We’ve all felt knocked down at some point in this current environment. Doors have closed. Sales have dipped. Life feels boxed.
But, new challenges also mean new opportunities. Now’s the time to get creative. Finding new sales channels and shifting to alternative business models can help protect your bottom line and keep your customers engaged.
Think of how customer behaviours have shifted in just these few weeks. Customers probably want to purchase things online versus in-person. They’re likely spending a lot more time at home than before and are looking for ways to stay entertained. They’re much more concerned about hygiene practices. And they’re more focused on purchasing essential versus non-essential items.
Here are some ideas to meet customers where they are today so you can keep business going.
- Update your website
Add messaging to your site that tells your customers what measures your business has taken to help stem the COVID-19 spread. If your brick-and-mortar business has started taking orders online or over the phone, make sure to display that information clearly on your homepage. If you’ve temporarily closed your doors, include a form so visitors can submit their email address and be notified when you’re open again. Or if you’re running a campaign to help your local community, make sure customers know.
- Expand to more online marketplaces
Whatever you sell, there are plenty of marketplaces to help you get your product in front of more eyes. Sell fashion? Try Depop. For handmade and vintage goods , check out Etsy. Or if you’re looking for a more general marketplace, explore OnBuy. Businesses with a PayPal account can get:
- A 12-month Standard Seller package with no subscription fees when you register before December 31.
- Offer home deliveries
If you can (and if allowed by local government), consider utilising your employees to hand-deliver items purchased online. For restaurants this has been a logical shift as waitstaff have been redeployed to take food to customers’ homes.
- For store pickups, keep payments contactless with a QR code
For a true end-to-end contactless experience, try using a QR code. You can print one out and affix it to your storefront or even on the outside of packages, so people can pay without having to touch anything.
- Introduce new products or services
Changing customer needs may present an opportunity to change up your product mix or introduce new products.
For example, social distancing is leading to more people cooking at home, so restaurants or catering companies might consider creating and selling semi-prepared meals or meal-prep kits that can be delivered.
- Sell gift cards
Just about any business could add gift cards to its product lineup. Gift cards can provide an immediate source of cash while creating future opportunities to serve customers.
- Spread your knowledge and get paid
If you’re a subject matter expert in your industry – or even just really enthusiastic about a particular topic – try your hand at creating online video classes and selling them to people around the world, utilising an app like Udemy.
- Try live-streaming your services
Exercise studios are live-streaming classes for reduced fees in order to keep their customers engaged (and in shape). Gym trainers are developing one-to-many fitness programs and one-to-one video training sessions. Consultants are meeting online with customers. Dentists and primary care physicians are utilising apps like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime for video appointments.
See if live-streaming your services can work for you too.
- Help your sales reps sell using a digital platform
Try digital platforms like WeChat to engage customers virtually. A cosmetics company in China, for example, was forced to close 40% of its stores during the crisis. The company redeployed its 100+ beauty advisors to leverage WeChat to engage customers virtually and drive online sales.
- Get employees to spread the word
With more and more people sheltering in place, social media has become even more central to people’s lives than it has been. Ask employees to tap into their social circles to promote your business via social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Support their efforts with “friends and family” discounts that they can share.
- Offer customers an incentive for referrals
Now’s the time to use that email list you’ve been building. Offer discounts to your customer list. Ask your customers to promote your business, as well, giving them bonuses or incentives to refer new customers or clients.
- Support your community
Take an active role in helping other businesses and individuals in your community. Whether you’re lending a hand through your business or on your own time, the neighbours you support now could come back as new customers to support you later on.
Speaking of community, make sure you’re staying connected with other businesses. Connect with local neighborhoods using apps such as Nextdoor. Most have sections for local businesses.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Appeal to your customers—without their help you might not be able to continue. Ask for the sale giving them an incentive to buy from you.
Anticipating continually changing needs will be important during this time. Try to remember your customers’ pain points today might change completely one month from now. Try to anticipate what those needs might be and then get your business set up to address them as they happen.
Let’s use this challenge as an opportunity not only to keep customers engaged but also to innovate your business: perhaps to rethink your business model, your sales channels, and/or your product lines.
Stay safe. Keep innovating. We’ll come out stronger on the other side. Should you need any assistance setting up or using your PayPal account, please visit our Help Centre.
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.