We’ve been wondering the last months: will COVID-19 be the end of the traditional bricks and mortar era of business? Not a new idea, of course, but a persistent one nonetheless.

In the short term, yes — due to the social distancing measures that have forced business closures. For the longer term, while it may not exactly be the end, the norm will change radically. Requirements for face masks, PPE, social distancing and occupancy limitations will affect how we interact within establishments — changing the way we socialise, do business, go about our shopping and simply live our lives. 

Ireland’s growing e-commerce

Businesses across Ireland and the globe have been forced to close their doors in an attempt to promote social distancing and curtail the spread of the COVID-19.

But closed doors don’t have to mean a closed business. Many brands have had to find new ways to conduct their trade, adapting products and delivery methods along the way. Transitioning from traditional bricks and mortar to online and digital has proved a popular and successful tactic.

This trend has accelerated the growth of the Irish e-commerce industry as more brands take their businesses online to satisfy customers and meet new market needs. Restaurants, personal trainers, musicians and retailers are just some examples of industries that have gone digital and are now offering click-and-collect, delivery or online service provision. 

On average, online retailers in Ireland are experiencing a 400% growth in online sales when compared to last year. The areas that consumers have increased their online spend are: clothing, food, electronics, gaming, household appliances, streaming services and home fitness.

These trends stretch beyond Ireland as the global demand for e-commerce services has grown so much that Amazon hired 100,000 new staff members to cope. They also recently announced that they will be hiring a further 75,000 people to keep up with the growing global demand. 

Get started in e-commerce

In a financial pinch but want to get online? The Local Enterprise Offices are helping businesses get online with the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. The expanded Trading Online Voucher Scheme is designed to assist small businesses to trade more online, boost sales and reach new markets.

If you are thinking about launching an e-commerce platform or online service for your business, here are the top things you will need to consider:

Product offering

Before you dive in and incorporate an e-commerce function to your website, first examine what product range you will be offering online. Sure you can go ahead and offer your full range of products or services, but more often than not, your customers will only be interested in a select number of products. 

We recommend that you initially launch with a limited offering to test the market, your logistics and your processes. This will give you a chance to iron out any logistical issues without the stress of managing a large inventory, too. For example, food producers could launch with a reduced menu; retailers could start with their most popular products; service providers could offer a select few classes. Then expand or change as feedback pours in from customers.

UX & UI

User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) — the two most important things to consider when designing a website. UI refers to how the user interacts with the site, and UX refers to how a user feels while using the site. Both will equally affect the user’s likelihood of returning and recommending the site. 

As web designers, our goal is to give users a positive experience when engaging with your site and brand. This is achieved by having easy-to-find and consumable information on a site that is easily navigable and visually appealing.  Make sure what goes into the site makes the potential customer’s life easier and not another hassle.

Mobile Optimisation

Has this happened to you? You open your phone, click on a page, and after what seems like forever to load the page, the images and text are so tiny, they’re barely readable. This indicates that the site is not mobile optimised.

User data shows that visitors are 5x more likely to leave a site that isn’t optimised for a mobile experience. Given that 59.8% of web traffic in Ireland is on mobile, it’s astonishing that 91% of small businesses websites are not mobile optimised. 

Optimising for mobile includes large buttons to make tapping easier, reduced image and content load for users who use data and not WiFi, and a responsive design that changes to fit the device used.

Mobile vs Desktop vs Table Market Share Ireland 2020 chart

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is ultimately about how people come to your site through a search engine. The most common metric is where your website ranks on search results. With consistent use of relevant keywords for your products, you have a greater chance of being found and attracting potential customers.

Important webpage elements to optimise are:

  • page titles,
  • headings,
  • meta descriptions,
  • alt tags,
  • internal and external links
  • and image descriptions.

These words should reflect the natural language your customers would use to type into a search engine to find your service or product. Fixing any broken links, page errors, or site security will also help improve the user experience and your site ranking. 

Marketing

It’s not enough to launch a site and expect people to come to it. You will need a promotion plan to make people aware of the site and your new service. Digital marketing campaigns through platforms like social media, email and Google Adwords can be quite successful— and don’t discount the effectiveness of traditional PR through print and radio. 

So whether or not we’re watching the end of an era, this crisis presents a new opportunity for businesses to think digitally about how to best serve their customers.

If you need any help on how to get your business online or advice on optimisation, we’ be delighted to assist you. Contact us on hello@dyjaho.ie for more information.