online retail sales


1st December, 2020

Need to pivot post-COVID? Here’s how to take a bigger business online

Building out an entirely new sales and fulfilment channel for a larger business can be extremely complicated, but there are some basic principles that can help get you started.

The economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused difficulties for many Australian businesses. But it’s also brought new opportunities and some businesses have dealt with the crisis by pivoting to models that are conducive to both short-term survival and long-term growth.

Pivoting doesn’t mean changing everything about your business. It is a response that is intended to help a business manage a tough period or survive something that makes the original business model unsustainable. These days, pivoting usually involves expanding your business online.

How to grow revenue online

Moving online, whether in a new market or as an extension of your current market, is an excellent way to pivot your business.

In fact, a new survey shows that in response to COVID-19’s disruption, one-third of surveyed companies accelerated the digitisation of their supply chain, half sped up the digitisation of their customer channels and two-thirds moved to adopt AI automation. All in a bid to have a greater online presence.

So, what do you need to do to expand your business online?

1. Look at your market

If you’re considering how to expand your business online, first take a look at your own market. What do you have to offer, and what is already out there in the marketplace? Will you need to change how you provide your product or service?

Some of the best pivoting has brought about online offers that are less obvious to the untrained eye. Qantas, for example, has started packaging and selling their popular business class pyjamas, amenity kits and snacks into care packages which can be delivered to friends and family during lockdown.

At the mid-market, many restaurant suppliers and wholesalers began courting a consumer market when restaurants closed down. Examples of this kind of shift include prominent MYOB customers like Crush Wine & Drinks, which pivoted to a B2C model when restaurants closed in Victoria, launching their B2C e-commerce website. Likewise, Kurrajong Kitchen’s lavosh business lost some of its wholesale catering revenue due to lockdown restrictions, so quickly pivoted online to offer their full range of flavours direct to consumers online as well.

Regardless, when pivoting you’ll need to think about any product changes that might be needed (for example, smaller minimum-order-quantity items) and whether you can continue to offer your current products or services under your new positioning or risk getting stuck in the future.

You don’t want to pivot your business simply to find yourself out of business.

2. Consider your marketing strategy

Once you’ve determined how you’re going to pivot, you’ll need to consider your marketing. No matter how good your new offerings are, it isn’t going to do your business any good if you can’t reach your new audience.

Consider where your new target audience is hanging out and reach out to them there. Make sure you’re utilising your company marketing channels, like Google My Business, and your social media accounts, as well as direct marketing such as your email list.

It’s also important not to ignore your current customer base. Offering them an exclusive preview, or special introductory offer, is a great way to get them on board with your new business model.

3. Adopt appropriate tech platforms and systems

Adopting e-commerce solutions can help your online business fit into current and future business models. Whether you choose cutting-edge technology or simple e-commerce plugins, the most important consideration is how it will integrate with your business software.

Your business solutions must accommodate your e-commerce needs and eliminate compatibility issues down the track.

Carl Brooks, MYOB Enterprise integrations expert, says, “When you find the right e-commerce solutions from the get-go, you’ll be set up for the long haul”.

“This means increased usability and consistency and leads to better growth opportunities.”

Key considerations for choosing an e-commerce platform from Carl Brooks:

  • User experience — a successful webstore should be easy to navigate, helping the buyer to find products while providing a seamless checkout experience. With shopping cart abandonment as high as 65%, you do not want to make the buyer think twice. Find an e-commerce platform that can help promote a positive user experience through templates or customisations that won’t break the bank
  • Mobile-friendly — in addition to general user experience, your webstore needs to be mobile device friendly. When it comes to the way customers are interacting with the e-commerce industry, one trend is crystal clear: Mobile shopping has become the new norm with smartphones now accounting for a whopping 65% of retail site visits
  • SEO-friendly — you need exposure, so make sure your e-commerce platform is SEO-friendly. A good platform will allow you to use your own domain name, add your own blog, collect customer reviews — all of which can help drive shoppers to your business organically.
  • Easy integration — an e-commerce platform with an expansive integration list can feel overwhelming, but having a plethora of options should be seen as a positive problem, especially if your business is looking to grow. Look into the ability to connect to marketing platforms, payment gateway providers, shipping providers and ERP vendors as examples to ensure your online store can connect, share and automate data.

“Integrations are important (connected solutions, not flat file transfers) especially for the sales and warehouse staff, who need to receive instructions in a timely manner regarding what product needs to be shipped to which customer,” said Brooks.

“GST needs to be properly reported, as well as understanding true margin on sales, sales demand to properly calculate replenishment, the front-end webstore needs to reflect correct warehouse quantities and customer data needs to be synced between the webstore and the customer’s card.”

Not all e-commerce platforms integrate well with other systems, so it’s important to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered before making a decision. This may mean doing due diligence by soliciting honest reviews from existing customers, or by taking out a trial of the software if one is available.

4. Consider your customer service capacity

When expanding your business online, don’t forget to consider how you will adapt your current business model to handle more, or different, customer enquiries. Particularly in times of crisis, customers’ interactions with you can have a long-term effect on their trust and loyalty with your brand.

It’s essential to focus on the fundamentals: care and communication. It’s equally important to reimagine the customer experience in our new reality.

The current crisis will end someday, but the changes to customer preferences will likely endure. For example, in China there has been a 55 percent increase in online grocery shopping, and customers are indicating that this change will continue into the future.

Understanding how these changes will play into your customers’ preferences is essential to providing excellent customer service.

Pivoting for better business performance

Not all lateral moves result in good business performance. But if you continue to align with your own business values and capabilities, work to come into line with the new trends and needs that arise from the pandemic era and offer a sustainable path to profitability, you’ll be in an excellent position to move forward and expand your business online.

No matter how you choose to pivot your business, the software at the core of your business makes all the difference. Cloud ERP like MYOB Advanced makes it easier for bigger businesses to expand online, with the features and integrations you need to get the job done.