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Offline to Online Business: Model of Transition, Success and Challenges

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When did businesses start to use the internet? 

The Firsts of the E-World

“Today it’s not about ‘get the traffic — it’s about ‘get the targeted and relevant traffic.’” ~ Adam Audette

Earlier, we used to deal with papers and faxes to transfer information or for document exchange, but eventually, the traditional system of document exchange was substituted by the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) that made the process more convenient compared to the traditional means. This system was mainly procured by the traders and the associates to transfer orders, invoices, and other peripheral business transactions.

When talking about the earliest forms of online business, only one name pops to our mind, and that is – Michael Aldrich, the man who coined the term teleshopping.

The journey of his invention began when his wife started complaining about the tiring long journeys to the supermarket that was stressing her out. This was the moment when the billion-dollar idea crossed his mind, and he asked himself, “What if a linear bridge is created between television and supermarket?”

Then in 1979, he applied his idea into practice and connected his television to a computer that was designed for processing transactions. This was the primary step of e-commerce that laid the foundation for a full-blown e-business.

There was a time when the globe was unaware of the positive gamble of the WWW world. But, now the unaware are awakened and turned into internet zombies who cannot survive with mobile data or wifi signals.

Entering the endless sphere of the World Wide Web

“In the information age, man and spider both live in a web.” ~ Amit Kalantri

The internet came into being in the 20th century, and its usage was restricted within the bounds of researchers, university purposes, and government offices. Businesses were banned from using the internet, but in 1991 the National Science Foundation lifted the restrictions laid on the commercial use of the internet.

Utilizing the opportunity and taking a leap into the fresh bubble of e-commerce Amazon and eBay dived deep into the dot com world in 1994.

Several other participants followed the footsteps of the e-world moguls and reaped profits over the years.

The coming up of World Wide Web (WWW) not only changed the essence of life for many and opened a horizon of opportunities, but it also blurred the international boundaries in terms of communication, awareness, research, marketing, selling, monetary transactions, etc.

Offline Stores to Dot Com Stores

Not entirely, but most of the offline stores have started generating a digital footprint for themselves. The confectionery shop from where we bought our favorite fluffy pancakes is now available to us at our doorstep with the help of a few clicks, which means no more queues, search for sitting space, and wait at payment counters.

All this happened because our favorite confectionery shop joined hands with food delivery solutions such as UberEats and GrubHub to provide our lip-smacking delicacies hassle-free.

Till 2019 the transition from offline to online business was booming gradually, but in 2020, with the coming of the pandemic, economy crash, and lockdowns, the digital shift is witnessing a rise as many businesses are shifting online fearing unemployment.

Fact Junction

According to the survey conducted by PNC Financial Services Group, Inc, regarding the businesses adapting to ongoing pandemic crisis and economic catastrophe, it is found that over 79% of business owners have adapted themselves to the ongoing pandemic modifications, and 33% of employees are moving ahead with work-from-home policies.

Gus Faucher, PNC Chief economist, said, “Businesses have also increased their use of technology. So, for example, instead of doing person-to-person sales, they may be doing sales over the internet.”

Is it safe to start an online business? 

No job is safe in the world apart from the government; risk is everywhere. You had an offline store and were thriving in sales, but COVID19 struck, lockdown imposed, and your business went in vain.

On the other hand, you have an online business that’s good and has decent sales, but your payment is exposed to fraud.

Both the scenarios have their risk factors, it all depends upon how you structure your business correctly, what preventive measures you use, ensuring triple checks on your payment service providers/methods, etc.

Therefore, it is safe and less costly to start an online business.

For instance, I am a baker, and I am going to start an online business. I would require a safe domain, tie-up with a marketplace (only if needed or else an independent entity), have an interactive, navigational, and attractive website that gives relevant information along with the right keywords, a safer database to keep customers data, and most importantly a reliable payment partner.

It’s something less monetary but has the power to reap profits by just sitting at home. You just need to pay for the raw materials. No more store space/rent, additional bills, etc.

To know more, click – https://walletgenius.com/financial-advice/10-security-tips-for-online-businesses/

Reasons to why your offline business must have an online presence 

  • Digital is Future

As the world is becoming dependent on the internet and has made it a necessity in their daily lives, digital is the future. I need food, clothes, groceries, kitchenware, etc. Everything is available to me with one search on Google.

