Running an online business has many advantages over a traditional bricks and mortar company. A virtual shop front gives you the ability to attract customers from all around the world. You’re not restricted to people passing on the local High Street. Your overheads are typically smaller, and if your product is an online service, you don’t have to worry about manufacturing or shipping costs.

But there’s a downside too. If your business only exists as a set of pixels on your customers’ computer screens, how do you prove to them that you’re more substantial? Can you demonstrate your credibility, and can you persuade them that you’re not a here-today-gone-tomorrow company?

Create a real world presence

Perhaps your online business needs a real-world presence, to build confidence and trust among more sceptical customers. At 123-reg, we’ve decided to try a high-profile route, by advertising on some of London’s buses. But there are plenty of other ways to ground your online company in reality too:

  • Attend trade shows and events. Conferences, industry gatherings and public events are a great way to show the face of your business and meet potential customers. Maybe it’s wedding fayres or perhaps it’s motorshows, but attending the right events can dramatically increase your company profile among your target customers.
  • Open a pop-up shop. A growing trend over the last couple of years, a pop-up shop is where you temporarily take over a retail space, usually for just a few weeks. It gives you a physical presence without having to worry about a long lease. Business campaign group StartUp Britain is currently giving online retailers the chance to sell on the High Street in a pop-up shop.
  • Brand up your car. Driving around in garishly-branded cars is a trend popularised by estate agents. But there’s no denying it can be effective, particularly if you drive a lot for business or tend to use your car in areas where potential customers live. You just have to make sure you’re happy piloting a big, attention-grabbing advert for your company.
  • Offer a collection service to local customers. Many online businesses are run out of small industrial units, large enough to store stock but not suitable as a retail outlet. If you have premises, why not give customers the option to visit to collect their purchases? Simply offering this facility will reassure customers that your business is established and successful.

Finally, always ensure you include a bit of background information on your website. At the very least, it’s important to provide full contact details, including a postal address where people can reach you. Additionally, your website’s ‘about us’ section is the ideal place to provide more information about the people behind the company.

Have you done anything to make your online business more tangible in the real world? Leave a comment to let us know.

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