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As a business owner, if you are taking your business online, there will be some challenges you will encounter.  How you conquer them will depend on your preparedness and the stage of digital transformation your company/team is in. With the pandemic, there has been a shift in how consumers behave online. Not just shop via eCommerce stores, but consumers prefer to search for brands and stores online before interacting with them. So, your challenge with not be to just build an online presence or store, but to monitor and manage your entire digital footprint including social media, forums, website, and more. On that note, let us take a look at some of the big challenges for businesses when going online, and how to solve for them (especially on a low budget).

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5 biggest challenge for most businesses when going online

When taking the business online, there can be different challenges one can face. While adherence to compliance can be the struggle for one (e.g., doing trademark registration online), finding funds to scale business can be the struggle for another (e.g., taking a business loan for OPC).

Let us take a look at some of the biggest challenges for businesses when going digital/online.

1. Maintaining the personal connect with customers

Imagine your interaction with a customer in an offline brick and mortar store. For instance, you are a steel supplier/wholesaler in Mumbai. You have existing buyers who prefer to visit your store, asses the quality of steel, negotiate the price of steel metal in Mumbai, and place an order based on need and availability. A lot of the buying experience will be dependant on the human connection, i.e., how you interact with the customer and the confidence you build in them.

Problem:

Now, when you move the experience online, here are some of the challenges you will encounter:

  • Building a high performing website with all relevant information for users to access
  • Real-time customer support (e.g., via LiveChat, phone, email, WhatsApp) to answer queries and enquiries
  • Integration with inventory management tools for real-time inventory records, payment gateways to ensure ease of payments, CRM tools for billing and communications and more
  • Lack of personal connect as the entire experience will be done online, and at best occasionally with a customer support agent

Solution:

So, to solve for this, what is one of the key things you should consider? You should focus on building a platform that is easy-to-use and comes with all the information your customers would need. Examples would include, FAQs, articles, demo videos, brochures, guides, right prompts and CTAs etc.

  • You should also consider sending email and WhatsApp communications to keep your brand on top of customer’s mind.
  • Also, consider collecting quick feedback on the online purchasing experience to further improve the process.
  • Offer loyalty points and discounts to encourage customers to visit the online store and buy steel online

The biggest challenge of moving online from offline is to mirror a similar (if not better) customer experience. The customer at no point should feel that the online experience does not match the offline.

For instance, at Tata nexarc we have built a procurement platform that makes it easy for you to buy quality steel at affordable prices. We have partnered with reliable steel suppliers and can help you get competitive quotes with easy credit option for your business. It’s easy-to-use, reliable and secure, and the simplest way to buy all types of steel (e.g., TMT bars, angles, channels, stainless steel, galvanised steel etc.) across Indian cities in one place.

2. Data collection and security

As an offline store (e.g., a retail store), your customers can visit your store, walk through the aisle, try on garments they like and pay (cash or card or UPI). In some cases, to build loyalty you may be seeking their basic contact details and offering loyalty points to encourage future shopping and discounts. This data is usually fed into a CRM (cloud-based or on-premise) and stored and can be accessed by authorisation only.

In most cases, convincing customers to share contact details for loyalty points is not challenging (win-win for both) and the data collected is secure. The scene changes when one moves online.

Problem:

When a business, e.g., the retail business in question, moves online, the first challenge is to create awareness about the online store and the conscious movement of customers from offline to online purchasing. This means:

  • Building a product catalogue with visual and pricing details
  • Integrating relevant technology (e.g., AI power AR/VR and computer vision)
  • Facilitating payments and data capture securely
  • Identifying multiple touchpoints to collect data on usage and contact information
  • Ensuring security of data and zero data breach (especially payment related data)

Different forms of online scams (once data breach occurs) are not uncommon, e.g., phishing. As such, even though your customers may feel safe and confident in your brand when doing business offline, the same is not sacrosanct when online.

Solution:

As a business owner, when you are taking your business online, ensure to spend more time, resources and effort towards building a secure and safe platform.

  • Ensure you follow the right protocols and accreditations to ensure website security
  • Install relevant plug-ins and firewalls to prevent non-trustworthy users from accessing website
  • Design a robust communications network and alert system for any network security alerts
  • Build an IT infrastructure that can capture, store and categorise user data (and behaviour) securely and in real-time
  • Get data and insights from analytics on website on usage patterns and spends to understand patterns and design an online strategy based on it

3. Battling and staying ahead of competition

The next challenge of taking business online is a common one – staying competitive and doing better than them. Think of your offline strategy and competition when planning and defining a strategy for your business online.

For instance, as a logistics company, if you used pamphlets and standees at events and conferences to promote your business, what alternative unique marketing strategies and ideas can you think of when looking to advertise a new business online?

