South Africans have welcomed the ease of Lockdown restrictions in alert level 1. This means more gatherings are allowed and most companies can go back to full work force under Covid-19 safety measures. With everything going back to normal after months of lockdown below are survival tips for businesses as they go back to normal.
It is evident throughout several psychology studies that we are social beings, driven by communication. However, with the implications of COVID-19, social distancing was crucial. Lockdown has forced businesses to be agile and enable employees to work remotely. For some, it has been a measurement of productivity, and for others, it has revealed areas of improvement. These areas present opportunities for businesses to pick apart what has worked in the past (pre-COVID-19) and what will no longer serve the company moving forward.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Your business has likely changed drastically to adapt to the new normal. Communicate with your customers regularly to reassure them that you are still open for business, as well as share with them new your health and safety protocols.
People will remember how you reacted during a crisis. This is the time to strengthen your brand, show that you are calm and competent, and help others where you can.
KEEP CUSTOMERS UPDATED ON HOW YOU ARE RESPONDING & ADAPTING AS THE SITUATION EVOLVES.
If you have social media pages set up for your business, you can share this information to your followers there too. You can use these regular communications with your customers to remind them of any services or products you are offering as well. For example, if you put into place delivery, pickup, or virtual services during lockdowns, remind your customers of these options.
THINK LONG TERM
Unfortunately, the impact from COVID-19 will be felt by small businesses for the foreseeable future. To ensure your business survives, you will need to consider long term changes to adapt. This can mean investing even more on your virtual, pickup and delivery services to make that a larger part of your business. Or, if you have not invested much in your digital presence – like your website and social media pages – now is the time to ramp up in this area. You may want to consider implementing an e-commerce platform on your website to make it even easier for customers to purchase from you online.
Beyond just investing in different business services, you may want to expand or change your product offerings. For example, if you are a restaurant that started offering meal kits or family style meals during lockdown, you could add these on as permanent offerings. Even when lockdowns and social distancing requirements are relaxed, many of your customers have likely formed new habits that may become permanent. Some of these changes can help your business adapt.
ADD UP THE NUMBERS
It is important to consider the levels of sales you are forecasting, as it might take some time for demand to pick up. Your sales could be limited by the reduced volume of people due to social distancing.
Look at ways you can encourage sales, such as discounts or incentives. If you are a retail business, you will likely want to drive sales by encouraging people back in store, perhaps by boosting your online presence.
Keeping the cash flowing is crucial for businesses as we emerge from lockdown. Now that you have got a clearer picture of your broader reopening plan, you will want to find the payments solutions that could help get you cash flowing as quickly as possible.
Contactless card payments provide a secure and fast way for customers to pay when they visit your store. This facility has become even more crucial since pandemic control measures were put in place, as touch-free ways of paying could reduce the risk of transmission.
If you pivoted to offering products and services via pickup, delivery, or video/text/etc., considering keeping these services in place as your physical business reopens. Business may continue to be slow for some time as you operate at a reduced capacity. Additionally, many of your customers may be reluctant to get back to their usual habits until they feel the outbreak is more controlled. Continuing to offer pickup or delivery services can give you a second stream of revenue to rely upon while your “brick and mortar” revenue recovers.
Additionally, encouraging your customers to continue to use these contactless services can help keep your staff safer, as well as your customers. These services will also allow you to continue serving your customers in high-risk groups who are still limiting social contact.
These are highly unpredictable times, so you should be prepared to adapt quickly. It is a good idea to create contingency plans and to make sure that any reopening steps you take are easy reversible, in case of future tightening of restrictions. Making your operations as agile as possible will be key to thriving in this environment – whether that’s by changing the way your employees work, engaging with your customers in new and creative ways, or even reinventing your business model.
Over the past few months many businesses have shown remarkable adaptability and resilience, changing their working processes or product offerings to keep revenue flowing. A survey by FSB Wales, completed by 360 companies, revealed that 22% had moved towards remote working, 17.5% had created a new online presence to deliver their products or services, and 11% had made physical changes to their premises.
This adaptability will need to continue as we exit lockdown. Not only will you have to consider reopening at reduced capacity to adhere to social distancing rules, but it may take some time for trade and customer confidence to build back up to pre-lockdown levels.
More people have been shopping online since the lockdown began, and these consumer habits may be here to stay permanently. If you have pivoted to e-commerce, delivery, or pick-up services, then you should think about maintaining and even expanding these offerings to optimise your revenue streams, even after you reopen your in-house services. Evaluate how your business model may be impacted long term. How might your customers’ needs and behaviour change and how can you create value for them?
A strong online presence is more important than ever, so if you have not already done so, focus on how you can improve this and ensure good customer experience across your digital channels.
When you cut costs, you are also cutting down on the possibilities of the revenue that will be generated. That is why you should ideally think through the cost-cutting strategies, consider how best you can cut costs while responsibly increasing the revenue, and finally evolve your business through proper cost strategies. Not all cost-cutting strategies will result in good revenue or help you with your post-pandemic goals.
Ideally, you should run your financial projections and consider whether cost-cutting is the actual solution to the crisis. If you feel cost-cutting will not cause any further issues or will not put your business down, then you can go ahead with this scope.