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In the webinar, Maximizing Your Online Presence for Revenue Growth, RBC host Tino Dossantos is joined by owner of Laila’s Cheesecakes, Laila Diodati, and Jon Rotchtin, Account Executive Financial Services at Google Canada. The panel discusses best practices, insights, experiences and recommendations for new, established and aspiring business owners looking to get online or to take their digital presence to the next level.
The path to purchase has changed
Recent research has identified the growing role digital channels play for business owners – both in terms of starting a business and growing revenue. According to a recent RBC study, 47% of current and aspiring business owners report that emerging technologies will allow them to reach new markets and explore new ways of business, while 50% said that being able to conduct their businesses remotely lowers the overhead costs associated with starting a business.
For buyers, the growth in digital adoption has created a shift in their path to purchase. “The shift towards e-commerce in Canada has proven to be durable,” says Rotchtin, who adds that it now represents roughly 14% of all retail sales in Canada. “That’s double where we were just a few years ago,” he says. But the role of digital channels extends beyond simply buying. “44% of Canadian consumers say they get inspiration for purchases when they’re online, while 56% say they go to Google when researching a purchase they will ultimately make in-store. From inspiration to research to buying, consumers are online through one or all phases of their purchasing journey.
Online presence can complement and amplify your physical presence
Gone are the days of having an online business or an offline business. Today, influenced largely by trends of the pandemic, online and offline channels must work hand-in-hand to deliver a cohesive customer experience. While a website gives buyers the opportunity to get to know you, your products and your services better, in-store shopping is ramping up again. “People want to get out there in the market,” says Dossantos. “They want to be out of their houses. The best brands understand that digital and physical retail don’t operate as silos – your customers want to be able to order online and return in-store, or look at a product in a showroom and buy it online.”
Diodati, who opened Laila’s Cheesecakes during the pandemic, shares that having an online and offline presence enabled her to launch and grow her business. “People would submit a form to place their order and then come to the store for curbside pickup,” she says of business during the pandemic. “Post-pandemic that changed, but I did find a huge portion of my clientele still wanted that curbside pickup as well as delivery service. People want easy access and an easy ability to purchase.”
Dossantos suggests setting objectives for your site. Examples of objectives could include attracting a certain number of customers; delighting customers with responsive service; or creating a relatable presence to connect with your target audience. Then, by determining the steps needed to accomplish your results, you can set your priorities and your strategy.
Rotchtin adds that once your site is set up and running, it takes a toolkit of activities to help potential customers find you online and to drive conversion. He suggests leveraging the free tool Google My Business to set up a profile . “It takes just a few minutes and is completely free. And once your profile is activated, potential customers have easy access to your location and can even call you in one click from a Google search page.”
Rotchin explains that businesses that lean into Google My Business listings can help increase exposure:
A business with a Google My Business listing sees five times as many views as other businesses.
Profiles that are updated frequently get 42% more direction requests than those businesses that don’t.
96% of customers are more likely to visit a store that shows store hours and 90% of customers are more likely to visit a business with a listed phone number.
“Those extra details show that you’re prepared and giving customers all the information they need to make their decisions. Ultimately, it leads to more traffic to your store,” says Rotchtin.
Setting up your e-commerce store
If part of your strategy involves establishing an e-commerce section to your site, the panel offers a number of pieces of advice:
Work with a service provider. Leveraging their expertise will allow you to quickly and efficiently launch your e-commerce site
Decide on an e-commerce platform. If you don’t have a website today, consider an all-inclusive platform that provides an integrated e-commerce engine and enables a secure way to process payments
Offer your top 20% of products and focus your efforts on showcasing them with high-quality photos and descriptions
Consider a digital inventory management system, ideally one that easily integrates your online and offline sales
Include an easy way to accept payments and think about what currencies you’ll do business in online
Partner with a shipping company that can help you develop shipping guarantees and easy returns
The role of social media in generating revenue
A hub and spoke model is often used to describe the role a business’ website can play in relation to social media channels. While your website is your “hub” – where your main information and sales engine will reside – you can amplify your content and engage with customers and prospects using “spokes” such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Since the launch of her business, Diodati has leaned heavily on social media to build and promote her brand. “My business wouldn’t be where it is today without social media,” she says. “I essentially grew it on Instagram.” When asked by other business owners about the need to be on social media (can’t I just have a website?), she explains that businesses need to be on social media “unless you plan on knocking on everyone’s door to advertise your product or send out flyers. You have to be in everyone’s face, and everyone is spending time online,” she says.
She adds that your social media presence plays a significant role in your brand identity and your ability to connect with customers. “People are going to buy a cheesecake from me because they’ve gotten to know me through Instagram.” Diodati reveals that during the pandemic in particular, she would post daily, take polls and regularly interact with the community through the platform.
Given the importance of social media, she suggests hiring an expert who can help you post frequently and who has the unique writing expertise needed to connect authentically with your audience. She also recommends choosing one or two channels and doing them really well. Focusing on fewer channels enables you to stay on top of trends and stay fully engaged.
Final thought on Social Media… Linking your website and social media presence can also help you drive traffic. For instance, when you post on Instagram, add your website as a link. When you send out emails, include a link to your site and your social channels.
Measure and optimize your digital presence
Being able to understand what is working and what isn’t is critical in any business, and the same goes for your online presence. “Make sure you have the measurement tools in place to learn what is working and what isn’t – and be able to pivot quickly,” says Rotchtin. One of the great benefits of having a website is that data can be accessed at any time, so you can instantly understand what is driving the business actions you want to drive.
Rotchtin offers a few tools to help with measurement:
A Google Analytics account can provide extraordinary insights about the prospects and customers that are visiting, where they’re coming from and the behaviours they are engaging in while on your site.
Google Trends aggregates search behaviour from across Canada to understand what people are searching for, which can help you understand how to tailor your website or business to meet emerging needs.
Spend time with customers. “Not all data needs to come from online,” he says. “I’m sure you’ll be able to gather plenty of insights from conversations with your existing customers to better understand who they are, where they’re coming from and what their needs are.
Getting your business online is more important than ever; but, for some businesses it can be hard to set aside the resources to take that first step. The new Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) offers two grants to help owners leverage technology to get online, reach more customers, operate more efficiently and propel their businesses forward.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.