated with fresh, latest content and address technical issues quickly as it will help to not worry about “not existing” to your present and future customers (business2community.com). Relying on experienced digital marketing services in Long Island could prove invaluable from the point of view of adopting all necessary SEO and search engine marketing techniques that will drive more traffic to your business website.