Local businesses go digital to survive pandemic | Business

Local businesses go digital to survive pandemic | Business

COVID-19 affected businesses in many different ways. One of the results is a massive increase in e-commerce, as the Mobile Commerce Statistics show.

About 82% of internet users in the United States have used a mobile device to shop online in 2019. Experts estimate that US mobile commerce sales will reach $420 billion by 2021.

“The mobile commerce stats are key to the increases we are seeing in retail sales,” said Gina Pence, Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “Local businesses need to make sure they are offering online shopping to keep thriving.”

In order to survive in the new normal of a transformed economy, business owners know they have to go digital.

While the goal is clear, the way through the digital transformation isn’t always straightforward. Yet help is available for those who ask.

“The Harker Heights Chamber offers many tools including a marketplace for small businesses to get started,” said Pence. “The first step is to put a business model together for online consumers.”

Pence suggested focusing on the most important topics concerning your business.

“What products and services do you want to offer to consumers?” she said. “Is there a demand? Can you create a demand? Look at your market share and make sure you can fulfill the orders.”

Pence mentioned that boutique clothing and accessories had done incredibly well online.

“They have created a demand,” she said. “Now, you need to find your perfect niche.”

While websites such as Etsy, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon offer a platform for online distributions for small business owners, a designated business website is the most direct way to reach customers.

“Creating your own online store or using free tools offered by your chamber allows more dollars to stay in your pocket,” Pence said. “It really depends on the cost, market and the consumer reach for each business.”

Rebekah Moon, vice president of investor services at the Killeen Chamber of Commerce, seconded the importance of a well-working business website.

“A good website needs to be clear and easy for the user to find the goods being sold,” she said.

Business owners can either create their website with the help of digital wizards such as SquareSpace and Shopify or hire a company such as Centex Technologies or MilMedia Group to get the job done.

“There are a number of sites that will help a business build their own website, to include an online store, though those do typically cost more to set up and maintain,” Moon said. “Meeting with a local company is a good way to have a face to face meeting and ensure that you will get everything out of your website that you desire.”

Before meeting a company to design your website, it is helpful to have a clear vision of the finished look.

“It’s always a good idea to find a few other sites that you really like so you can use those as an example when speaking to the design team,” Moon said.

Besides working on a catchy design, business owners need to research details such as safe payment options, possible fees, software and app services.

“It can be overwhelming,” Pence said. “The chamber is happy to assist with a list of partners that offer merchant services for local businesses. Start with your trusted business partners first before looking merchants up online.”

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