Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Today, people expect more than ever from you and your business.
As we’ve all gotten used to using online services for more in our lives, for everything from grocery delivery or therapy to yoga classes or getting a cab, our expectations have risen dramatically.
Not long ago, you knew you had to pick up the phone and make a call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Now, that feels like a ridiculous hassle to many of us. The idea of calling a cab is bizarre. And taking a yoga class in your living room from a star instructor who lives across the country makes perfect sense.
As the expectations in your market rise, being able to meet those expectations as a business becomes mission critical and exceeding them becomes a real competitive advantage. After all, if you don’t deliver the experience that your buyers are looking for, someone else will.
Unfortunately, all of these examples require you to build and manage some kind of web application that delivers these online, self-service experiences. And building web apps like these has always required expensive engineers and product designers. Of course, it also takes forever and costs a fortune.
In this article, I’ll provide ways you can overcome these challenges and create your own interactive web experience.
Use a no code web building platform
Software for building websites such as Squarespace and WordPress have always been extremely valuable for small businesses looking to create a basic, static website.
However, these web building platforms require custom coding for more advanced web applications such as the ability for a customer to log in or sign up for classes.
In recent years, a new no code movement has led to the creation of software that’s meant to enable people to set up this type of functionality without code. New no code web building software like Ontraport makes it possible for even non-technical people to build interactive online experiences — without getting engineers involved, or writing any code at all.
Related: Low-Code and No-Code Design Is the Future of Website Building
Imagine the ideal experience for your website visitors
Before you set out to transition your static website into an interactive web experience, think about the ways your business operates and the ways your customers currently interact with you.
Start by writing out the experience a customer has from the moment they hear about you, to when they become a customer and beyond. Which aspects of that experience could be handled on your site instead of manually by you and your team?
Secondly, research the sites of your competitors and others in your industry — and think big: Larger enterprises are often already offering these interactive experiences that you might want to emulate. If you’re a travel agent, you can make your own version of Airbnb. A realtor? Make your own version of Redfin. A fitness instructor? Make your own version of MindBody.
The opportunities are endless, and it starts with opening your mind to imagine the ultimate experience.
Related: 4 Simple, Proven Ways to Improve Your Customers’ Ecommerce …
Use one software platform to manage your business
Creating an interactive online experience requires syncing up your website to your CRM, payment system and other functionality so that the experience runs flawlessly.
If you use disparate software for these functions, it will be difficult to really bring your vision to life in a way that serves your customers.
For example, say you want to create a customer portal where customers can view their account information. If you don’t have customer data in your website tool, you won’t be able to show things like their purchase history or account balance.
Or say you want customers to be able to select a fitness instructor and class, and sign up and pay for it online. You’ll not only need to connect your payment system, but you’ll also need a way to keep tabs on whether the class fills up so that you don’t oversell it. This kind of intricate detail is only possible when all of your operational systems are innately connected.
Get started during this unique window of opportunity
The world has just experienced the biggest move to the web that we’ve seen since the dawn of the internet. Worldwide streaming subscriptions exceeded one billion during the pandemic. Mental health telehealth visits spiked by 6,500 percent in one year. The pandemic accelerated online grocery adoption as well. About 60 percent of U.S. consumers now buy groceries online, according to Coresight Research, which expects the same percentage of shoppers to continue to buy groceries online at the same or higher frequency once the Covid-19 crisis subsides.
That’s a big change. Before the pandemic hit, a lot of people thought it was fancy or weird to order groceries online. People have learned to leverage online tools to get things done online. They are doing things on the internet that they would have never thought of doing before.
Tune your business and your online presence to address this pivotal change in behavior, and you’ll be best positioned for this moment and the future.
Related: 10 Things Customers Want on a Website – Website Attributes …