COVID-19 showed the importance of having an online store. When physical retail was closed, businesses had to embrace the online world to survive. In fact, global e-commerce sales rose to $26.7 (€23.7) trillion in 2019, a 4% rise on the year before.
At the end of last year, the Central Statistics Office 2021 found that people are spending more time online, suggesting there’s huge potential for Irish businesses to capitalise.
So, for those who haven’t yet taken the leap into selling on the world wide web, this guide will talk you through the benefits of having an online offering. We’ll also show you how easily you can make the switch.
Moving your business online
In 2021, The Central Statistics Office reported that the pandemic triggered 80% of internet users to now purchase goods online. It determined that Irish consumerism is becoming increasingly virtual thanks to COVID-19. In fact, according to PWC UK insights, this shift to online marketplaces is here to stay.
The Central Statistics Office also found that younger demographics, aged 16 to 44, are the most likely to purchase online and women are more engaged in online shopping than men
The switch to working from home during the pandemic triggered a surge in internet use. It’s estimated that eight out of ten internet users engaged in video calls and used platforms like Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
Importantly, although most Irish businesses now have an online store, only 40% of them conduct sales – the rest just facilitate social media links.
Furthermore, just 10% of Irish businesses set up a website for online sales and only 18% implemented a click and collect service.
These relatively low percentages suggest an opportunity for your small business to adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape. Maybe it’s time you incorporate new online solutions into the day-to-day running of your company.
The benefits of selling online
Business has undoubtedly been transformed by eCommerce. According to KPMG, 68% of Irish consumers participate in higher levels of online shopping compared to before the pandemic. Furthermore, it’s shown that 99% of Irish consumers value a good website. This highlights the importance of user-friendly digital channels and an engaging brand site.
The shop never closes
Having an online store means your customers can browse and shop for your products at a time that suits them. Allowing access in the evenings or weekends increases the likelihood of them purchasing from your website – especially for consumers that would be unable to visit a physical store during typical retail hours.
Easier tracking of the consumer purchase funnel
Online sales can make it easier to track your consumer purchase behaviour. For example, you can track whether the customer searched for your company organically or if they followed a link from your social media platforms.
Understanding your consumer journey can help you allocate business resources to improve consumer touchpoints. An improved customer experience can lead to even higher customer satisfaction, retention and advocacy.
Increased customer portfolio
Only selling to your customers from a retail store limits the number of customers you can reach with your products and services – you are limited to those living in your local geographic location. Having a website allows you to share your products with a larger demographic, as well as reach potential customers from all over the globe.
With Square Online, you can make it easier for customers to find your website organically and seamlessly integrate your social media channels. Both of which will help to increase traffic and potential sales.
Increase exposure for your small business
There is huge potential for small businesses that take the plunge into selling online. Although the consumer drive to support independent businesses started as a mark of solidarity in COVID-19, consumers are still opting to ‘shop local’.
By having an online offering, customers can easily find you when searching for the products or services they want. If you have an engaging website with a smooth checkout experience, you make it simple and convenient for them to support your small business over large online chains. Selling online also helps get your brand name out there for others to hear about.
Sell through social media
Consumers are increasingly purchasing goods through shoppable links on social media. Having an online store means that you can leverage your social media posts and direct customers to the featured product on your website.
Over half (54%) of social media users use social platforms to research products. Businesses across the globe have responded to this shift in purchasing behaviour, with 73% of US businesses selling on social media.
Square can help your small business respond to the surge in social media shopping. For example, Square Online can help you to integrate social media to extend your online brand. With the swiftly changing digital landscape, it’s important your small business stays innovative.
How to start an online store
Starting an online store couldn’t be easier with Square. Our easy-to-follow website builder is accessible and user-friendly.
- Sign up and visit your Online Square Dashboard.
- Click ‘Get Started’.
- Follow the instructions on screen.
You can either set up a single ordering page or multi-page eCommerce site – whichever suits your business needs. You’ll be prompted to enter your business type and preferred order method based on your individual company.
The Square pricing strategy is also very straightforward and creating your website is completely free.
Next, you’ll need to have a domain for your website, as this is what helps customers locate your business online. There are different ways to make sure that the domain you choose is associated with your website. Square can help you sort your business domain and email solutions through our partnership with Google Workspace.
Don’t worry, if you already have an existing website, you can still use Square resources to create a new page and link this to your original website.
Tips to sell well online
Have multiple payment options – having more than one payment option could increase customer satisfaction, as they can pay using a method that suits them. Consider using payment providers such as PayPal.
Offer a wide product portfolio – it’s important to have a diverse range of products to appeal to a variety of customers, as well as to keep existing customers engaged. Having a variety of products increases the likelihood of repeat purchases. However, it’s essential to ensure that you’re not taking on more than you can handle – focus on providing a small high-quality range first, before adding new products into the mix.
Have an efficient ordering system– consider Square Online to streamline your ordering system - for both customer orders and in-house supply orders. If you own a hospitality business, you could implement a QR ordering system for dine-in menus as well as non-contact ordering for takeaways.
Build a community on social media – to remain competitive with digital selling, a strong social media following is vital. Engage with your potential customers by interacting with them on social media. This helps to build a rapport with your audience and could lead to brand loyalty.
Create an engaging website – the online marketplace is getting increasingly crowded, so it’s more important than ever to have a visually appealing and exciting website to stand out from the crowd.
Making the leap to becoming an online business may be a little daunting, but the benefits for your businesses can be ground-breaking. With the future of business looking increasingly digital, now is the time to embrace the shift to online selling.
Square can help your small business at every step of the sales funnel. Get your company up to speed with Square Online eCommerce selling platform, as well as our seamless payment and ordering systems.