Here are some insights we have for businesses overcoming the challenge of operating during the 2020 pandemic.
1. What are the top one or two things small businesses should be thinking about with their digital presence amid COVID-19
Be real — this is not a normal time.
Understand that most of your customers are motivated right now, beyond issues of safety, by a connection with their community — you.
That’s your strongest positioning — that you and they are part of the same community.
Reflect that in all your online presence. This isn’t just about the things or services you offer, but about a connection.
So be conversational, be somewhat transparent.
Communicate that you ‘get’ what some of their concerns might be and you’re right there with them — from their perspective, not as a business owner.
Specifically, demonstrate that you are trustworthy in keeping people safe, having what they need, making it easy to pick it up or get it delivered, and have consistent service.
Pricing needs to be reasonable and not take advantage of any situations.
Most of all, show that you understand their mindset.
Recognize their need to be safe
Their desire to support their favorite businesses
Their current need for a product or service.
And that they’re balancing all those.
So, approach this from a human standpoint — not from your own, but your customers. What would you say to that customer if you were in person? You can be transparent about your need, but not desperate. If you matter to the customer, they want to help you and an exchange of value (them buying something) is part of that.
2. One of the biggest changes businesses that deal in goods are facing is how to get their products to the client whether it is increasing online sales, managing curbside pickup up, or even local delivery. What kind of considerations or tools could business owners look to for supporting this change.
Know that your customer may be willing to work with you on this. They know it’s not going to be like it was — or many will know that.
Maybe you can partner with someone who has a more convenient pickup location. Incent people to combine purchases. Set up an appointment scheduler online for shopping or pickup.
Tools exist to help you get your products listed online. You can start with your most popular and maybe offer another option to ask about other products, although that can get overwhelming.
3. With more businesses building their online and virtual presence, there are bound to be new risks related to their narrative, intellectual property and information, what can businesses do to protect their assets?
Aside from legal protection that you may or may not want to back up with all the costs required for that, the unique experience you create for customers is your biggest asset. Others can copy, but if your experience is a full, community, differentiated experience, then that protects your business.
If you’re a corner store and that’s your differentiator, but your products are just like everyone else’s, then you need to take a look at that — how can you still offer a neighborhood experience (convenience or daily ritual) and also be online? Is it an order ahead online experience and pickup on the way? Or something else?
This puts pressure on identifying the unique reason people are buying from you and then bringing that along to the online world. Look hard for it.
4. Many small businesses may not have an option for employees to work from home. For those that do have this ability, what kind of strategies could they consider to make sure the team stays engaged, has clear communication and is able to manage the shift in work flow.
I have regular team meetings, and one on one meetings with key people. I share what’s happening, they share what’s going on — we stay connected. And we are aligned on what matters to all of us — success for the business. I get their ideas, contributions and enlist their help in thinking about what’s working and what isn’t. They’re mindset is one step closer to the customer and so keep connected to that while you’re separated from your customer.
That connection also serves to keep the team members excited about the bigger mission of the business and mentally engaged with what we’re trying to do together.
5. Changes in operations can add expenses to small businesses’ often already tight budgets, does anyone have recommendations for cost saving measures that could be considered?
Look at creating a smaller, more focused experience and then transitioning to digital for the main part of your sales — more expensive now, but will position you to be in community AND have cost savings in store space requirements and people.
6. With all of the adaptations happening in business models and offerings what are the top ways you would suggest that businesses communicate this different information with their customers?
Website first and foremost. People will come to your website looking for information about your business and how to work with you: are you open? are you doing delivery or pickup? Does your business need anything to stay open?
You can also offer an email update communication — sign up to get the latest info on what we can offer during this time. Then don’t spam them with other stuff, but bring them into a conversation about what you’re doing, what’s working, communicate excitement about seeing them or helping them find what they need. Lead with relationship first and foremost — that’s what makes you different from a big retailer — you’re part of the community and so are they.
Use social media to handle questions and support issues. Facebook has the ability to build bots to handle common questions, as do website conversational bots. Twitter is often used to handle questions.
Some other points to remember about this particular time:
- Your online customers now include people who have never done anything online before – and you need to jump through hoops to make it easy for them.
- We can’t just walk into the business for help anymore – so you need to provide extra phone support and publicize it on the front page of your website.
- And you need to do this before you come up with clever ways to shift to a primarily online business.
Your Customers Are Your Partners in This Challenge with Covid-19
Remember that people still have the same wants, needs, and desires as before. They still have a community connection with your business, especially if you’ve helped create that. That is your biggest differentiator. People want to help you, they want to buy from you. They are part of your community. Let them know how they can help, what’s happening with your business, and what’s working and what isn’t. You’re not alone in this.
Tools to Help You Create a Digital Store
We’ll be adding more to this as we discover more options.
(Note: These are samples of tools. We have no affiliate links or investments in any of these. Just some options here.)
- Hero: A new business focused on Ecommerce.
- Shopify: Great system for creating an entire digital shopping website. Tons of integrations. Plus they have a lot of resources to help you think about strategies and tactics. And an entire partner ecosystem to help you put this all in place. We have people in our marketing community that have been doing this work if you want a referral — just contact us.
- WooCommerce can also be added to many existing websites to add Ecommerce.
- Consolto: Video chat for websites. This is a tool (there are likely more)
- Pointy: Helps you get your products online with some technology. Good for stable set of inventory.
- Obsess: Shopping platform that uses augmented and virtual reality to create the shopping experience.
- Imerss: Live video shopping tool so people can shop your store from anywhere.