BusinessExpert Advice

After a Pandemic, small businesses are ‘going back’ to the future, not the past

How local businesses will adapt to win in the ‘new normal’

Across the country, it goes without saying that businesses of every variety are adapting to unprecedented change. The future of ‘work’ is changing, consumer spending habits are changing, and our very idea of ‘customer service’ is evolving by the week. So with the phrase “new normal” becoming part of everyday speech, it’s only natural for the average business owner to wonder “what’s next?”

While it’s impossible to predict the future. More business owners are coming to grips with the fact that hindsight is 2020, and the guidance to “be proactive, not reactive” is no longer tired, everyday business advice, but a matter of survival.

Experts say: Start innovating now

As the president of both The Bike Cooperative and CCA Member Solutions, Lindsay Gaskins leads two aligned organizations, both focused on connecting local businesses with the scale, digital tools, and efficiencies that power them to compete with big-box stores and corporate giants. She recently touched on the question of “going back to work” in episode 337 of ConquerLocal, a podcast for entrepreneurs.

“This is a time to jump on opportunity that’s different from your plan from 3 months ago […] There’s no normal to go back to – because we’re going to the future, at a very fast pace.”

Lindsay points out that small businesses are in a remarkable position to be more convenient, faster, and more connected to local consumers – and right now is a perfect time to make the transformation. Listen to the podcast

Three ways small businesses can start being proactive today

Fewer cash payments will reward those with greater scale

Now is the time for small businesses to revisit their payment processing options

In a recent report by the Financial Times, payment groups like Visa expect a permanentshift in consumer spending habits, while researchers at Accenture expect cash-usage to drop drastically. While large, corporate, and big-box competitors are already equipped with the scale to get preferable rates and digital payment solutions  – small businesses will need to get more creative.  Not only to lose less margin to credit card payments, but to continue offering vulnerable populations with the safest possible payment solution.

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Consumers are spending more carefully & deliberately 

Adjusting your sales message & adding “pay over time” options will be an easy way to level-up your strategy

The economic consequences of a pandemic have also lead to unprecedented changes in the way consumers spend their money. Unsurprisingly, consumers are becoming less likely to spend more and more likely to seek safe, essential solutions. 

In a recent survey by our Market Research partner Lab42, when posed the question “How will COVID-19 change your company/industry” a number of responses pointed to the ability to “Innovate faster” as a key differentiator that will help businesses ranging from retailers to service-providers win business. That innovation won’t always require drastic changes. In some cases, it could mean finally making those proactive decisions that weren’t so pressing in 2019, like new ways to pay and updated approaches to sales.

“I think we have to align with what’s essential which could mean a change in messaging to more closely align with what customers are seeking.”

– Survey response from a small business owner with 1-5 employees
Lab42 Report: Impact of Covid-19 on companies

Our definition of ‘exceptional’ customer service is changing

New options like appointment-based shopping, delivery, and online service are here to stay, providing ample opportunity for businesses to nourish customer relationships

From the ‘appointment only’ customer service strategies of bike shops to new delivery models employed by breweries, auto dealers, and more – businesses are innovating the way they do ‘customer service’ in every direction. Interestingly, many consumers are finding that these are options they’ve wanted all along

So how can businesses capitalize, empathize, and evolve to continue giving consumers what they want? By focusing on building community with each interaction.  From appointment scheduling and delivery, to online orders – each touchpoint often requires an email address. While every business owner knows they should be leveraging email to reach more customers, more consistently – these opportunities present a clear and present opportunity to integrate customer follow-up and customer loyalty more organically and in more contexts. 

Regardless of product, industry, or geographic location every business can expect one universal truth: operating a successful business post-pandemic will rely more on foresight than hindsight.

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