At-home kits, online classes, and buzzy campaigns are affordable ways to improve your business’ online shopping experience this year

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Experts say the key to improving your business' online presence is to keep your information up to date and create a strong web presence.
  • The holidays are quickly approaching and many entrepreneurs are creating new ecommerce strategies and online shopping experiences as shutdowns and social distancing measures prevent in-person sales.
  • Meanwhile, consumers increased their weekly online shopping during the pandemic, according to a report from the Rand Corporation. Among people younger than 35, 48% were shopping online once a week before the pandemic; which jumped to 62% during the crisis.
  • Business Insider spoke with experts who gave tips on improving ecommerce strategies, including a sly way to raise money and create buzz at the same time. 
  • This article is part of a series called Resources for Resilience, focused on providing tips and inspiration for small businesses who are learning how to survive and thrive in today's economy.

The holidays are quickly approaching, and while that brings the hope of strong seasonal sales, entrepreneurs are also contending with the coronavirus pandemic. Many were forced to rethink their ecommerce strategies and online shopping experiences as shutdowns and social distancing measures prevented in-person sales.

Meanwhile, consumers increased their weekly online shopping during the pandemic, according to a report from the global policy think tank Rand Corporation. Forty-eight percent of people younger than 35 were shopping once a week before the pandemic, but that jumped to 62% during the crisis. 

Business Insider spoke with experts who shared their insights on keeping customers engaged, developing new revenue streams, and creating buzz on a budget. 

Keep your information up to date

Businesses should ensure their basic information about store hours and whether they're offering delivery or curbside pickup is updated for the holiday season, said Michelle Klein, the vice president of global customer marketing at Facebook.

"Keeping that fresh and relevant is really key to helping consumers understand how to connect with you," she added. 

Engage in conversation 

The pandemic has forced many business owners to rethink how they regularly communicate with customers, Klein said. Instead of in-person conversations and storefront announcements, entrepreneurs must use their websites and social media pages to promote sales, project their brand values, and share their founding story. 

Including those details are vital to building a personal connection with customers, Klein said. Business owners should also get creative on social media platforms to create a back-and-forth dialogue with consumers, she added. 

Reframe your services and products

The pandemic forced many entrepreneurs to rethink their business models or add new revenue streams to their strategies. For example, many brick-and-mortar shops pivoted to selling at-home kits and online classes to keep sales up. 

The Bird House cofounders and sisters Nicci Jordan Hubert and Brooke Jordan offered their hair salon customers Quarantine Color Kits, which provides the tools and materials needed for root touch-ups or all-over color jobs. Additionally, Serrano Wine cofounders Sarah and Brice Garrett transitioned to virtual wine tastings during the pandemic. 

Build a web following before launching a mobile app

With so many consumers shopping on their phones, companies may be tempted to create an app that engages with mobile customers. However, developing a mobile app isn't always cost-effective, said Anindya Ghose, a business professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. 

For starters, hiring someone to create a good app could cost up to six figures, Ghose said. It's better for entrepreneurs to focus their efforts and money on developing a strong consumer base through a mobile-optimized website and social media pages before spending the cash on an app, he said. Otherwise, the investment might not pay off. 

Use existing ecommerce platforms 

Entrepreneurs don't have to reinvent the wheel if they want to start an ecommerce arm of their business. Platforms like Shopify, Instagram, and Amazon make the process simple for first-time entrepreneurs. Additionally, those sites are more cost-effective for "mom and pop stores that don't have the ambitions of becoming a unicorn startup," Ghose said. 

For instance, Shopify's monthly plans start at $29 and include website hosting, resources, and marketing tools. What's more, the platform offers built-in drop shipping services so entrepreneurs don't have to establish their own system. 

Create a buzz

Once entrepreneurs have their platform and business model established, they should focus on spreading word of mouth, Ghose said. For example, business owners should find ways to leverage positive product reviews, and social media posts to create excitement over the company. Turning customers into advocates with ambassador or rewards programs can also save money on advertising, he added. 

Creating excitement through events and community attracts passionate customers, Ghose noted. He's previously advised companies to consider launching a crowdfunding campaign in the hopes of generating interest from shoppers. 

"It's not about raising a hundred thousand dollars for your new gadget," he said, "because you're going to create so much buzz that eventually customers will line up to buy your product."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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