How to adapt your business during the COVID-19 crisis
Even though restrictions have largely been lifted, the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and has forced businesses, big and small, to adapt. The temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants proved a real challenge for business owners, with long-term consequences.
However, a number of businesses provided great inspiration by thinking of new ways to evolve and continue trading throughout the pandemic. We’ve collected some of these examples to highlight achievable steps you can take right now to tackle the COVID-19 challenge.
Traditional delivery services are of course nothing new. However, a number of businesses have become creative in how they’re offering their products to customers who are self-isolating at home and unable to visit shops or restaurants. Small businesses can adapt their products to make them suitable for takeaway, from offering meals and food packages, to cook-at-home food kits with recipes. And, this concept doesn’t just apply to the gastronomy industry. Craft centres can put together sew/paint/mould kits to mail to customers, and retail shops can use social media to advertise and even sell items.
Getting your business delivery-ready involves more than just arranging the logistics. Make sure the experience is as smooth as possible for potential buyers by walking through the steps they would take themselves. Is your company simple to find? Is a delivery option easy to spot? Are your products adapted to being sent, used or made at home? Once you’re happy with the process, you’re good to go.
Seize online opportunities
As mentioned above, being online has become essential. Since people have gotten more used to working and shopping from home, having an online presence is an excellent way for you to promote your services and stay in touch with your customers. As well as having up-to-date social media profiles, your company website should also be easy-to-use and attractive.
And, while getting your business online is a necessity in light of the pandemic, it can also be seen as a real opportunity. Depending on the nature of your business, you can look into ways to adapt what you offer into internet-friendly services. Gyms and health companies, for example, can instead offer online workout or nutrition classes.
Similarly, a jewellery store or furniture shop can offer tutorials and webinars to house-bound clients. Cafes and restaurants can also show cook-along videos, and bars and pubs can look into offering virtual pub quizzes or parties.
Plan for the future
Preparing for a time when restrictions may be introduced again is a good idea for any business. To keep revenue coming in while you’re seeing fewer customers and, therefore, fewer sales, you can offer people the option to pay forward for certain services.
This can be in a simple form, by offering customers vouchers so that they can support you now, but redeem for products or services in the future. Gift certificates are also a good option to advertise at this time. You could think of bundles to offer for particular holidays that people can pre-book or reserve in advance and be given a gift certificate to send to a loved one as a physical item in anticipation.
Additionally, look into product launches or menu changes that have had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and turn them into a pre-order opportunity. Use social media and your existing customer network to create some buzz around these launches and give people a chance to pay in advance and then look forward to the official release.
Keep in touch with your customers
If your business is experiencing a period of downtime, it’s important that you keep in touch with your customers.
Emails are one of the most common ways for companies to reach out to their audience. For one thing, if you're emailing a customer, that means they've agreed to hear from you.
Both simple emails and more detailed newsletters help let customers know what you're up to even if business is slow. They're also a great way to announce the arrival of new products.
Two questions you should ask yourself before you start are:
Do you have a GDPR-compliant list of customer email addresses at your disposal?
Do you really have something to say? Are you doing any of the following?
Moving to offer home deliveries
Offering online consultations or courses
Offering the possibility to buy vouchers
Introducing delivery of orders via mail
Available to answer questions by phone or email
These are all valid reasons to reach out to your customers.
Some people tend to think that, with the flood of emails we all receive, it would be a waste of time to use this tool to talk to customers. However, during off-peak periods, many people find themselves behind a screen all day long and, in fact, more attentive.
And, your most loyal customers are actually looking for information. Their favourite restaurant now offers home delivery? Their psychologist offers online consultations? In such instances, many customers would be happy to stay updated.
Social networks are a great point of contact to establish and maintain a good relationship with customers.
Like email, you can use social media platforms to keep your customers informed about your business.
Additionally, many merchants and entrepreneurs are getting creative on their social media. Using Facebook or Instagram Live, restaurants are launching live cooking workshops, bars are broadcasting live music sessions, and theatres are using their networks to show their previously confidential plays to the public.
The important thing to remember is that finding a way to regularly update your social networks will allow you to ensure good communication with your customers, and also to broaden your audience.
Staying connected to your local community and supporting in whichever ways you can is essential during challenging times. Not only does contributing to a combined effort really go a long way in helping vulnerable people, but it can also provide a great support network for you and your business.
Take a look at initiatives and publications that are sharing and highlighting how your local network is adapting during this time. You can then contribute by sharing how your business is acting, be it with new digital products and services, or by offering gift certificates and vouchers.
It’s also important to look into how you yourself can contribute, as well. Make sure you try to support fellow businesses in your area by shopping locally and promoting your favourites on your social channels, where possible.
Motivate your workforce
If you find yourself needing to close your physical business location in the face of future restrictions, and you also have a number of employees working virtually, it’s important to put a clear remote working policy in place. This includes ensuring that your staff are equipped with the tools to continue doing their old jobs, or their new tasks if the focus has changed due to the crisis. Hardware is one thing to consider, but also think about digital tools and software to make the move to working at home as seamless as possible.
Encourage employees who are working remotely to set up a space in their home that is solely dedicated to work, if possible. And, try to keep motivation high by making sure there are clear communication channels that you use to check in on a regular basis.
Take remote payments
When you’re going through an off-peak period, keeping a regular cash flow is vital to your business. Depending on your needs, there are different ways you can carry out transactions remotely...
A good way to accept payments remotely is to send invoices to your customers. Thinking about invoices might bring to mind massive Excel files containing endless data entries, or the bland, impersonal Word invoice templates of old.
Happily, SumUp Invoices lets you send your customers customisable, legally-compliant invoices in just a few clicks via your app.
Intuitive and fast, you’ll be able to see an overview of all the invoices you issue and all customer payments in the blink of an eye.
Links are a great way to securely accept cash while keeping some distance between you and your customers. SumUp allows you to send Payment Links to process remote transactions with only a smartphone.
You can send a payment link to your customers via SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook or QR code. Once a customer clicks the link, they can securely enter their banking information and complete payment. Once the transaction's done, you'll be able to forward the receipt to your customer.
Hopefully these ideas help you adapt to the changing work environment brought on by COVID-19. It's important to make sure your employees stay motivated and to stay connected to customers even when they're not physically in your store. Remote business initiatives like invoicing, payment links, and a robust social media strategy can help you do that.
Were these business tips helpful? Then keep exploring the SumUp Business Guide for more.