COVID-19 Edition IV Solocast

Procrastination, or more accurately the results of it, have turned out to be a primary driving force and touchstone for web development in this pandemic moment. Small business owners have been putting off the necessary and important work of getting their businesses online for years. And now all of a sudden, online is the only place to be. Online revenue streams are at the root of what I talk about in my Web Reliability book. Ensuring that customers can easily and quickly find their way to your products and services online is the key to success. Too many business owners have procrastinated about this important work, and are scrambling to make up for it now. Their business has been fine over teh past few years, but along the way they've allowed too much friction to build up in the processes that connect them with their customers. So now in this moment, when frictionless engagement is crucial for keeping the business going, they find they have an urgent problem to deal with.

With business owner procrastination as the main theme in this solocast, I talk about which parts of a business's digital systems have tended to suffer the most from neglect. At Solspace we are seeing a pattern of certain key areas of web development activity, now that the pandemic has turned up the heat on businesses and forced them to get serious about their online presence.

Content Stewardship The number one issue new clients are bringing to us falls into a category I've begun to refer to as Content Stewardship. In the podcast I talk about content wrangling and content guardianship; stewardship is really the best catch-all phrase to cover all of this related activity. When a business opens and puts products on the shelves, the products are dusted, cleaned, organized, and presented in their best light. On a website the products are content. The care and feeding of this content is content stewardship.

As an example, our first task for a local boutique housewares shop has been the work of tidying up their e-commerce skus, ensuring they are clean and consistent and ready to be presented on the website. Each sku needs to be associated with an image or two of the item so the customer can see they are selecting the right thing. The product description has to be complete, clear and solid. The specs have to be valid. This is where you win the customer's confidence, or not. All of these little details are so easily bumped to the bottom of a business owner's to-do list, as each issue on its own is very small. But now of course everything depends on getting them right. Cumulatively, all of those little details combine to create a significant obstacle to successful online sales.

POS Systems Another pattern we're noticing in this emerging business pipeline is the appearance of new clients who need help connecting all of the circuits in their point of sale and e-commerce systems. Again, in keeping with the theme of procrastination, small business owners have tended to rely on in-person in-store traffic to drive their businesses. This means their point of sale systems have been the primary repository of their skus. The POS system did not need to connect to an e-commerce system, that was something that the business owner knew was important for the future, but it didn't seem urgent. It had been put off, and put off again. But now the pressure is on in a big way to get all of those products sitting in the POS to be available for purchase on the website.ASAP. So our Solspace team is helping these new clients make the change, and get the POS contents up into their e-commerce stores.

Digital Presence We don't mean to judge. It's perfectly understandable that a business owner whose sales are humming along pretty well in a brick and mortar store would put off getting online. It's scary. It's expensive. It's threatening and overwhelming. Building up a serious web presence that truly reflects an individual and their business is no simple task. Of course all of those statements are only true if you don't have the right web development partner. We're receiving many inquiries from new clients who feel the compelling urgency of the moment, and have taken a deep breath and are ready to make the ljump to online business. They are very relieved to discover that it doesn't actually have to be either terribly expensive or horribly overwhelming.

Digital Marketing "If you build it they will come." Well, it's a nice thought, but it only works that way in the movies. A number of clients we have been talking to since the pandemic hit have indicated that they believe all they need to do is throw up a simple website or update their current one with a few buttons and a shopping cart and all will be well. We're finding we need to facilitate some new ways of lthinking about online sales for them, and bring them around to the realization that they need to take digital marketing just as seriously as the website. Along with the other things business owners tend to neglect when running a successful brick and mortar store is social media and other online marketing. It's just so easy to put it off if your business is going pretty well. You know it would help drive a little more business, but who has the extra time for keeping Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts constantly updated? We're seeing a fairly consistent procrastination pattern related to digital marketing and social media, but it's very easily solvable, yet another thing that a good digital partner can help with.

Location, Location, Location A brick and mortar business owner is always aware of the power of a good location, and understands why location matters. It's been quite a bit harder until now to get them to understand the power of a good digital location. Those prime storefronts right in the heart of the shopping district on Main Street may be very hard to get hold of, as occupants don't let go of them easily or often. But the great thing about the web is that prime real estate is not so much acquired as it is created. We're seeing an awakening among our new clients who now find their businesses in mortal peril due to the sudden absence of formerly reliable foot traffic. They get it now. They see both the great value and the potential of moving some of their operations online.

All in all, this is a moment that calls for a specific mindset, one of clarity, courage and urgency. It's understandable that we as humans naturally put off to tomorrow what does not feel urgent. But now that making businesses fully digital is urgent for survival, it's time for action. The good news is there are several key business activities that we can focus on to quickly pull our clients' business away from the brink, and set them up for successful online business and revenue flow.