Therefore, it is very important to have an online presence. It builds credibility for your brand, shapes an image, builds a reliable and dedicated community, and would bring you sales and profit.

  • Sales will not face any restricted hours 

Going online means 24*7 duty. It seems tiring, but it also means profitable business. Imagine you have an offline clothing store in New York. Your business will be restricted from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m and would also hamper your sales. On the other hand, if you go online, the customer can make the purchase, and the next day you can pack the item for dispatch, the cycle doesn’t get hampered because the customer had the option to place the order at whichever time they wished to.

  • Effortless Awareness

When you have an online presence, the potential or interested customer can surf through your websites, know about your product/service, background, pricing, read reviews/feedback, and judge.

Having a website means a free spread of awareness because you don’t need to pay a hefty amount on mass communication to spread the word. Moreover, with the contact us section, the customer can also leverage the email or contact number for any further query.

  • Easy and Quick Customer Service

Being quick and responsive is the power of going digital, where you can connect instantly. Timeliness element is given more importance in online business.

For instance, I own an online store that sells shoes. The customer buys the shoe, but later she faces a size crisis and calls up the customer care team. The customer care person will assist her in proceeding with the steps regarding exchange or if the customer wants a refund.

Online is the only space where the dilemmas could be solved in a couple of mins or hours, as compared to the offline stores where you have to travel back and forth to get the right size or refund.

Moreover, you don’t need to stick to the paper bill, your mail shall receive the digital invoice, which means no more paper bills.

  • Work where YOU want

“Your business is where you are,” ~ Anonymous 

Own a decent internet connection and have the raw materials? Even your home could be your workstation. Yes, you heard me right.

If you are a baker and have all the needed raw materials and an oven at home, you are sorted and save extra spendings that you used to spend when you had an offline store.

If you own a bigger business and are a well-established brand, you can supply your product/service in India while enjoying your vacation in Las Vegas. Because you have an efficient set of staff who work through your lens. Physical absence is the beauty of e-business where you aren’t bound by any cubicle or chair.

E-business has blurred the principles of traditional business and preparedness. Thanks to Tim Berners Lee for such an innovation.

  • Effective tool to filter the relevant niche

In the offline world, your store is open to all. You can’t efficiently chalk down your niche/target audience.

But in an online business, you can list down the audience, do the demographic research, check the analytics, and place your business accordingly targeted at the relevant audience. Apart from the power of data and analytics, the right communication marketing on relevant communication channels would help in pulling a relevant audience base to your website.

With online business, the international borders are a blur, and only business is the visible view and aim. To take a real-life example: Tia Bhuva runs an online business where she sells sarees, silhouettes, blouses, and accessories. Though she lives and runs her business in Toronto, her business reaches across the US and Canada.

The boon of online business is that it helps you cater to the needs of people across the globe and help you create brand awareness in various regions.

  • Going Cashless

Another blessing in online business is online payments via various methods such as – debit/credit cards, cryptocurrencies, digital wallets, bitcoin, etc.

It means no more returning and receiving pennies and dollars because, in online payment, you pay the exact amount without any balance.

It is the need of the hour moreover, your savings shall remain safe in your bank account, so fear no monetary loss in a burglary.

Now, these were the reasons why you should have an online footprint. Let’s move ahead and get a glance at how to begin one.

How to take your offline business online successfully? 

Once you have the business idea, structured business plan, target audience, funding source, and are aware of legal requirements, the next step is to perform the practical. Let’s walk through the points of how to create an online empire from scratch, and the steps are as follows:

  • Opt for the best server and domain

I won’t say what cost the highest would deliver the best, but what possesses the best feature at a decent or higher cost might do wonders for your online survival. Choose a reliable server that comes with a decent price. Do check for reviews and service.

Now moving onto the domain, always remember to keep it easy, crisp, and similar to your brand name as it’s the horse of a long run. Just to make it unique, don’t make it complex for the audience. Therefore whenever choosing a domain name for the website, don’t complicate it by putting in – numbers or hyphens and think region-specific (in respect to the target audience – .in, .uk, etc) or if it is for the global market, then .com is the best.

Therefore, always think hard before creating and registering your business.

  • Invest in good cloud hosting

A decent cloud hosting ensures security, guarantees performance, builds efficient databases, offers an interactive user interface and support. Therefore, opt for the right one because you want your website to aim amongst the top-ranked and want to offer one of the best services that would ensure security to the customers and you.

