The COVID-19/Coronavirus situation has been a serious matter, and its effect on retailers across all industries has been palpable. We cover the pandemic’s impact on shipping and e-commerce in another article, so we won’t dive into that here. Here, let’s discuss how to survive COVID-19 as a small business and come out on the other side of this a stronger business.
Get the most recent updates on COVID-19 as it pertains to shipping and carriers here
Yes, easier said than done. Many business owners, particularly those who may have recently started businesses because it’s so easy to do online now, have not experienced this kind of uncertainty and chaos in the market. If you have been running a business for a long time, you may remember the 2008 crash and what it felt like. Either way now is not the time to hide under your desk with a bottle of wine.
Now is the time to reevaluate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and where you can improve to survive COVID-19 as a small business. Put strategies in place to bolster customer loyalty, reinforce your fulfillment strategies, and embrace the tools that are available to you. Let’s look at some ways to do that.
Reassure customers and try to build community
We’ve written in the past about ways to use email to build customer loyalty and encourage customers to share the love. Now is the time to lean on the relationships you’ve built over time with customers. The entire world is suffering physically and economically, so be honest and transparent with your customers and start to build (or reinforce) the foundation of your relationship with them. Remind them that there’s a face behind your business and that you understand what they might be going through.
Send emails and create social content to engage your community, encourage them in their struggles and it’s okay to mention to them how much of an effect this pandemic has on your business. It may be helpful to take a position of “Let’s rally together” as opposed to a “Woe is me” approach to help inspire people.
Sift through your customer data and segment your customer lists to create more personalized messaging. For example, find your VIPs—those who’ve spent the most or have the longest customer tenure—and offer them special discounts to thank them and help them during what could be a tough time for them as well. Ask for feedback, or ask if they’d be interested in a loyalty program, and put the focus on how much you appreciate them.
Though they may no longer be considered a “small business,” take a look at how Chubbies communicated what’s happening, how they’re handling it, and what they’re offering to customers. It’s in their unique voice, embraces their customers, and faces the challenge head-on.
Another approach that many small businesses are doing is encouraging customers to purchase gift cards or prepurchase products and services. This way you’re still getting revenue coming in during a difficult time and customers still eventually get a benefit of redeeming the order once this is all over with. They get to support a company they love, and you’ll still be around when this whole thing blows over.
Work on a fulfillment contingency plan
Amazon made a major change recently, preventing sellers from being able to send any inventory that doesn’t fall into the category of “necessities” for Fulfillment By Amazon. This left sellers who depended on Amazon to fulfill part or all of their orders puzzled as to what to do next.
Without much guidance, many sellers who depended on a vast fulfillment network either had to stop selling products or fulfill orders themselves. This situation is a perfect example of the fragility of “selling on rented land.” Amazon has a business to run, and sometimes de-prioritizing other sellers’ products is just part of that process.
Sellers on Amazon, or any marketplace, need to make sure they have a multichannel approach to selling online. While it might be easier to let Amazon do the picking and packing, a fallback plan with the ability to sell on another marketplace, or better yet your own website property, gives you the ability to be agile at a time like this. When you use a quality shipping solution, you can still manage orders from all those sales channels in a single place.
Amazon is still letting sellers have their listings and fulfill the orders themselves, but there is increased time and labor costs now associated with those sales, at least through April.
Connect with other small business owners
The small business community can be a tight-knit group. At times like this, it can be worth your time to find opportunities to partner together for each other’s success. Who knows? It may turn into a long-term endeavor that proves fruitful for both of you. Check out the way Bold Commerce united businesses to share their offerings and seek out opportunities to connect!
Calling all #ecommerce stores!
These are hard times for many. Let's all come together and help 💪. Give the BIGGEST discount you can with one unified discount code for all: #SPREADJOY
Anything helps. 5%, 50%, Free Shipping.
Reply with your URL so people can support you too!
— Bold Commerce (@bold_commerce) March 16, 2020
Let technology get the word out
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, there’s no time like the present to make the move to online e-commerce. Many of the online store platforms (Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and more) and marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, Bonanza, and others) make it pretty simple to set up your online store, import your products, and start selling.
ShippingEasy has an award-winning support team to help you understand the nuances of shipping your products, set up automation, get access to the best rates, and schedule package pickups so you don’t even have to leave.
For those of you who deal primarily in food and drinks, see if anyone has started putting together lists of businesses that offer takeout orders. For example, here in Austin, TX, a couple Austinites named Corey and Fannie created Takeout Tracker. The simple site gives information on who offers takeout, which services will pick up from the restaurant, if no-contact pickup and delivery are available, and more. As distressing as the current situation is, there is always potential for innovative solutions to pop up.
Now is not the time to be shy on your social media channels. Use video to create a connection with your audience and show them the human side of your business. Use live video to create opportunities to answer questions, offer specials, or just chat with your customers.
Particularly on Twitter, look for trending hashtags you can participate in, such as the one Bold Commerce used above (#SpreadJoy). People are talking about being quarantined, being bored, and going without the things they normally love to do. Join in the conversation, not simply trying to sell a product, but have actual conversations with people.
We’re behind you
Here at ShippingEasy, we understand that these are trying times for small business owners across the country and world. Our team has been working to help business owners adapt—whether that means better understanding fulfillment processes or getting started with their first online store. Let’s make sure you survive COVID-19 as a small business owner and come out stronger after all of this into the future.