by Erin Yurday, CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins
Coronavirus isn’t just shuttering retail, it’s changing the way customers want to interact with all sorts of businesses. In light of this, a recent McKinsey report has identified 7 ways that large, multinational businesses such as Aldi, Alibaba and Coca-Cola are emotionally connecting with their customers during the pandemic. We’ve taken a look at how these principles can be used by small businesses as well, to demonstrate support for customers during these uncertain times – and boost business.
Businesses that adapt quickly to work for their customers in this environment are more likely to prosper in the long term. Being guided by these concepts can be the best type of small business insurance you can provide for your business right now.
Reduce physical interaction.
It’s everyone’s responsibility during the pandemic to lower the risk of the virus spreading. Companies of all sizes are taking steps to reduce interactions between customers and staff, as well as the handling of goods for sale.
For example, small shops can implement a one-way system in the aisles, limit the number of customers allowed inside at one time, install plexiglass barriers at the tills, offer hand sanitizer at the entrance and move to contactless payments.
Do your products contribute to safety?
Are you selling what your customers need right now? Manufacturers are switching to produce medical equipment and PPE; distilleries are using ethanol supplies for hand sanitizer; car companies are producing ventilators.
Even a small, local business can follow suite. For example, a tailor can sew face masks, a gift shop can stock interesting bottles of hand gel or a salon can sell home manicure kits. Cafes and pubs can enable online ordering.
Provide financial support to customers.
Small businesses may be worried about their finances, but so are a lot of customers. Your small business can take a few simple steps to show your customers that you empathise with their situation.
For example, small businesses that sell gift vouchers can proactively extend voucher expiry dates by six months or even a year. Offer discounts to NHS workers or those who have been furloughed. Mark some items on sale, especially if they relate to health or safety.
Support people trapped at home.
Whether due to lockdown or health concerns, many people are stuck at home – and they’re bored and anxious. How can your business make a customer’s life more joyful? Finding ways to support customers is sure to benefit everyone.
If you’re a teacher, design online courses; if you’re a manufacturer, produce YouTube videos about how you make your product; if you own a small shop, create special gift baskets customers can send to their friends and family ‘just because’; if your business is app-based, offer freebie features for a while. Basically, think of ways to reduce boredom or make your customers smile just a bit.
Shift sales to online channels.
Small business that operate from a physical location or offer an in-person service are getting creative with ways to shift sales online.
For example, a Pilates teacher can offer online workout classes or a tutor can teach their students over Zoom. A small gift shop can build a website and feature their products online for home delivery. Restaurants can sell pre-prepared meals online to cook at home.
Keep in touch with customers.
With physical stores and shops being closed during the lockdown, it’s particularly important to utilise alternative methods of communication so your customers can reach you with any questions or concerns they might have.
For example, a small business can reroute calls from their business’s landline to the owner’s mobile. Or you can add web chat functionality to your website, which might be easier to implement than you think – guru Neil Patel has written an in-depth guide that runs through some popular web chat tools and explains how to install them.
Send regular emails to your customers just to check in. Let them know what steps you’re taking to make your business safe for them and what changes you’ve made to your products, services or sales channels over this time.
Support your local community.
Small businesses can help build trust and communicate their values by supporting their local community during the coronavirus crisis. For example, you can donate to your local food bank, NHS Charities Together, Mind (which supports better mental health) or Age UK (since older people are particularly affected by Covid-19). Let your customers know which charities you are supporting and why they are particularly important to you.
Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins, a market research company specialised in aiding businesses and professionals in their decision-making. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.