As the coronavirus continues to spread and a second lockdown is underway in many countries, “in-person shopping” will likely be obliterated once again. Businesses, desperate to fend off further layoffs and even bankruptcy, have transitioned to developing a digital presence, in order to sell their products online. Some of these businesses are venturing into uncharted territory for the first time. 

In mid-October of this year, many business owners throughout the state of Virginia  received professional advice on how to successfully transition their businesses online. The Virginia Small Business Development Center hosted an informative webinar, instructing business owners on choosing and customizing a powerful website, launching their e-Commerce store, and boosting their online sales. 

What Type Of Website Do You Need?

According to Cameron Nelson, Central VA Small Business Development Center’s business communication and technology advisor, there are four levels of websites. These levels are Basic, Minimum, Robust, and Advanced. 

When it comes to the Basic level of websites, Nelson explains that this type of website lacks any e-Commerce capacity. Instead, he recommends that businesses consider upgrading to at least a Minimum website. With this, the business owner will have a choice of multiple product pages that link to an external website to fulfill all shopping functions. 

However, ideally, the best recommendation Nelson makes is to upgrade to a Robust website. The features offered at this level include a payment gateway integration as well as shopping capabilities integration. Social media pages can also be linked via the payment gateway.

Finally, the Advanced level offers premium and more cutting-edge shopping capabilities including selling using video, subscription, referral, and a host of other technologies. 

The two highest tiers, Robust and Advanced, come with a sizable price tag. For a Robust site, business owners are looking at an investment between $2,000 to $10,000. An Advanced site is the most costly, starting at $20,000 to $200,000. However, these websites should only be used if the business sells overly complex products. 

Additional costs that business owners need to be aware of include charges for an email provider, a domain name, paid ads, payment gateways, and development. Many of these costs are charged annually. 

If a small business is considering selling on popular e-Commerce platforms such as Etsy, Shopify, and Facebook Shops, Nelson says that businesses must be aware that there is a price to be paid upfront and that sales are also charged a fee. 

After the business owner has decided on a website plan and the best e-Commerce platform for their business, the next step is to focus on the appearance of the website. This includes the color scheme, the text size, font, types of images used, social media, and other aesthetics.

Once this step is complete, the next step is to add their products to the website. There should be much thought given to the names of the products, the categories, and the prices. The description given to products should also be brief, without using convoluted jargon or cliches. 

Lastly, the final step for any business is the launch. Before this happens, business owners must set up the appropriate payment methods, testing the website before they actually publish it to go live. The most popular payment methods used by most businesses include a merchant account along with a payment gateway. 

Business owners must be diligent about testing the checkout process to ensure everything is working properly. Analytics should also be set up in order to monitor the overall traffic that the website is receiving. 

“It’s A Learning Process…”

Transitioning your once brick and mortar business into a fully-functional e-Commerce site will not be without complication. Luckily, there are plenty of organizations like Virginia’s Small Business Development Center to lend a hand.

Posted in eCommerce