As customers look to digital solutions for everything from shopping to dining, many business owners are considering moving their operations online. The process looks different for every industry. While some businesses are changing their entire business model, others are simply embracing digital tools. For example:
- Brick-and-mortar stores are building e-commerce platforms to sell their goods.
- Restaurant owners are implementing online order and delivery systems.
- Service-based businesses are using online platforms to schedule customer appointments and consultations.
- Professional services firms are moving many of their services online.
Regardless of your business’s situation, having a better online presence can help you stay relevant and profitable amidst continued business restrictions. And having the right tools can make all the difference.
Whether you’re preparing to move your business online or just want to upgrade your business’s online features, here are five helpful tools to consider.
1. Mobile-friendly website
The best marketing foundation for any business is an attractive, easily navigable website. However, as people spend more time on their phones shopping and researching, it’s more important than ever to have a website that translates well to mobile.
According to HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing report, the number one tactic for improving your site’s performance and ranking is optimizing it for mobile. To do that, it’s helpful to look at your business’s mobile aesthetic and functionality from a customer or client perspective.
Start by assessing the website’s overall look. Does the layout convert to a mobile format? Is the landing page compelling and easy to read? If not, you may need to update your graphics, change the text and font, or adjust some code.
Next, explore your site’s navigation capabilities on a smaller screen. Can you easily find the information you’re looking for or search for products and blog posts? Can you click between pages quickly, fill out forms, and add items to a cart without hassle?
If your site’s mobile experience isn’t fast, convenient, or engaging, you may want to consider a website hosting platform that has built-in mobile-ready codes and templates.
Tools to consider:
- Squarespace offers e-commerce capabilities, custom coding, and mobile-friendly templates.
- Wix has a wide range of themes that are mobile-ready and fully customizable.
- Shopify is a great option for creating an online store that works on mobile.
Adding a chatbot feature to your business’s website can take your customer service and sales to the next level. Powered by AI and available 24/7, chatbots are pop-up chat boxes on your website where customers can ask basic questions like, “Why is my product not working?” or “How can I find more information?”
Chatbots are a great way to improve customer service, while simultaneously taking some of the pressure off your service reps. According to Intercom’s 2019 Chatbot Trends Report, chatbots made the average business’s customer service responses three times faster, and increased customer support satisfaction scores by 24%.
Not only can you program your chatbot to share resources, answer questions, recommend products and services, and resolve complaints, you can also use it to gather customer information, qualify leads, and drive sales. Intercom reported that chatbots increased individual business sales by an average of 67% from the previous year.
If you want to cut down on the number of customer service phone calls you receive, boost sales, or free up your team to focus on other tasks, consider chatbot software. Many chatbot platforms offer additional features like integrations and analytics.
Tools to consider:
- Tidio is an all-in-one customer chat software that has live chat capabilities and chatbots.
- Smartloop provides chatbot software designed to help boost your sales.
- Botsify helps you build chatbots for your website, Facebook page, or messenger app.
3. Online booking software
Online booking software is a helpful solution for any business that requires customers to make appointments. That can include:
- Health clinics
- Beauty salons
- Field service technicians
- Professional consultants
- Auto mechanics
- Hotels and tour companies
Online booking software gives customers and clients the ability to schedule, modify, and cancel appointments through an app or online portal, like your website. Instead of having to call your company during business hours, your customers can book their appointments or reservations whenever it’s convenient for them.
Plus, using an online scheduling platform can streamline backend work, too. Booking software can help prevent double-bookings and over-bookings, and save your team the time and hassle of managing a calendar manually.
If you want to give your customers more scheduling options and reduce your admin load, consider a booking software with extra benefits. Many booking platforms sync with calendars, process customer payments, and send customers automatic appointment reminders.
Tools to consider:
- Acuity Scheduling has customizable options and works with iOS, Android, and web.
- GigaBook comes with project management tools and works with iOS, Android, and web.
- Setmore offers integrations with other business software and works on a handful of platforms.
4. Automated email campaigns
Every business needs a fast, versatile way to stay in touch with current and potential customers—and email remains one of the best options. In fact, 64% of customers prefer to communicate with companies via email, according to Salesforce’s 2019 State of the Connected Customer report.
You can use emails to update subscribers on news and announcements, share sales or discounts, thank customers for their business, and generate leads. Not only is email marketing convenient, it’s effective. HubSpot reported that 78% of marketers saw an increase in email engagement in 2019. Plus, the ROI is impressive, with companies who use email earning an average of $42 for every $1 spent on their email campaigns.
Building a successful email campaign takes strategy and experimentation, but a good email hosting platform can help you stay consistent. Certain platforms help you design, schedule, and automate emails, but others also offer insights on your customers’ open and click-through rates, so you can figure out how to improve your messaging.
Tools to consider:
- Benchmark has free HTML email templates you can download.
- MailChimp has a free email marketing service, but also offers plans that start at $10/month.
- Zoho Campaigns has free and paid email marketing plans, with the option to optimize your newsletter for mobile.
5. Secure online payments
If you accept customer payments through your website, having a secure, convenient payment system is critical—not just for your reputation, but for your revenue.
If you don’t have a secure online payment system, your customers may be less inclined to make a purchase through your site. On the other hand, facilitating the payment process for customers may lead to higher conversion rates and repeat sales.
To ensure a smooth, speedy online checkout, work on expanding your payment options while minimizing the number of steps customers have to take to click “buy.” Your customers should be able to input their financial information easily, choose from a variety of payment options, and trust that their personal information is safe. Even making simple tweaks, like autofilling customer billing addresses or offering digital wallets like Apple Pay, can help.
There are countless payment gateways to choose from, but the best option for your business will be one that’s secure and versatile.
Tools to consider:
- Authorize.net is one of the most popular payment gateways for e-commerce sites.
- Stripe is a payment platform for retailers, subscription businesses, marketplaces, and software developers.
- Braintree integrates with PayPal, Venmo, digital wallets, and credit and debit cards.
Moving your business online isn’t just a smart solution right now—it’s also an investment in your business’s long-term growth. By adopting the right digital tools, you can stay ahead of the competition and better support your customers and clients.
Disclaimer: Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This content has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for financial, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, legal or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.
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