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‘Being online has helped us survive’: how e-commerce can kickstart your small business in lockdown – and beyond

Guardian Technology 12 Jun 2020 03:56
With traditional retail channels closed to many small businesses, taking business online has been their only source of revenue. Photograph: visualspace/Getty Images

Starting a business and planning for its future once involved bricks and mortar, shelves, tills and customers walking through your door. Not so today. Even before the coronavirus lockdown limited people’s trips to retailers in the flesh, online shopping was flying high. According to the Global Ecommerce Market Ranking 2019, the UK has the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market in revenue terms, and the third highest percentage of online shoppers, at almost 80%. And it’s set to continue. Research by the analysts Retail Economics last year found that 53% of retail sales were expected to be online by 2028. In the wake of lockdown, it seems likely this trend will only accelerate.

Given the way that we shop is changing, it has never been more important for retailers to get online. In a survey for the website builder GoDaddy, a fifth of micro businesses said they had gone online for the first time during lockdown and nearly half that their use of digital and social media tools had increased.

“While our doors were closed, it was obviously the only way we could take any revenue at all, and we were able to focus our efforts entirely on our website and social media channels,” she says. “This importance will remain – the majority of retailers now accept that an omnichannel approach is vital. Our current situation has been an extremely stark reminder of its importance.”

When it comes to setting up an e-commerce site, there is an increasingly wide range of tools available to business owners from a range of sources. They include web hosting companies such as GoDaddy, which has created Open We Stand – a portal of resources for small businesses during lockdown. Fryer says that while he has some experience building websites, it was quicker and easier to turn to readymade tools with GoDaddy.

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