There are plenty of government initiatives to help Singapore businesses go online. But there’s a limit to what grants can do; in the end, many businesses don’t make the change because of complicated operational reasons. Here are the most common obstacles, and how to overcome them:
1. No understanding of digital marketing, which makes the website a pointless overhead
When used correctly, a website is an asset rather than an overhead. For example: Let’s say you run a company that provides accountancy services. You create a website, put up an “about” page describing your firm, and maybe your e-mail address. After paying a few hundred dollars for the site, and paying every month for the domain, the site generates…nothing. No sales, no leads, it’s just a pointless money sink. The website becomes an overhead. But let’s look at the alternative. Say you create a website for the same company. But rather than making it a static website (a few web pages that do nothing), you post frequent articles about changes in accountancy practices, or help guides that explain accountancy terms. You post infographics that show the GST registration process, and you highlight ingenious accounting solutions that you’ve seen other companies use. Now people have a reason to visit your site. It appears on search engines when they Google questions like “How to register for GST”. As your site’s information becomes their guide, it’s easy to turn them into leads, and then customers. Now the website goes from being an overhead, to generating revenue; it’s an asset instead. Companies need to grasp this key concept when going online: the website must be a sales-generating asset. Otherwise it’s just a pointless expense, and of course stakeholders will oppose it.
2. No time to create content for the company site
Digital marketing (see point 1) is easier said than done. There’s a huge investment of time in creating site content, and then putting it out on social media. Many companies balk at the idea of having to post every day, or the high cost of outsourcing the whole operation. But this sort of thinking is getting ahead of themselves. Almost none of those companies (barring Multi-National Corporations with deep pockets) spent a few million dollars at the start, to create all that marketing content at once. Many companies start off slow, some posting content as infrequently as once or twice a week. After six months, old content can be re-posted (if the topic is evergreen). After a year or two, being able to post every day is easy, as the company has several months’ worth of content “banked”. There’s an ongoing cycle where old content is reposted every six months, on days when new content isn’t available. The same goes for the type of content created. You don’t need to immediately invest in a video editor, graphics illustrator, professional writer, all at once. Start off with one element (e.g. a photographer for your Instagram account, as you sell apparel). As your content and business grows, you can gradually take on a writer, a video editor, and so forth.
3. The product or service is difficult to sell online
Some products or services are harder to sell online than others. Furniture is a classic example: it was once believed that nobody would buy beds or sofas online. Despite this, IKEA is one of the most successful companies in the world at web marketing. Notice most IKEA’s content doesn’t talk much about furniture – some of it is funny, some of it talks about their catalogue, and some of it is just to establish brand identity. These are all useful methods you can apply as well. For example:
• If you can’t directly sell your product online, then sell your brand online. Post funny things, or informative things, that make people’s lives a little bit better. Don’t be worry if your content doesn’t always highlight a product. If you’re sceptical of this, recall that POSB’s highly successful “Neighbours First, Bankers Second” campaign barely mentions interest rates or loans.
• Use funnelling. This is when you have a chain of attention grabbing content (a “funnel”) that lead into one another. For example, IKEA’s online content leads to the catalogue, which leads to the actual product details, which leads to a store visit. Again, this means the web content doesn’t have to directly highlight your product (just something that leads to it).
• Highlight the product uses in your content, rather than the product features. For example, if you sell insurance online, then don’t post long lists of policy features; rather, post about situations when the insurance would be useful (e.g. What to do if your travel company closes down).
The ultimate rule is to focus on making netizens like you. The sales you close are a side-effect of their liking you. Once you understand that, you can sell anything online.
4. Don’t know how to process orders online and handle the inventory
Selling online is very different. You may have customers from the other side of the world, or products that are on-demand (e.g. e-books might be downloaded digitally, or customers might want both the digital and a physical version). Contact us at Synagie.com, and we’ll have one of our expert consultants help you out. We create solutions for your inventory and distribution, as well as your needs when going online. You’ll never need to spend weeks looking for a warehouse again.
5. The customer demographic doesn’t go online
First, always make sure you’re correct in your assessment. Some sweeping statements, such as “old people don’t go online”, or “our customers are not educated enough to read our content” could be wrong – if you don’t have the numbers, don’t make the assumption. But let’s say you know your customer demographics well, and you are certain they don’t go online. Fair enough, but consider that people who influence their decision-making process do go online. For example, since the mid 2000’s, oil and gas companies have taken quickly to online activity. None of their customer demographics are likely to buy from them online (who goes around buying barrels of oil over the internet?), so you may be wondering why they do it. The answer is that the public has significant influence on their customers’ buying decisions. If the public is convinced that a particular oil and gas company is evil, they can exert pressure on local authorities to find other energy sources. The same general issue affects your business. For example, perhaps you sell products directed at customers aged 65 or above, who generally don’t buy online. Your content can’t reach them, but it may reach their children, grandchildren, caretakers, etc. Take into consideration not just your customers, but those who can influence your customers’ buying decisions. If those influencers are netizens, it’s worth reaching out to them too.