A few of the best cloud hosting in 2021 are – https://hostingtribunal.com/best/cloud-hosting-providers/

  • Website Set-up

Once you have completed all the aforementioned steps, let’s move your offline store to online and gain more traction and sales. Mention all the needed options, make it responsive, interactive, simple yet attractive.

A few of the important things to never forget to include are:

  1. All the options showing your product/service category
  2. Search Bar
  3. SEO optimization
  4. Logo
  5. Contact Us
  6. Social media handles
  7. Compatible colors
  8. History of your company
  9. Quality images and videos
  10. Regulations and policies followed by your business (including payment, refund, exchange, and shipping)
  11. Navigational options
  12. Help Center
  13. Placing the right payment options and payment service provider
  14. Add valid and honest reviews and feedbacks
  15. Ensure that it is mobile optimized

These are the few points, rest you know your business better and what all sections you should include whatever you need.

Ways how online payments are changing business 

If we talk in general,

Fact Junction

The global digital payments market size was valued at USD 58.30 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4% from 2021 to 2028.

If we talk concerning the B2B payments, then the digital transactions were worth more than $4.1 trillion in 2019.

It is predicted that within five years, half of the world would be using digital wallets.

Moreover, contactless card expenditure is expected to touch $355 billion by 2022, scaling up from $136 billion in 2017.

As many around the world are going tech-savvy and rely heavily on online transactions, it is expected that the transaction reserve would surpass $9 trillion annually

  • According to Statista 2020, with a 12.8% projected CAGR from 2019 to 2023, the total value of digital transactions is expected to reach $6.7 trillion by 2023.
  • According to Juniper research 2019, the number of people using digital wallets is expected to increase from 2.3 billion this year to nearly 4 billion, or 50% of the world’s population, by 2024.
  • As per eMarketer 2019, the US mobile payment market increased 41%, scaling from $69.8 billion in 2018 to $98.8 billion in 2019.
  • As per Mobile Payments Today (2020), the US virtual transaction values are expected to rise at an even higher rate than the global market, reaching $1.5 trillion by 2024, compared with about $178 billion in 2020.

The booming telecommunications technology and payment advancements have completely changed the dynamics of payments in the business world. Believe me or not, it has significantly impacted the payment behavior of the consumer.

For instance, you are in a pastry shop and have been waiting at the counter to pay for a long time, but due to the rush, the person at the counter is busy with other customers. The first option that pops your mind is to move ahead and do a contactless card payment or pay via digital wallet because it is simple, fast, secure, and hassle-free.

With online payment, we have become impatient. The era of cheques and cash payment is still on but at a passive pace, and soon it shall go obsolete.

If I am to give you an option for one of the best payment processors I would suggest – PingPong.

It is one of the best payment solutions for merchants, freelancers, Amazon sellers, service providers, and daily shoppers.

It is one of the beneficial payment services available internationally and this isn’t my word but the testimonials of several businesses who adopted PingPong as their finance guard.

It would help you receive your money in various currencies such as – GBP, USD, EUR, HKD, CAD, AUD, JPY, MXN, AED, and SGD. Send your money across 170 nations, pay your VAT and taxes, receive a free Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate (FIRC) with every cross-border transaction, convert the foreign currency into the local currency at your convenience at the best market rate

All these services are available to you at a highly competitive market rate (trust me, it might open a worthy door to secret savings).

Challenges faced by the online payments

So far we have understood how online business and digital payments can pave an easy and profitable life, but even online payments are exposed to challenges.

As we are growing progressively in technology so are the hackers and fraudsters. Therefore, a few of the challenges faced by online payments are:

Fraud

When you use e-wallet payments via mobile, you use a PIN or password to open the app, but this kind of information could be easily stolen by fraudsters.

Therefore, the biometric system has been introduced to secure payment pathways. Some wallets use both biometric and PINs to ensure double security.

Such measures help in ensuring the wallet that is being used by the authenticated identity.

Along with the biometric and password system, you have another set of passwords and an OTP system before completing the payment by the user.

Card Security

Before proceeding with card payment, always make sure whether it is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) compliant or not. If the payment provider is PCI DSS compliant, then it would ensure a secure path for the transaction, and protect the data.

Therefore, if you’re performing a B2B business transaction make sure the merchant holds the PCI DSS certificate. It adds a blanket of security to the transaction.

These are a few of the challenges faced by digital payments.

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