Covid-19 has changed many things for businesses in the UAE – and the rest of the world. One of the biggest changes is the surge in online purchases. Consumers’ shopping habits have evolved fast, and some businesses are struggling to keep up.

The Switch to Online

As you adapt to the new climate, you might be considering the switch from offline business to online business. In this guide, we’ll look at some of the key steps you’ll need to take. As you work through each step, you’ll find links to other articles here on the tasjeel.ae blog – and elsewhere on the internet. These articles cover individual topics in more depth.

Adapting To a Changing World

The advice here isn’t just for retailers looking to enter e-commerce. Taking your business online is also a smart step for professionals affected by social distancing and changes in technology.

As face-to-face meetings start to feel like relics from the past, video conferencing is fast becoming the new norm. Consultants, coaches and advisers need to adapt in order to survive.

How to Move Your Business Online

1. Polish Your Digital Skills

Taking your business online for the first time can be intimidating. You may not have much knowledge of how the digital universe works. Before you jump in at the deep end, it pays to polish your digital skills. You don’t need to become an expert, but you should have a basic understanding of subjects like:

Domain Names

A domain name is a website’s address. Your visitors will type it into their browser’s address bar each time they visit your website. You’ll also need to advertise your website address in emails, on business cards or flyers, in print ads and more.

All of that makes it important to choose the best domain name. Ideally, you should opt for something short, clear and memorable. Our guide to picking a domain name will help.

For more resources and tips, why not explore the domain name category on our blog?

Web Hosting

Before you can begin to build a house, you need a plot of land for it to sit on. The same applies to websites, so you’ll need to take out a web hosting plan sooner rather than later.

Web hosting plans come in many flavours. Some are affordable and designed for simple websites. Others cost more, but come with powerful resources to support large, complex sites.

We recently published a beginner’s guide to web hosting which covers all the basics. We’ve also devoted a whole category of our blog to web hosting.

Web Development

Nowadays, it’s not always necessary to hire a professional web developer. The alternative is to build your own website.

We’ve recently outlined the different ways of making your own website. One simple and affordable method is to use an online website builder. This article on building a website covers the practical steps involved.

Design and Styling Choices

Having a great domain name and a high-performing website is a good start. It’s also important for your business to look the part online as well as offline. Think of your website as being your digital storefront. Would you want customers to see your physical premises looking tired or dirty? If not, then be sure to treat your website with the same level of care.

Most good website builders and content management systems come with pre-built templates. These make it easier to make smart design choices. Adding images to a website will instantly boost its appeal – but be sure to select high-quality pictures. You don’t need to splash out on expensive stock photos. Websites such as Pixabay offer whole libraries of royalty-free images.

Content Writing

The words you use on your website will have a big impact on the way customers view your business. Professional, well-worded content is vital if you want to build a sense of trust.

The HubSpot blog is a leading online resource on marketing, sales, customer service and websites. Their marketing category includes a range of useful guides on content creation.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) confuses many people – but the basics are surprisingly simple. It’s all about maximising your website’s chances of appearing on Google in response to relevant searches.

We’ve explained the basics in our guide How to Start SEO. Want to take a deeper dive? This HubSpot SEO guide covers the topic in much greater depth. We’ll also look at a couple of free SEO tools later in this article.

Digital Marketing Techniques

When it comes to taking your business online, the next step is to start attracting visitors to your website. That’s where a good knowledge of digital marketing techniques comes in handy.

As well as SEO, some of the most popular forms of digital marketing include marketing emails, pay-per-click search ads and video ads (usually on Facebook or YouTube).

Again, we’ve committed a whole category on our blog to digital marketing.

Putting Your Business Online: Legal Aspects

Knowledge of the law doesn’t really count as a digital skill. But it’s vitally important to ensure that you can trade legally. Before putting your business online, you should understand how taxes, consumer protection laws, data protection laws and more can affect you.

The law covers Many areas of e-commerce and digital business. Restrictions can vary according to where you’re based, which products/services you offer and who you sell to. If you’re unsure of your legal responsibilities, it’s safest to consult an expert in this field.

2. Take Out Plans

Having built up your knowledge, you’re ready to make the leap from offline business to online business. The next step is to take out the plans you need.

You can either follow a one-by-one approach, or purchase a single plan that covers everything. Let’s look at how each option will work out:

Key Services – One by One

The exact services or digital products you’ll need when taking your business online may vary. That said, there are 5 basics you shouldn’t move forward without:

A Domain Name

Website Hosting

A Content Management System or Website Builder

An SSL Certificate

A Custom Email Address

We’ve covered the first 3 already. SSL certificates and custom email addresses may seem unfamiliar.

An SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) certificate will encrypt data as it’s sent to or from your website. This is a must-have feature if you require visitors to sign in, share their personal details or make payments.

A custom email address will give your business a professional online presence. You could create an email address based on your domain name (such as [email protected]). This will instantly strengthen your branding.

3. Spy on Your Competitors’ Online Business!

Unsure how to style your website – or what to say in your content? Looking at what your competitors do is a great way to get inspired.

It makes sense to focus on successful businesses (since their strategies are more likely to work). One way to find your most successful competitors is to check which sites rank well in the Google search results.

Type in a keyword (search term) for a product/service you offer, then explore the top-ranked sites. Take a look at the kind of images, videos, text and captions they use. Then look at how they layout their site as a whole. (Obviously, you’ll want to create something original and unique for your own website, but it’s helpful to understand what works before you dive in.)

4. Start Marketing Yourself

So, you’ve learned from your competitors and built a world-class website backed by a winning content strategy. Now you can sit back, relax and wait for the flood of visitors to arrive. Right?

Unfortunately, nothing in life is ever quite that simple. You’ll need to market your website if it’s to be a big success. Here’s how to do that…

Social Media Marketing

A strong social media presence is a must for any online business. Many customers will arrive on your website from your social media accounts. It pays to ensure that they get the best first impression.

Managing multiple social media accounts can become a time trap. It’s usually best to focus on two or three platforms. This will allow you to post regularly and keep your followers engaged. (Hint: If you’re unsure which are the best social media networks for businesses in your niche, take a look at which ones your competitors use.)

Social media is a great tool, but it can’t replace a website. The two work best alongside one another. Last summer, we published a guide looking at the issue of websites vs social media.

Free Tools For Going Online

Knowledge is power, and there are some great free tools you can use to get clued up.

Google Analytics is for webmasters. It will allow you to understand how many visitors your website attracts – and where they come from. You can also track what they do on your website.

You can use this information to improve your site page by page. Let’s say visitors only spend a short time on certain pages. That might suggest that the content needs upgrading to be more engaging.

Another tool we recommend is Google Search Console. This offers a view of your website’s SEO performance. You can use the console to check that Google is indexing your site correctly. If not, then making changes could increase your website traffic.

Moving Business Offline to Online

Promoting your new online business doesn’t have to be difficult. You can begin by getting the message out there to your existing customers. This can be one of the simplest ways to move sales from offline to online.

Make your online business identity a part of your offline marketing activities. Add your website address and social media handles to your business cards, flyers and letterheads. If you also run a bricks-and-mortar store, use in-store posters to advertise your new digital presence. Even adding your website address to your printed receipts could boost awareness.

At the same time, start building closer ties with your customers. Ask them to sign up for email updates about offers, sales and new products. Involve them at every stage of your marketing campaigns to build greater awareness.

Putting It All into Action

Now you know how to take your offline business online, the only thing left to do is do it! Oh, and don’t forget to stay tuned to the tasjeel.ae blog for a regular dose of inspiration.