March 17th, 2020 is a date that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, (and many other Canadians) it signifies the beginning of a new era, though at the time I didn’t know it. I had been following the news and research of Covid-19 since it was first broadcasted in December 2019. Armed with real facts, I was still optimistic, and told myself “This will all be over soon.” I was completely wrong.
March 26th, 2020. My first grocery store visit after lockdown.
Since then, life’s been difficult to navigate, both at home and at work. It’s been one full year and I’m still working on how to get used to this new way of living at home, but I do have a few suggestions for brands and businesses to adapt and thrive in this new normal.
1. Accept the Facts
This one is hard, but is 100% necessary. The bad news? This is the 3rd worst global pandemic of the last 100 years, behind only the 1918 Spanish Flu and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The “good” news? We’re all living through it, including your customers. By accepting it, you will find solace in it, and only then will you be mentally prepared to adapt.
2. Understand the newly developed needs of your customers.
Consumers are the first to adapt. With a whole year of practice, your customers have already adapted to their new reality by doing everything online, and this trend is here to stay.
There is also a newly developed sense of financial insecurity that surrounds your customers and as a result, consumers have a new classification for what they deem essential. Re-evaluate the way you price your products/services, and ask yourself whether or not your pricing is fair and mindful of this new notion, while, of course, maintaining your profitability.
3. Provide a fast, safe, and contactless experience.
Your customers now expect a fast, safe, and contactless experience. Whether you are a physical retail store or a digital product by nature, no business is exempt from this widely accepted, newly developed expectation. What am I talking about?
Here are a few examples:
Physical Stores (Retail)
Provide a faster checkout experience by:
- Implementing a new POS system to speed up the checkout process, if your existing one is out of date.
- Adding more cashiers (if necessary) to accommodate the many customers waiting in line, to meet limited capacity requirements.
Provide a safer (for your employees and customers) shopping experience by:
- Offering complimentary masks and sanitizer stations.
- Screening each customer by asking questions and taking rapid temperature checks.
- Installing protective barriers between shoppers and cashiers.
- Installing floor markers and other wayfinding systems to remind customers of directions and distances to keep between themselves and others.
Provide a contactless shopping experience by:
- Accepting “tap” credit or debit card payments
- Making online purchases available for delivery or curbside pickup.
If you don’t already have an eCommerce website for your retail store, there are several platforms you could implement quickly and for very little cost, without the need for a developer, by utilizing pre-existing themes or templates. Here are a few we would suggest:
Shopify ($$$) – Best for stores with a large catalog.
Squarespace ($$) – Best for boutique, brand-focused stores.
Square Online ($) – Best for stores who already utilize Square POS or for sellers who are on a smaller budget.
Digital Products and eCommerce Stores
As a digital store, you already have the advantage of being the safe and contactless option for your customers. To further enhance the safety of your customers, consider the importance of enhancing the safety of your employees by:
- Creating an in-office rotation schedule
- Offering complimentary masks and sanitizer stations in all workspaces.
- Screening each employee by asking questions and taking rapid temperature checks, and keeping logs of the results.
- Installing protective barriers between desks and workstations, in both office and warehouse.
- Installing floor markers and other wayfinding systems to remind employees of directions and distances to keep between themselves and others.
You can still provide a faster experience by:
- Ensuring your website’s frameworks, content management systems (CMS), and hosting/servers/resources are built to handle speed. The slower your eCommerce experience is, the more cart abandonments you will see.
- Ensuring your customers are getting their orders as fast as possible by re-visiting your supply chain and logistics plan. Consumers are spending more money online than ever before and with that, comes the expectation for fast (and usually free) shipping.
- Adding on-demand customer support via live chat or phone support to assist customers with questions about your products.
1. Write down your goals and revisit them daily.
Where are you going? In some scenarios, you may benefit from having no plans or an agenda and simply going with the flow. Running a business is not one of them.
Whether you use a note taking app, word document, Post-it notes, or good old fashioned pen and paper, write down your goals and remind yourself of them, every single day. Without a roadmap, you might end up nowhere.
2. Understand your customers and target audience.
Who are you for? We’ll keep this one simple. If you’ve been in business long enough to survive a pandemic, there’s a good chance you know a little bit about your best customers. Pay attention to the needs, behaviours, goals, characteristics, personality, age, gender, and occupation of your favorite customers, and document your findings.
Voilà: now you understand your customers, know who your ideal customer is, and most importantly (for growth), you have identified your target audience.
3. Define yourself within your industry and market.
Who are you, really? This might sound silly, but it’s time you got personal with yourself and your brand by asking yourself every day: “What do I stand for?”
If your values (what you stand for) are reflected in your work, congratulations! (If not, you might want to reconsider your line of business)
With that out of the way, ask yourself: “Where do I fit within my market?” Understanding your small role in a much larger ecosystem will help you not only attract new ideal customers, but retain them as well.
4. Articulate your brand’s positioning.
How do you want your customers to feel? It is human nature to trust people, companies and brands that share our values and beliefs. In correctly positioning your brand, you’re allowing customers to understand who you really are and what your purpose is.
Not everyone will be your customer, and that’s okay.
5. Focus on your digital experiences first.
Lastly, to welcome guests and thrive in a post-COVID world, your digital home needs to be the centre of attention. Far too often, there is more emphasis on advertising and marketing than there is on the main brand touchpoint to which2 all those (digital) advertising efforts lead.
Before you invest $$ on advertising efforts, be sure to take a closer look at whether your website is helping or hurting your bottom line.