How Covid-19 Has Changed Local Businesses
When you ask an average person if they shop locally most will say yes. However, when the pandemic hit that number dramatically went down. The Covid-19 pandemic has completely disrupted the local economies and with it, a lot of local retailers are pondering what now? How can we improve our business model and adapt to this new reality? This type of thinking is a good start and can lead you on a path to new and creative ways to grow your business.
The first thing most independent retailers are beginning to realize from this pandemic is that small businesses, no matter the size and the service they provide, should have an online presence — whether it is having their own e-commerce website or social media. Most people want to support small businesses and shop local because the benefits to the local community thrive off of it. The independent businesses that are able to provide such virtual services are in a very good position to not only survive our new reality but also thrive in it.
Now while small businesses might not have the funds to switch to that size right away, there are steps you can do now to ensure your business can grow and encourage customers to go to their local stores. The first step is creating an online marketplace for your store.
Challenges to Moving Your Business Online
Running a business offline is easy because you have one or more locations where local customers know how to find you. The online world is much harder to get noticed because you aren’t just competing with other independent businesses off of the main street. You are competing with all the other business owners in the world. But don’t worry as there are lots of marketing techniques that can be used such as Local SEO, viral campaigns, AdWords, or offline ads to help people to find your business and make it stand above the rest. Using social platforms, and engaging in social media advertising, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are also useful in finding great ways to connect with customers.
Converting Visitors into Buyers
When a customer is shopping they expect the whole experience to be pleasant. When transferring that experience to an online store the same is to be expected but in slightly different ways. The consumer expects an easy to navigate the website, pictures of your products, and a simple checkout process. Which leads to our next topic.
Building Trust With Customers
The easiest way to build trust with customers when using your website is to obtain valued citations such as from your local Chamber of Commerce. Use a secure checkout process such as Stripe, including fast payment options like Apple Pay or Google Pay if you can. Also having another form of online presence such as an Instagram/Facebook page also helps in showing that you are a legitimate business and can give the customer that extra nudge towards building a relationship between consumer and business.
Customer service is critical, which includes not only responding to emails or calls but more importantly meeting your promise to your customers (delivery times, returns, refunds, etc…). When you treat each of these with the same importance as selling a product you will begin creating customers for life.
Understand What Is Going On in Small Business
The old saying “knowledge is power” still holds true especially running a small business. It is very important to keep track of performance compared to other chain stores. As a small business, you need to be keeping track of your KPIs and Metrics. This data can be gathered from your online platform and give you some insight into your customer’s purchasing habits. This in turn will help when making decisions that will be best for the company!
While brand loyalty, quality, and price are all important factors while establishing your business in the local community. One of the biggest factors in influencing customers’ behavior is convenience. Take a look at Amazon for instance. They have built an empire over a few decades by making it extremely convenient for customers with their shipping rates and Amazon Prime programs. This has pushed customers’ delivery expectations even higher.
Fulfillment Options: Curbside Pickup
While big-box stores have changed the world of shipping forever there is one tool that small businesses can use against them. Curbside pickup has been around since the early 1900s however it’s the transition going into business websites has been silently plodding along. That was until Covid-19 hit. There was such an increase due to social distancing this method has become of shopping has helped boost local businesses immensely.
However, setting up an effective pick-up and delivery on your own website can come with its own challenges.
So How Does It Work?
A customer orders an item for pickup → the order reaches a store’s POS → the inventory’s location is identified → inventory is picked or prepared for staging → inventory is staged in a dedicated pickup area → curbside staff identify the correct order (ideally when the customer has almost arrived) and take it from staging → staff transfer the order to the customer
In the spectrum of fulfillment options, curbside pickup – and other similar fulfillment models – are the happy medium for customers to shop local. They allow customers the convenience of purchasing online, while maintaining the retail interaction they are familiar with, and without the additional cost and complexity of adding delivery capacity.
Curbside pickup might sound perfect. However, like every well-designed operation, managing seamless curbside pickup is not without its challenges.
To make curbside pickup a well-flowing experience for the customers you need to have an operation set up that way. The most important being a website set up for customers to easily choose this as an option. When that is set up make sure that it is being pulled out of the correct inventory system as well.
Another obstacle that can be frustrating for customers is posting hours for pickup times. Make sure to include that within your website and create a physical spot as well in your store for those customers to park at while their order is being brought out.
Curbside Pickup helps local businesses meet (and exceed) delivery expectations by providing the kind of service that represents retailers in the best light possible. With features like real-time tracking (for both businesses and their customers), flexible delivery options, and assured professionalism. This gives business owners the peace of mind that their product and customers are in good hands.
Moving online has never been easier with today’s modern technology. With all of the options that are flowing out there it can be easy to feel overwhelming. Our hope here at WTG marketing is to help put your mind at ease and transition during these unusual times.