Customers Still Need You: Here’s How to Start Your Online Business Quickly

A lot of small business owners are feeling immense pressure right now. With everyone at home to help curb the current global pandemic, many retailers with brick and mortar locations are experiencing a steep decline in foot traffic (and some are even temporarily closing up shop). Florists, restaurants, breweries, hair salons—right now, all sorts of people are researching how to move their business online where possible.

But while getting into the ecommerce game may sound complicated or even a little bit intimidating, it’s actually never been easier or more profitable to sell your products online. Customers are actively looking for ways to support local businesses like yours during this period (and there are a whole lot of tools to help you reach ‘em). Some reports even say that ecommerce sales may double amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that we may be entering a transition to life online

So while it might feel like the only option is to close up shop for the unforeseeable future, there are things you can do today to keep your revenue up during lockdown. In this post, we’ll cover how you can adapt your business model for online shoppers (without necessarily having to open an entire online shop) and make your first sales with a quick online promotion via landing page.

We want to support you as much as we can during this uncertain time. Check out the COVID-19 Small Business Care Package for a roundup of useful resources—including tech discounts, government subsidies, and marketing tips to help lessen the impact on your business.

The Good News: You Might Not Need to Build a Whole Online Store

Online Store Example from Allbirds.

An example of an online store. Putting a hefty one of these together can be somewhat overwhelming.

When most people think about starting an online business, they think about creating an entire digital storefront. This means category pages, product pages, filters, search bars, branding, a professional photoshoot—the works. (It’s stressing me out just thinking about it.) But before you get in touch with your web dev buddy from college, take a moment to reflect on whether you really need all of this. 

If you have a lot of product lines or items to sell generally, a classic online store is a terrific option for you (I’d recommend a good ol’ Shopify store for this). But for some shops with fewer product lines or inventory (or if you’re just looking to test the waters with your first online promotion), you might be able to get an offer out to your customers much faster with an ecommerce landing page outfitted with a form for processing simpler orders.

Online Stores vs. Ecommerce Landing Pages

Ecommerce Landing Page Example from Trade Coffee

An ecommerce landing page example from Trade Coffee. Click to see the whole thing.

Unlike a full online store, an ecommerce landing page is just a single, standalone page that focuses on getting visitors to make a purchase. There are no distractions for visitors (like pesky menu bars or links to other pages) and everything on the page is there for one purpose and one purpose only—to help make the sale.

You can use a landing page to get a really focused offer out quickly to your customers. The easiest way to do this is to set up a simple order form on your page and then charge customers in-person on delivery or pick-up. They’re fast to create with a drag-and-drop builder and you can easily customize your landing page to look just like the rest of your brand and website.

Heads up: if you want customers to be able to complete a transaction directly on your landing page, you’re still going to need a Shopify store or a similar ecommerce platform. Check out this post in the Unbounce Community on how to add a Shopify button to your landing page. It’s doable—but it does require a bit of a workaround.

So how do you know if you need an online store or a landing page? Here are a few of the key differences…

Online Stores
Ecommerce Landing Pages
Allow visitors to browse between many different products
Typically focus on a single offer, or a small selection of products
Are essentially the website for your business
Are often standalone and separate from your website (though they can live on your website’s same URL)
Include category pages, search bars, product pages, navigation links, etc.
Eliminate all distractions and keep the focus on making a sale
Feature a “Cart” system and a “Checkout” process
Can feature an order form (to charge customers in-person) or be integrated with an online shop (like Shopify) to include a “Cart” and “Checkout”
Often require custom code and a content management system (CMS)
Quick to create yourself (without coding) using a drag-and-drop builder

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of an online shop and just want something simple so you can start getting orders faster—that’s when a landing page can make sense.

Here’s how you can get started this afternoon:

Step 1) Find the Right Offer for Your Online Business

To start, you’ll need to figure out which of your products or services make the most sense to offer online. This might be simple or complicated depending on the nature of your business. If you’re a clothing shop, for example, it’d be easy enough to set up a landing page for a popular sweatshirt you have in stock. But other business models might find it a bit trickier to adapt…

Let’s look at a few real-world examples of small businesses that are pivoting and offering different products or services right now:

  • Breweries – Got a best-selling brew? Many breweries are now offering beer delivery or pick-up services for their customers. You can easily set up an order form on a landing page similar to what Yellow Dog has done here and charge customers at the door. (BTW, I love their disclaimer: “It really is just like getting a pizza delivered but beer.”)
  • Hair Salons – Hair salons and hairdressers are using landing pages to sell specialty shampoos, conditioners, sprays, and gels customers can use at home. You could even set up a landing page to sell gift cards for future appointments similar to how Tony Shamas has done on their site.
  • Florists – Flower shops like Flower Factory are offering a “Launch Bouquet” to promote their new online ordering. There are lots of opportunities to create landing pages for other specialty bouquets and gift packages that you can deliver right to the doors of your customers. (Mother’s Day is just around the corner and paired with the right social ad, this could be a great first offer!)
  • Restaurants – Promote the fact that your restaurant is still open for takeout and delivery orders by setting up a landing page similar to what Meet on Main has done here. You can promote the landing page to customers using Instagram ads, and have it click-through to a menu order form or a delivery service website like Doordash or Uber Eats.

