Enhancing the online presence of your business - adapting to the COVID-19 crisis

April 02, 2020

In order to help flatten the curve in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, essential and non-essential businesses all need to continually develop strategies to avoid or reduce access to facilities by employees and/or customers. As the crisis changes and the guidance from Public Health changes, the strategies that are available to your business will also change. As a result, businesses are developing short and medium term approaches to eliminate or reduce access to their facilities to protect the health and wellness of their employees and customers. Many organizations have had to close their doors in the short term, while others adapted in order to maintain operations, allowing employees to continue to come into work to provide the services needed by customers. Some businesses have reduced their hours of operation and others have adjusted their workspaces to be compliant with social distancing practices and are providing employees access to gloves, masks, protective gear, disinfecting wipes, and gel.

All organizations must tackle these challenges, but the adaption tactics your business implements can be very different depending on the nature of your operations. One thing is clear – moving aspects of your business online is unavoidable. In order to do this and keep the lights on for your business, what are the key factors that you must consider?

Pivoting to e-commerce and accepting online payments

Establishing and/or enhancing your ability to service clients with less physical interaction is essential to managing your business through the coronavirus pandemic. However, in order to offer your customers online products and services, you need to establish some basic foundational elements.

To assess your ability to pivot to an e-commerce model and efficiently accept online payments, your first step is to cross-reference the elements that your business currently has with the following checklist:

  • a website with a comprehensive inventory of products/services for sale
  • capability to display Images/descriptions of the products/services for sale
  • capability to allow the consumer to select or communicate the items they want to purchase and add to a shopping cart
  • payment processing capability
  • capability to capture billing/shipping information
  • capability to generate an order confirmation and fulfillment process
  • appropriate logistics including the ability to deliver, ship, or offer a pick-up service of the order while adhering to social distancing guidelines
  • capability to handle or accept returns

Processing payments: service providers and platforms you should know about

While most businesses have email and social media, which can provide the basic foundation for online business communications and transactions, there are a number of service providers and platforms that can help you quickly implement your e-commerce strategy. Below is a list of some of these providers and their benefits.

  • Shopify
    • Offers a variety of simple features including payment gateway, is inexpensive (basic platform) and offers security and hosting.
  • WIX
    • Free, simple to navigate, includes payment gateway with upgraded subscription, and provides security and hosting.
  • Squarespace
    • Free, simple to navigate, includes payment gateway with upgraded e-commerce subscription, offers additional features such as calendar bookings, and provides security and hosting.
  • PayPal
    • Offers the options of connecting to your current website to accept payment via PayPal or allowing customers to email payment directly, is quick and easy to set up, and is secure and PCI compliant.
  • Stripe
    • Ideal if you have a website and want to be able to quickly offer a form of payment with a payment gateway, and it is secure and PCI compliant.
  • Square Payments
    • If you have this already, connecting to your website will require some development if you are not using Squarespace. It’s also secure and PCI compliant.
  • E-Transfers
    • Quick and easy, only requires a valid email address to accept e-transfer payment, and most financial institutions have this feature set up with your account
  • Mobile apps
    • Well-known players such as Uber Eats, Foodora, Instacart, Ritual, Amazon, DoorDash, Skipthedishes offer a quick and easy way to set up an online sale and delivery service.

Steps to execute your strategy

BDO recommends that small businesses establish an agile and flexible strategy. As the rules and regulations change daily across the country, you will need to be able to quickly change with them.

Keep these simple steps in mind:

  • Assess your current online platforms and available tools.
  • Determine how you can pivot your business to reduce or avoid customer or employees access to your facilities.
  • Develop some strategies to establish or deploy a contactless approach including considering adopting more e-commerce capabilities and utilizing any of the above service providers and options to successfully accept payments.
  • Investigate, implement, and continually optimize how the strategy is working.

How can BDO help?

In these challenging times where implementing new strategies quickly is critical, it pays to do your own research on the above tools and speak to peers about their experiences. An experienced BDO Digital Advisor can offer an efficient way to get your specific action items executed. We understand that adapting your business can be overwhelming and we are here to help you navigate these changes and come out the other side.

BDO has the expertise and resources to help you:

  • Develop a digital strategy or roadmap
  • Determine the feasibility, costs, and expected returns from investing in your digital platforms
  • Strategize on how to divert budget to support an online presence
  • Assess, evaluate, and launch your online strategy 

Eric Matusiak, Partner, National Retail Leader

Thucloan Lieu, Manager, Digital Strategy