As a result of important measures introduced to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — including social distancing rules and restricted trading for certain industries — many businesses have been forced to consider alternative options to generate revenue and stay afloat during this period.
It’s been inspiring to see so many businesses adapting their practices by moving online. Here are some examples:
- Retail shop fronts moving to eCommerce stores
- Gyms offering their classes and training sessions online
- Pharmacies taking online orders and delivering medications
- Real estate agents conducting online residential and commercial inspections and auctions
- Education providers taking up online learning tools, and developers working to develop new platforms for them to use
- Professional service providers meeting clients through video conferencing, including accountants, lawyers and architects
- Medical professionals delivering health telehealth services, including doctors and psychologists
- Restaurants moving to or expanding their delivery services
So, how can you move your business online? Let’s consider the steps.
Steps For Moving Your Business Online
If you’ve never operated online before, you may be confused about where to start and how it all fits together. So, we’ve broken it down for you.
Working On Your Website
Having a polished and user-friendly website is an invaluable marketing tool and allows customers fast and easy access to the goods or services you offer.
Most businesses probably have a website already, but if not, first you’ll need a domain name and a website hosting provider. There are various businesses that offer both (usually at a monthly fee), and that makes it relatively simple to get set up.
You could check out WordPress, GoDaddy, or Squarespace. For eCommerce stores, lots of businesses we work with use Shopify. Using a provider will allow you to develop and manage your website without experience in web design.
From there, you could also look at other online marketing channels, including having an Instagram and Facebook page and actively engaging with your subscribers.
The simplest way to take payments online is through a third party payment provider linked up to your website. Some options to look at include Stripe and PayPal.
Using a third party payment provider takes the admin out of accepting online payments and means you don’t need to have your own merchant account.
With online services, it’s a good idea to take payment before you send the goods or provide the services to save the administrative costs of chasing payment later.
Taking Bookings & Orders
If you offer services that require bookings at a certain time with your clients, the online booking process can be automated to avoid lots of back and forth.
Using an application like Calendly means that your client can book a time at your pre-filled availability, which will automatically integrate with your personal calendar, and appear professional and streamlined from the client’s perspective.
Or if you’re taking online orders, such as for take-away food, there are a range of providers such as Order Up!.
Delivering Services & Products
If you’re providing services that you’re planning on delivering online — from online gym classes to online psychology services — you’ll need a video communication tool, such as Zoom.
Or you may be planning on recording an online class once, and providing access to many users through a subscription model. You should consider hiring a videographer so that the videos look professional.
If you’re delivering products, from clothes to medicines, it’s likely you’ll need a delivery provider. This could be a great way to redeploy your shop front staff. Or, if you’d prefer to use a courier service, providers such as Shippit aggregate various courier services to give you more options.
Managing A Remote Workforce
If you’re suddenly trying to manage a whole bunch of staff working from home, the key is communication. There are many options for keeping in touch.
For day-to-day communications, you can try things like Slack for quick messages, and Zoom for longer meetings.
To manage workflow and keep track of who is doing what and where they’re up to, there are many tools out there like Trello, Jira, Asana and Monday.
Legal Things To Consider When Moving Your Business Online
So you’ve got the operational side of things sorted, but how do you protect your new online business model from a legal perspective?
Terms and Conditions With Your Customers
Once you have a website, you’ll need Website T&Cs which limit your liability to users and prohibit certain behaviours on your website.
And, even if you already have T&Cs in place for your business, you’ll most likely need to update them so that they allow for online acceptance, online payment and the provision of online services or delivery of goods.
For example, your previous T&Cs might talk about accepting the agreement by signing the document, but now this should refer to the tick box on your website.
If you’ll be taking payment online, you’ll need to refer to the third-party payment provider in your T&Cs to limit your liability for the security or performance of the payment provider.
And what about returns? Will you cover the costs of returning items to you via post? These are the types of practical differences that mean your T&Cs will need to be amended.
Given all the uncertainty in the current climate, you should also include some flexibility around how your services will be provided, or what goods you have in stock, as well as a “force majeure” clause allowing for delays in delivery that you cannot control.
Now that you’re online, you’re likely electronically collecting a bunch of data about your customers, including their address and credit card details.
Terms And Conditions With Your Suppliers
While going online can mean you need less of some things, like a physical shop front and staff, it also may mean you need more suppliers in other areas, such as delivery drivers or software subscriptions.
If you’re redeploying shop front staff as delivery drivers, their Employment or Contractor Agreements should be updated to reflect the different expectations of them, and new requirements such as a valid drivers’ licence.
It’s important to take the time to set up these relationships in a way that ensures you are legally protected. In short, for each relationship you have, there should be a contract.
Make sure you think about all the new relationships you are creating as you move your business online, and talk to a lawyer before jumping in to new relationships.
Industry Specific Regulations
If yesterday you were making beer and today you’re making hand sanitiser, well – firstly – that’s awesome and good on you! But, secondly, you need to be careful when you’re moving into an entirely new industry.
There are regulations specific to each industry, particularly the medical industry. It’s important that you’re aware of these regulations, operate within them and, perhaps most importantly, ensure your T&Cs are consistent with them.
The Silver Lining
It may seem like a big headache now, but moving your business online could present interesting opportunities for your business to grow its customer base as you expand your geographical reach.
You never know, you may find things work more efficiently when you’re operating online, and once things go back to normal you may end up maintaining (or even preferring) your online operations!
Online businesses have the following benefits:
- Expansion – You can access a far greater audience than brick and mortar businesses.
- Convenience – For your customers as they don’t need to travel to your premises (which is now more important than ever before).
- Costs – You can save on costs such as rent.
- Responsiveness – Customers no longer have to wait for your store to open to make an enquiry, as your website is in operation around the clock.
- Flexibility – It allows you and your staff to work from any location.
Adapting to a contemporary way of operating may serve your business not only during the COVID-19 period, but on the other side.
At Sprintlaw, we operate fully online, and we’ve helped many clients with the shift to operating online, so we understand what hurdles you may face along the way.
We’re also offering a number of discounted support packages for businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19. You can access free resources and read more about our services here.
If you’d like to discuss your needs further, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team on 1800 730 617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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