WITH the exception of a few industries — such as supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies — most businesses are suffering greatly from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
Although businesses have started to open up, there are three key things that will affect consumer sentiment negatively. This is the reality of the world we live in.
The first is that most people are now very accustomed to doing many things online.
Although there have already been surveys done that indicate many people who didn’t use to order certain things online started doing so during the emergency orders or lockdowns, you don’t really need a survey to convince yourself of that.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that would have told you so, including from members of your own family.
But people’s switch to doing things online isn’t limited to just shopping. People can’t go to cinemas, concerts or plays so they get their entertainment online. People can’t eat out so they watch lots of cooking programs online for ideas on what to cook.
People have a lot of time on their hands, so they go online for some e-learning of topics. People can’t visit friends or relatives so they do a lot of video-conferencing.
The net effect of all this is we now have a population that’s very used to doing practically everything online. It may have been only for a few months that people are stuck in their homes and spending all that time online but it’s enough to cause a permanent change in consumer attitude to one that’s very online-centric.
Basically, people have discovered how convenient, faster and cheaper it is to do things online. They aren’t going to suddenly stop being online-centric just because they’re now allowed to move about more.
The second thing is that people are still worried about infection. Yet, the general public here in Canada is probably more cautious of getting infected than people in the United States (generally speaking, of course).
In some countries, everybody wears masks. In the US, you have altercations happening when store security guards tell people to wear them.
I think it’s safe to assume that even after the government announces that things can go back to normal, people will still be wary and cautious. That’s just the nature of the society we live in.
The third important thing to be aware of is that because quite a number of businesses have closed down and people have lost their jobs, consumer sentiment will be very low as everyone will be cautious about money.
Most people will think twice before plonking down money to buy something. Everybody will be looking for a bargain or, if not that, at least some added value.
Knowing that these three factors are very real, companies have to restructure their business models to cater to these economic realities.
Although each industry will have its own unique issues to deal with, there are three key success factors that should apply to most businesses.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT DIGITAL
As mentioned earlier, the fact that people have lived their lives online for months means that they would have grown accustomed to it. They won’t suddenly change their behavior once things return to normal.
If someone’s happy having his groceries delivered to his doorsteps for a small fee, he’s unlikely to go grocery shopping in the supermarket again. He will just order online.
As a business, you must have a strong online presence, both for marketing/ branding purposes and for transactional (e-commerce) purposes.
For marketing and branding, your best bet is to engage in content marketing, which is basically using relevant, useful and entertaining content to get your message across.
For e-commerce purposes, you can use an existing platform like Amazon, Alibaba, Lazada or Shopee. But it’s also good to have your own e-store so that you’re not entirely dependent on third party platforms.
For business that don’t sell products but offer services, it’s time to digitally productize some of your services. You can create e-books and videos and make them available for sale.
These shouldn’t just be a recording of what you offer offline (though it could include that). There should be some original, unique and premium content as well. These are things that can only be found through your website.
EXPAND YOUR OFFERINGS
If you’re a business that offers products for sale, you’ll need to offer a wider range of products.
In a tough business environment, it makes sense to give customers more things to buy.
Let’s say you run an F&B outlet. Besides selling cooked food, which is your core business, you can also sell ingredients like fresh produce.
After all, you buy all your veggies wholesale. You might as well sell them direct to customers as well. This is extra income. You can also sell sauces that are canned as well as chilled or frozen meals. You can even offer some services in the form of cooking lessons during downtime between peak hours. Lastly you can offer e-books and videos on cooking.
As you can see, there are many things you can offer that will delight your customers and also generate much-needed additional revenue. Granted, most businesses will not be able to brand-extend and offer quite as many things as an F&B outlet. But, with a little creativity, all businesses should be able to offer more things for sale than before.
As a business, there’s only so much you can offer on your own. If you want to offer more products or services, it makes sense to team up with other businesses that offer complementary products and services to your customers.
The margins may not be big but every little bit helps. As long as the products and services are relevant to your customer base, your customers should be delighted that you’re now offering them so much more.
The collaboration can be two ways: meaning you can also supply your products to other businesses.
Cooperation can also extend to marketing and promotional activities. Who knows, you may even be able to jointly come up with brand new products and services.
Working together for mutual benefit should be the new mindset.
Doing business is tough in any situation but trying to keep a business alive during the recovery period will test each entrepreneur to the limit.
You cannot stick to the old ways of doing things. You have to accept the new reality (or the new normal) and adapt to it.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”