Problem:

  • Creating value in the user’s online journey
  • Building an easy booking experience
  • Facilitating payments through multiple options
  • Winning the online race competitively

Solution:

As a logistics company, your primary challenge is to retain customers. Convincing customers to book shipments online (instead of the F2F, email or phone booking system) while delivering the same customer experience is going to be difficult. Try some of the below tips to solve for challenges when taking your business online:

  • Sign up with a logistics platform or marketplace (like Logistics on Tata nexarc) to leverage the infrastructure, technology and process advantages
  • Build a website that’s robust and provides users with the required information, ease of usage, data security, and seamless booking experience
  • Use software for logistics for simplicity, transparency and real-time updates at all stages (e.g., using tools to provide customers with tracking status update, or sending the shipping bill online or e-AWB)
  • Check competitor sites and offer better deals (e.g., first booking discount, loyalty points etc.)
  • Collect testimonials and feedback from customers on their experience in shipping with you
  • Work on improving delivery timelines, lower costs, and more value-added services
With Logistics on Tata nexarc we have been able to end most of these regular logistics and transportation challenges. We have a robust platform that allows you to book a shipment in 4 simple steps. Prices are competitive, you get free transit insurance, and can avail door-to-door delivery across 19,000 pincodes. Try now.

4. Preparing and training the team for change

What’s the biggest challenge for most businesses when going online? If you were to ask that question to any new business owner, people management or preparing your team for change would most likely top the list.

No matter the size of your company, you employees have been used to a certain way of doing things. They have processes in places, channels and mediums of interaction with internal and external customers, and a system of getting things done – most of it offline.

Now, when you go online, there will be a new beginning and change – both of which is often met with resistance, fear and lack of surety.

Problem:

  • Resistance and fear within team members (including fear of unemployment)
  • Inability to learn digital tools and deliver as before (there will be cases of initial under performance and inefficiencies)
  • Increased scope of errors
  • Investment in training, learning and development, software licenses and infrastructure development
  • Training assessment, measurement and monitoring performance

Solution:

Human resource development is a crucial task in all organisations, especially MSMEs that often work with unskilled or partially skilled workforce. The government has introduced several MSME training programmes in Bangalore and other Indian cities, to encourage learning and knowledge sharing.

As a business owner trying to take business online, when defining a strategy for your business, it is recommended to make continuous learning a part of your business strategy.

Moreover, taking business online should be planned and executed in phases. Timely business communication with team (i.e., internal communication) is critical here. To prepare the team for change, some of the steps you can take include:

  • Communicate to team members on why change is required, what are the digital changes you will be making, how it will be executed and the support that will be provided to the team
  • Identify the processes/departments that will be impacted by digitisation and digital transformation and start training team members driving change 6-8 weeks before implementation
  • Collect feedback from them, understand their pain points and modify the training programme accordingly (e.g., use audio, visual and textual content; practice and evaluation sessions; vernacular medium of instruction etc.)
  • Reassure them that digital transformation is for growth and not for cutting down resources
  • Educate on the multiple aspects of digitisation – use of software, website analytics, digital marketing, social media, SEO and more

5. Building a website

If you want to reach more people locally on social media or on mobile, having an online presence is essential. And there is no better way to build a digital presence than building your own website. There are many small businesses that start from their homes or require minimum investments (i.e., business ideas under ₹10 lakh investment) and refrain from starting a website. This however is not a very smart move as it prevents the business from reaching out to a bigger audience base.

Building a website is among the first steps you should consider when constructing an online business strategy. It will create an online presence for your brand, help you to showcase your products and services, build credibility, and also promote and advertise through social media, display ads etc.

Here’s how you can get help with website development or build one on your own to ease the problems of taking business online:

  • Use a basic website builder platform to build your website (e.g., Wix, Weebly, WordPress, Shopify). Paid subscription packages are available for customisation and advanced features.
  • Engage team members (or hire an agency) to write content, take photographs, create videos (there are many online tools available to help with this).
  • Ensure business branding is prioritised and there is focused attention given to how your company’s vision and mission, value statements, etc. are presented.
  • List your products/services, add information, pricing details, specs, lead generation form, contact details, and other vital information
  • Add payment gateway details and integrations. Note: This is essential if you are an eCommerce site. However, if your business requires direct interaction with customers (check examples of B2B for reference), you may alternatively consider payments via UPI or net banking or DD on direct contact.
  • Take feedback from team on how to improve website. This ca be w.r.t. design, colours, text, images etc. Also, compare competitor website and learn the industry best-practices for web design and development.

If you are hiring an agency for the job, most of the effort will be provided by the agency. This will leave you with time to spend with team mates on training and learning. Once your website is live, you can add its link on social media sites, Google search for local seo, and more. Your essential marketing collaterals should also contain your website details. In short, your website will eventually be the first touchpoint for your customers to know about your brand. Invest time, effort and funds intelligently on it.

Taking business online: Facing obstacles and the way ahead

Taking business digital is no longer an option – for any business. You customers are out there, and a digital presence is the simplest way to create awareness and interaction. From social media likes and comments, to Livechats on website, to buying products online, it’s the digital era we are living it. And whether you are in rural or urban India, there will be challenges that businesses will face when going online. The secret is to recognise the need, adopt and adapt gradually.

On that note,  we leave you with some inspirational business growth quotes to get you motivated and started on your business’s digital transformation journey!

Sohini Banerjee

Sohini is a seasoned content writer with 12 years’ experience in developing marketing and business content across multiple formats. At Tata nexarc, she leverages her skills in crafting curated content on the Indian MSME sector, steel procurement, and logistics. In her personal time, she enjoys reading fiction and being up-to-date on trends in digital marketing and the Indian business ecosystem.