Consider what your customers would want to purchase from you online, and how you will deliver on any orders they place via your landing page form or cart. To get the best results, you may want to bundle a few of your best-selling products together or take advantage of upcoming holidays with promotions that you only need one page to pull off.

Doesn’t seem realistic for your business to offer anything right now? You may want to build a lead-generation landing page to collect customer email addresses instead. You can use the page to let folks know that you’re temporarily closed and ask them to enter their email address to get updates. This way, you’ll have a list of interested customers to reach out to when things get back to normal (or anytime you have a promotion or sale you want them to know about).

Step 2) Set Up Your Promotion on a Landing Page 

Next, let’s walk through the process of setting up a landing page. For this example, let’s say we’ve decided to create a sales landing page for a local flower shop. Rather than have customers come into the store we want them to be able to order a bouquet online.

With Unbounce, this is fairly straightforward. You can get started fast with one of our 100+ high-converting templates and customize the design using the drag-and-drop builder. No web developers, no graphic designers, no custom code—anyone can build a page using Unbounce. (Even someone like me, who a girlfriend once politely described as being “artistically challenged.”)

For our flower shop example, here’s a landing page I whipped up in about 20 minutes using the Produkto Template

An example of how to start online business using a template

An ecommerce landing page example I built quickly in Unbounce. Click to see the whole thing.

It’s simple, but it definitely gets the job done. And you can easily put together a landing page just like this for your business. Just make sure to include these important elements:

  • Your Branding – Showing customers familiar branding can help make your landing page feel more connected to the rest of your business. Try using the same logos, colors, and photos that you’re currently using on the rest of your website for this standalone page.
  • Real Photographs – A landing page without images seems a lil’ bit sketchy. Add photos from your business to show customers that you’re the real deal. Don’t have any photos? No worries—Unbounce gives you free access to 1,000,000+ stunning, professional-quality images on Unsplash directly inside the landing page builder. (Which means you won’t have to search for hours all over the internet for a non-cheesy stock photo.)
  • Customer Reviews – Clear, authentic social proof is always a landing page best practice. Online shoppers want to know that they can trust you, and that other people have had a good experience with your brand. Written or video testimonials on your landing page are a great way to close more sales.
  • “Buy Now” Buttons – If you want people to be able to order directly from your landing page, you’ll need to set up a Shopify account and add a “Buy Now” button to your page. Otherwise, you’ll need to have your buttons click-through to an order form.
  • A Mobile Version – With more people than ever using smartphones, you’ve got to make sure your landing page looks good on both desktop and mobile. In Unbounce, you can do this in just a few clicks.
  • No Distractions – Online shoppers get easily distracted. (And the internet is a very distracting place.) Keep your landing page focused on a limited number of offers (or ideally—just one), and you’ll have a higher chance of success. Take out anything unnecessary–including links to other pages on your website, social media, or related products.

For more tips on how to design a high-converting landing page, check out our 11 landing page best practices.

Once you’ve finished building, you’ll want to connect your landing page to your domain (so it matches your URL address). This can sound intimidating if you’re like me and don’t know the difference between a CNAME and a DNS—but really, the whole process usually takes less than 15 minutes. (Plus, our team has created some easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to help make it easy for you.)

After that, all you have to do is hit “Publish” in Unbounce to bring your landing page offer online.

Step 3) Share Your Landing Page with Customers

The final step is to share your landing page with customers. There are a few ways you can do this…

  • Social Media Posts – A lot of small businesses are finding social media platforms useful for communicating with customers during COVID-19. You can announce to customers that you’re still open for business and post a link to your landing page on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Instagram.
  • Link from Your Website – Set up a link to your landing page on your website homepage using a custom graphic, text on the page, or an Unbounce popup or sticky bar that gets visitors’ attention.
  • Emails – If you already have a list of customer email addresses, you can send out a link to your landing page.
  • Online Ads – To attract more people to your landing page, you can set up PPC ads (on Google) or social ads (on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin) that target your ideal audience.

The more you share your landing page, the higher chance of success you’ll have. Try experimenting with all of the methods above to see what works best for your business.

We’re Here to Help You Get Started

I know that this is a tough time for a lot of business owners, and you might still be wrapping your head around everything that’s going on right now. That’s completely normal. This is far from a “business as usual” moment, and you’ll need to decide what makes the most sense for your unique situation.

If you’d like to get started with building your first landing page, the Unbounce team is here to help. We can answer any questions you have about setting up your offer, and—if you’re in mission-critical services at this time, specifically healthcare, education, nonprofit, or governmentwe’d like to give you our essential plan for free.

In the meantime, you can find some inspiration and see what other brands are creating by checking out 27 jaw-dropping landing page examples in The Ultimate Ecommerce Landing Page Lookbook.

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About Luke Bailey
Luke writes words and stuff for Unbounce. While he likes to use a little alliteration in his work, he's also aware that readers aren't always in awe of his atrocious adjective additives. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeBailey.
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