Here, we outline four ways small and medium businesses can adapt to the times, and share examples of those already doing it well.
Keep your ‘doors open’ by going digital
In 2020, more businesses than ever have the means to take their operations online, allowing them to remain open even while their doors are physically closed. After all, it’s hard to sell a pair of shoes or give a yoga lesson in person when you can’t get within 1.5 metres of your clientele.
Momentum Arts Studios, an urban dance school in Melbourne, is one small business leading the digital charge. With in-studio classes out of the question, Momentum decided to offer tutorials online. Students can download pre-recorded lessons and join in on live classes using freely available teleconferencing programs. Momentum offers these online classes at a discounted rate.
Other companies have adopted similar measures right across Australia, meaning small businesses, from gyms to choirs, have been able to retain their workforces in at least some capacity.
Pivot your business to new products and services
Many Australian businesses have adapted to offer goods and services that better meet the needs of their existing customers – and capture new ones.
Manly Spirits Co. made its name distilling artisanal gins and liqueurs in Sydney’s northern beaches. But when the realities of the pandemic sunk in, they began repurposing parts of their existing facilities to produce a different product: hand sanitiser. They’re onto a winner – their first batch of personal-use sanitiser has sold out, and they’re taking orders for businesses looking to purchase commercial quantities.
Before the pandemic, Stagekings designed and built giant stages for concerts. When public events were cancelled, the company had to quickly pivot. With offices around the country closing their physical locations and moving to remote work, an opportunity arose. Now the Sydney outfit produces work-from-home desks. Within two weeks of adapting their offering, Stagekings sold more than 1,100 units.
Use social media to stay in touch with your customers
According to the Digital 2020: Australia report a whopping 71 per cent of Australians use social media. And that was the figure back in January, before coronavirus had hit its stride. With social isolating measures now in place, evidence suggests people all over the world are using social media now more than ever: Twitter has gained around 12 million more daily global users since the start of the crisis, and Facebook has reported unprecedented growth in its user activity.
This is good news for small businesses shifting their operations online. By using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, businesses can continue to foster relationships with would-be customers and stay in touch with existing ones.
With no bricks-and-mortar stores, online wine retailer Vinomofo has relied on social media to take the place of traditional customer service and grow its branding. The company uses Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to share stories, provide information about new wines and field customer queries. It’s a strategy other businesses might consider adopting during the lockdown – though there’s no need to wait for a pandemic to strengthen your social media presence.
Just remember to keep an eye on the comments and respond promptly to questions and feedback. After all, social media is as much a conversation as it is a branding exercise.
Mix up how you deliver
To make up for the shortfall in foot traffic, Melbourne bakery All Are Welcome shifted its operations to include home delivery to surrounding suburbs. They worked quickly to set up e-commerce functionality on their website and restructured the business to include a greater focus on pre-ordered bread and pastries. This would have been a serious undertaking just a few years ago, but with so many easy-to-install e-commerce business platforms, the only thing you have to do is pick the right one for your business.
In addition to increasing sales, shifting to an online ordering system means businesses can more reliably predict demand and prepare the right amount of product accordingly, with less wastage. Just make sure you can fulfil your orders – consider setting daily limits if capacity is an issue. Then work out the best way to get the goods where they need to go: by post, by courier or hand-delivered in your own vehicle.