There are very few industries that haven’t been affected by lockdowns or restrictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). A perhaps unexpected consequence of these new restrictions is that businesses now need to make a choice as to how they are going to deal with the situation in the months to come. Some businesses will accept defeat and fold, shutting up shop and laying off all of their staff. Other businesses will find a way to rise to the occasion and will change and adapt their offerings to suit this strange new world we all find ourselves in.
Of course, adapting to an isolated world will be easier in some industries than others. A bookstore, for example, may find it relatively easy to transition to online book sales after they are forced to close their physical premises. A hair salon, for example, doesn’t have the same options. However, people still need hairdressing services, and resourceful business people will find ways of continuing to run their business during this time of crisis. Using the hair salon as an example, they could offer videos and virtual classes on cutting your own hair while at home. They could switch to online product sales, sending out hair dye and hair cutting scissors, then scheduling a one-on-one video chat on how to use their products at home. In certain areas, hairdressers could offer one-on-one private consultations under sterile settings.
The point is that this is an unprecedented opportunity for business owners to show their resourcefulness and their willingness to adapt to a changing environment. If you’re ready to rise to the challenge and are looking for ways to adapt or even grow your business during this time, read on for our crash course in moving your business online.
In the first section, we cover ways of working remotely with your team. With most people now forced to work from home, now is the perfect time to make use of the abundance of online tools that can make everything from sharing documents to videoconferencing and project management easy. In the second section, we’ll look at different ways of connecting with your customers and clients while everyone is isolated.
Working Remotely With Your Team
Project And Task Management
The first step when working remotely with a team is to set up and rely upon a project management solution. This is the easiest way of laying out all tasks involved in a particular project and letting everyone know what their role is. After an initial setup and familiarisation process, you will find that both you and your team members will come to heavily rely on your project management solution to guide their day and provide next steps in every project.
In addition to your project management software, you’ll need to provide your team with a chat solution to allow for the free flow of communication and ideas. Microsoft Teams is free and plays beautifully with other Office 365 tools. Another alternative, used by some of the biggest businesses in the world, is Slack.
Conference Calls And Videoconferencing
For business phone calls and audio conferencing, Nextiva is very well regarded. If videoconferencing is an important feature of your internal communications, consider using Zoom or RingCentral. Skype is a free alternative but is best used for one-on-one videoconferencing or small groups.
Document Sharing And File Storage
If your team members will need to regularly share large files, you’ll find that email will soon become cumbersome and even unreliable. Document sharing and file storage solutions like G Suite and Dropbox can make filesharing a much less frustrating process.
Tracking Employee Time
If you’re worried that your employees’ productivity will decrease when they are working from home, let technology come to the rescue once again and consider using time-tracking tools like HubStaff and Time Doctor so you can keep an eye on what your employees are working on and ensure that they stay productive even while based at home.
Reaching Out To Customers And Clients
Building A Website
If you don’t already have a website, or if your website is too basic to provide the added functionality you now need, WordPress should be your first choice. Powering more than one-third of all Internet sites, WordPress is incredibly powerful and offers a suite of free WordPress plug-ins and tools to bring almost any kind of functionality to your site. A range of premium WordPress themes are available to give your site all the class and professionalism your off-line business was renowned for.
While WordPress will be the website builder of choice for the majority of businesses, if you are solely looking to set up an e-commerce site you might like to consider Shopify. For more information, read our comparison of the two platforms: Shopify vs WordPress: setting up an e-commerce site as well as our comprehensive guide to integrating Shopify with WordPress.
Accepting Online Orders
If you are starting to accept online orders for the first time, it may be tempting to try to process orders over the phone. However, as your orders start to increase you may find yourself overrun with phone calls, tying you up when your expertise could be best used elsewhere. Additionally, keep in mind that people are used to being able to shop online at any time of the day or night without having to make a phone call.
To integrate online orders with your website, consider using a WordPress form builder plug-in like WP Forms to easily create an order form for your website. For a more elegant solution, consider setting up an e-commerce platform on your WordPress site, such as WooCommerce. When paired with the right free WooCommerce extensions, you’ll have created an online shopping experience to rival your competitors.
Offering Virtual Classes
Thanks to today’s technology, offering virtual classes is as simple as setting up and familiarizing yourself with a variety of different software solutions. If you’re using WordPress, the MemberPress plugin will allow you to easily create a Members Only area in which you can collect payments, share content, and invite members to real-time virtual classes using some of the videoconferencing software mentioned above, like Zoom, RingCentral, or Skype.
LearnDash is a software solution that is geared towards online courses and e-learning and allows you to set tests, quizzes, and issue grades. Google Classroom can take a little getting used to but is an excellent way of moving from a real live learning environment to a virtual classroom.
These are indeed unprecedented times. This can cause a lot of uncertainty for people and businesses alike as there seems to be no-one to turn to who can provide actual advice or guidance as to how the coronavirus pandemic will evolve, and where this will all end. What we do know, however, is that the best thing we can do is live our lives as normally as possible. As a business owner, you can make a very real difference in the eyes of your customers and clients by providing a sense of normalcy and continuity. As an added benefit, by finding ways of changing and adapting your business offerings during this time, you can maintain a source of income and give yourself a sense of purpose until life can truly return to normal.
If you have any questions about setting up a WordPress site or choosing the right WordPress theme to suit your business or anything else at all, the team at FuelThemes is ready to chat. Feel free to contact us today.