We’re moments away from the next lockdown and from retail business perspective the timing is awful. Closing doors in the key segment of the year – that run up to Christmas that is so fruitful in retail terms we almost have a national holiday to celebrate it! Black Friday has become black week (and even black month) in the past couple of years. This is when sales soar and we rely on this period.
If you fall into the ‘non essential shops’ category and your doors are closing (again), you’ll know from the last lockdown that online sales are the way to survive.
But there is another hurdle – coming up against online retail giants. Whether you’re already set up for e-commerce or not it can be intimidating. They’ve spent years researching and honing their business model to dominate the market. Their ordering system is slick, delivery fast and their advertising budget astronomical. With market value in the billions how can you compete?
You don’t need to compete as such, just make your own way. Here’s our top tips:
Tell your tale
Although it may seem ‘everyone’ just buys from the same few main websites, there is a huge wave of rebellion and many don’t actually want to help them monopolise the market. Work with that. People want to help people at the moment. A positive of this pandemic is that it has brought out a sense of ‘lets have each others back’, so let your customers know you’re a small business who needs their support. Let them have your back.
Stand out & impress
Do you want to be a regular brown box? Or do you want to be a bright shiny holographic package of happiness that arrives on your customer’s doorstep? In the same way a nice paper bag from a luxury store makes a customer feel special, so does the packaging your parcel arrives in. Don’t underestimate that feel good factor. It also keeps you in their mind for next time - “that company with the rose gold packaging” will be remembered far beyond another manilla box!
Call upon your local community
Our local publication Uckfield News are supporting retailers by advertising their opening hours and options for purchasing during lockdown. Check your local press and community Facebook groups. Take this opportunity of free advertising and use it for research too – what are other local stores doing? You may be able to take inspiration and do the same. For example, some shops in Uckfield are offering virtual tours of their store so customers can browse items, purchase by phone and either collect or get delivered.
Make it personal
Good customer service goes a long way. Many of our long standing customers comment that they love that we have a normal phone number and always get to speak to ‘a real person’ (without having to press 1 or 2 first!). We respond quickly and personally to enquiries and this is how it should be. It’s frustrating if you have a question about a product and have to wait days for a response. A personal approach to customer service gains you repeat customers, reputation and relationships you can keep long past lockdown.
And finally, practice what you preach too. Buy local yourself, support fellow small businesses. The big fish will inevitably succeed through this period, but that doesn’t mean the little fish can’t flourish too.