Get it right on online and digital and businesses stand a better chance of staying the course. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The COVID-19 outbreak puts technology and digital capabilities to the fore, with businesses witnessing a surge in online activity and shoppers taking to e-commerce to cater to needs. With in-store footfall being replaced with online shopping, many businesses operating in the traditional way need to re-think about how best to adapt their business model.

Leverage SEO

To boost online business visibility, search engine optimization (SEO) will make all the difference by refining the website to get higher search engine rankings as well as organic visitors to the site... without paying for placement. This can be done by creating compelling and search-worthy content, optimising images with Image ALT Text attribution so they can be found through Google search and ensuring the sitemap and website navigation interface is top-notch.

Keep tweaking social media

By establishing a strong social media presence, the business can build credibility, raise brand awareness, and, most importantly, engage with current and potential customers. It is pivotal to build relationships with the target community by showcasing brand personality. Consistent brand visuals and messaging is key to ensuring coherent story.

Establishing expertise by sharing that knowledge to build credibility as an industry thought leader is a powerful way to make an impression. Last but not least, these platforms are an excellent way to bump up sales where you can create more natural buying opportunities for customers with online transactions, contact-free services, and quick customer support.

A buzzing website

Host a blog with industry trends and share snippets from it on social channels with links back to the website. Drive more visitors to the site by hosting guest posts from industry influencers — and ask them to share the link to the post on your website with their social followers.

Run promotions and offer online-only sales redeemable through coupons, which can be marketed through the blog and social media profiles, as well as sponsored posts specifically designed to put the business’s information front-and-center.

Set up a newsletter to create a mailing list database and reach out to potential customers and use branded email campaigns to offer sales, promotions, and interactive content to keep them coming back.

A secure payment gateway

Managing small business payment, shipping, fulfilment, and returns can make or break a business as delivery demands call for faster shipping time. Additionally, expectations are high on how a product arrives and what kind of “unboxing” experience it carries.

To ensure a customer has the most accessible course of payment, offer a variety of options, including online bank transfers, payment cards or wallets. At this stage, it is essential to consider the right banking partner to help with e-commerce activity management.

As for selecting the right shipping partner, look out for service and speed as key differentiators. It is crucial to evaluate the weight of the products and estimate the shipping volume to ensure a good price form the shipping carrier and to identify how much to charge customers for delivery.

Don’t forget the customer experience doesn’t end once the transaction is complete. As such, ensure effective communication and customer satisfaction are maintained, such as offering easy returns and affirming safe and sanitized delivery.

To navigate this new environment, businesses need to take stock, review and stress-test existing business models. Businesses that possess such an agility will survive this unprecedented crisis. It is important to focus on building a secure user interface for today’s time-starved consumers, especially when this is the only user experience with your business during this time.

- Devid Jegerson is Head of Customer Experience at National Bank of Fujairah.