At the time of writing, non-essential shops are beginning to reopen, more people are being granted more freedom to leave their homes, and even live sport is back in the calendar – all signs that we are one major step closer to the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
If the scientists are right and their predictions accurate, then now is the time for businesses to begin putting their recovery plans into place.
This won’t be a case of reawakening after hibernation, however, and will more than likely require a recalculation of the route we’re taking.
We don’t yet know how the world around us will work in one month, six months, a year or more. What we do know is that the public’s attitudes to many things have changed.
This means that your customers have new needs, wants and expectations. The key to your quick recovery will be to see these changes as opportunities. Your job is now to learn what’s risen in popularity and work out how you can service the demand: whether that’s targeting new customers, or changing what you offer to your existing customers.
This also means learning what quickly went out of fashion and is unlikely to make a comeback. It’s also vitally important to understand that the way in which people want to communicate, research, buy and consume has changed, too.
Consider the rise in popularity of online grocery shopping, online training, even online business meetings as evidence that many people have been exposed to a world of convenience that they’re unlikely to let go of completely, and how this will influence other aspects of regular life.
Change is good for a business, it can also be confusing, scary and even expensive. The good news is that you don’t have to do this all by yourself.
There are a number of support services available which are specifically designed to help businesses survive this pandemic and get going again afterwards. Most local councils have free workshops aimed at small business owners and your local chamber of commerce will have tools, resources and events that go into even more depth.
For Lancashire-based businesses, there is #BoostYourRecovery available to all and Two Zero Scaleup Resurgence for high-growth organisations, both of which are a goldmine of free support designed specifically to address the challenges of 2020.
For many, budgets are tight right now, in terms of both finances and free time. What’s most important when cutting costs is to make the right decisions, avoiding any cutbacks which may hurt you.
Last month we wrote about different types of digital marketing, and how best to maintain your visibility on a reduced basis.
Marketing is often top of the list when it’s time to reduce outgoings, but this has proven again and again to be a mistake. In studies of previous recessions and other hard times, it has consistently been the companies and brands that maintained – or even increased – their marketing which performed best not just during a crisis, but for as much as three years afterwards.
The same may apply with staffing levels or other processes in your business. If you deplete what makes your business run, and your customer service levels decline, your target market will simply buy from your competitors as well. Customers are much easier to lose than win, so whenever you evaluate costs, make sure you’re not causing long-term pain for short-term savings.
There are retailers even today which only exist in the bricks-and-mortar sense. Often these businesses feel as though they are doing just fine without an online presence and don’t see the need.
There are a variety of reasons behind the decision not to launch a webshop. It can be considered expensive, complicated or unnecessary.
But there are many easy and affordable ways to start selling online, and once launched you can begin taking orders immediately.
And the coronavirus pandemic has exposed vast numbers of people to shopping the digital way for the first time, and although some of this will return to the high street, ecommerce will remain a much more significant part of the picture from now on.
Buyers want the option to shop online. Even when they complete the final purchase in-store they want to inspect, research, read reviews of products in advance. And if they can’t find you online, they’ll find a competitor and buy from them instead.
Ecommerce is also an effective way to reach new audiences, especially for multi-channel operations. When selling through Amazon, eBay and similar marketplaces, you can reach shoppers who rarely venture outside of these most trusted sites.
This, too, may sound extremely complex, but it isn’t. Commonly available software will bring all your shop fronts together into one central dashboard, meaning you can process orders, update stock levels and manage your inventory all in one place.
If you’re considering trying ecommerce for the first time or want to know how you can get more out of what you’re already running, speak with the eBusiness UK team for a friendly discussion about which options are best for you.
You are going to make a lot of vital decisions in the coming days, weeks and months. Some of which will see you venturing into the unknown.
What is absolutely crucial is to measure your progress. Track each new expenditure to see what brings in returns and what’s less effective.
Use codes and special URLs in your marketing to track which sources generate sales, check activity levels against historical data if you have it to see what’s trending up and what’s trending down.
You can’t assume your smart decisions of a year ago are still smart decisions today, and nobody really knows what will be a smart decision a year from now. The best you can do is analyse all the data at your disposal and do more of what works, and consider changing or eliminating what doesn’t.
Your website and ecommerce platform should present you with a wealth of valuable information on your customers and their habits. If it doesn’t, it’s time for an upgrade.
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