The year 2020 made one thing clearer than ever before: shunning the online world is not a viable strategy for any business, no matter how well-equipped it is to attract activity offline. When lockdown measures were rolled out, companies that relied on foot traffic quickly ground to a halt. They had two options: start operating online or shut down for the foreseeable future.
That said, our unprecedented experiences that year also reminded us of something that’s fundamentally dissatisfying about online business: lack of connection. It’s pleasant to do business in person because you can engage with people, examine wares closely, and simply get out of the house. The future, then, lies in unifying the offline and online worlds.
In this post, we’re going to look at how you can achieve this goal, concentrating primarily on business owners but also touching upon things conventional employees can do. Let’s begin.
Give customers options through hybrid methods
Hybrid business concerns exactly what we’re looking at here: combining the strengths of the online and offline worlds (and mitigating their weaknesses in the process). This business structure has been most visibly embraced by the retail world, where online sellers have taken to offering their products for local pickup (through click-and-collect systems) and even local purchase through pop-up stores empowered by cloud-synched software (see shopify.com/pos for more on how this works).
Every business that deals with customers should be making similar efforts to improve their levels of convenience through hybrid options. Consider the opposite approach to running a pop-up shop—namely, ordering in person and having something shipped. Envision large-scale B2B deliveries and the confusion that can result from an ill-planned order. Isn’t there value in allowing a courier to fast-track delivery of a required accessory?
Use virtual and in-person meetings appropriately
Even in the Zoom era where teams are being kept together through video calls (among other things: see hubledigital.com/blog/ideas-keep-team-connected-during-covid-19-lockdown), there’s still a lot of value in real-world meetings, and this applies both to external and internal activities. Take meeting a prospective client as an example of the former. Some people won’t much care about meeting you in person provided that you get the work done to a high standard, but others (particularly seasoned professionals) will want to spend time with you so they can get to know you and accurately assess your character.
The smart way to proceed is to leave both options on the table and decide which makes the most sense for a given scenario. An example of a relevant internal meeting is an annual company review, and while it should usually be an in-person event, that might not be best for everyone. In the end, it’s absolutely essential that you be as flexible as you can.
Track offline actions as closely as you can
Lastly, we must look at something that all modern professionals should be doing with their workloads: tracking their tasks. Tracking is essential for attributing results, allocating resources, and assigning responsibility. It also drives efficiency. If you don’t know what’s going on within your business, you can’t easily improve it.
This is easy for digital work, of course (all up-to-date systems log things automatically), but it can be much trickier with offline actions. How do you reconcile them? It takes effort, but most offline work needs to be manually logged: when there’s an in-person client meeting, keep a comprehensive record of when it began, what you discussed, and how it wrapped up. Some offline events can be automatically tracked through some smart configuration: calls can be routed through custom numbers (learn more about call analytics at callhippo.com/feature/intelligent-call-analytics) and mailed coupons pushed towards custom URLs.
Wrapping up, it’s difficult to frame a distinct offline world now that we all walk around with powerful smartphones in our pockets, but there’s a lot of work to do if we’re to unify online and offline business. The tips we’ve looked at here should provide the framework, but after that you’ll need to decide to adapt the way you work now. Good luck.
Gust Author Bio: Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
CMOE guest authors are carefully selected industry experts, researchers, writers, and editors with extensive experience and a deep passion for leadership development, human capital performance, and other specialty areas. Each guest author is uniquely selected for the topic or skills areas they are focused on. All posts are peer-reviewed by CMOE.