2 Online Innovations That Can Help Small Businesses

The way businesses are being run nowadays, whatever the size of revenue or employees, is constantly changing. What worked yesterday, or works today, may not work tomorrow, be it a process, a tool or a platform. That is why small businesses must evolve with or even faster than the market. Here are two online business technology platforms that until a few years ago were unheard of, but are now being used by more and more small business owners to help expand and improve business processes.

1. Financing for working capital now available online.

The advent of the internet has made a lot of once unavailable resources accessible by a click of a button. Almost anything can be delivered through internet services these days. This is not just limited to products from Amazon or entertainment from Apple. It includes business loans offered through brokers like Fundera, or cash advances from merchant capital financiers that are paid back out of sales revenue.

The latter type of loans have become particularly popular amongst small businesses in recent years because they overcome the long waiting time involved with securing business loans from banks, and the fact that most small businesses find it difficult to get loans from banks unless they have a very solid balance sheet and have been in business for quite a long time.

Companies like Beyond Merchant Capital don’t focus on the balance sheet when deciding whether to provide cash advances — instead they look at a business’ credit card sales as an indication of the firm’s ability to pay back the advances.  The repayments are calculated as a percentage of future credit card sales, and if sales increase as a result of the injection of working capital, the advance is paid back in a shorter time.

This type of arrangement is called Pay-As-You-Trade, and takes account of the firm’s ability to pay by tying the repayments to trading income, rather than set monthly payments as is traditionally the arrangement with small business loans. That way, there is less likelihood that the business will go into the red if revenues are down, as well as offering the ability to repay the loan faster when revenues are up.

Applications for working capital advances can be made online, and the review and approval time is very speedy – usually only a few days. This enables businesses to take advantage of opportunities to expand that might disappear if they had to wait for approval of a loan from a bank or other financier.

For online businesses, PayPal has its own version of what Beyond Merchant Capital offers, and this program is called PayPal Working Capital. Similar to the Pay-As-You-Trade model, PayPal allocates a percentage of the firm’s PayPal sales revenue to the repayments, although there is a minimum requirement to pay 10 percent of the loan amount back every three months to keep the loan in good standing.

Some credit card companies like American Express also offer working capital advances to merchants accepting their cards, but these are only available to businesses that have a substantial proportion of their sales made through that particular card.

All of these types of loans can be applied for online. The loan reviews are undertaken online, the cash advances are made online, and the repayments are made online. Interest rates are higher than for bank loans, but the ready access to additional working capital for growing businesses makes these types of loans a more convenient source of cash.

2. Reaching out to customers is easier now than ever before.

The online world is immensely large, and the opportunities are limited only by the user’s creativity. However, even within this almost unlimited digital space, about half of all small businesses do not have an online presence.

A recent survey by Clutch, which is a firm that does research for business-to-business platforms, shows that there are threemain reasons why small business owners do not have their own website: either a lack of technical knowledge, a website not being relevant to their business, or lack of human or financial resources.

However, these problems can be easily remedied. For those who want a quick website and who have little to no knowledge about coding and programming, there are website builders like Wix and Weebly that offer template websites that can be easily modified by even people with no technical knowledge or previous experience in building websites.

In addition these companies offer hosting services that start at only a few dollars per month, and which can be easily upgraded if and when website traffic grows.Higher end website builders like Squarespace are more expensive, but they look more professional and have easy-to-implement e-commerce features that come as part of the package.

Squarespace is often rated as the top website builder, but it’s a little harder to use than Wix and Weebly – but still doesn’t require any coding knowledge. All of these website builders come with plug-ins that enable Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to be linked to these websites to help drive traffic

By using eitherWix, Weebly or Squarespace, small business owners can produce a website at very minimal cost and with minimal skills required. Just an eye for what looks good, and knowing what information that needs to go onto the site in order for it to attract traffic is all that is required.  A site that is regularly updated will rank higher in the search engines than a static site.  A blog is a good way to do that, and all of the popular website builders offer pre-formatted blogs as part of their templates.

Securingworking capitalwhen needed and reaching out to customers are just two important aspects of running a small business that have been made easier by the internet. Every small business should be looking to have an online presence these days. Even if it doesn’t do any trading online, having a presence online gives confidence to its customer base that they are keeping up with the times and are a part of the internet world.

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