Like many of you, my life is now restricted within the walls of my house. Quarantine started in the middle of March, and the last day I set foot in a store was March 11. Life feels like it is moving both fast and slow at the same time. Slow, because the days of quarantine seem endless and monotonous without the activities outside the home to pack my day. Fast because almost overnight the world completely changed. Our physical world is quite different than it was 30 days ago, and the hardship is that we do not know how to adapt. I have the unique experience that my work has focused on the digital world for the last 11 years. I have spent that time establishing a digital footprint for brands that were firmly engaged in physical store sales. Aside from essential services and supplies, everything is now moving to digital. As manufacturers, service providers and retailers, how do you adapt to this new normal?
It all starts with your customers
Your business has core consumers, and they are the best place for you to start. Up until now, you may have been providing a specific service or product to those consumers. Is that product or service still something they need or want? If not, make a list of what consumers in your area need right now.
Can you change your business to adapt to those needs at this time? For example, there is currently more of a demand for basic groceries and food supplies, so many restaurants are offering pantry kits of basic staples like milk, rice, meat, and toilet paper in addition to their takeout meals. Salons are not able to service clients in most areas, but clients are desperate to have their hair colored. Many stylists are offering virtual consultations, mixing and sending color kits to their clients and arranging video calls to instruct them on in-home application.
If you sell products, are they available through eCommerce? If so, have you updated your product details recently?
If you do not have your products available through eCommerce, now is the time to start. If you have not updated content recently, you want to review everything through the lens of the current marketplace. For example, a manufacturer of toys and games that normally starts selling beach toys this time of year, may, instead may want to focus more on puzzles and family games.
A sporting goods store, Sport Systems has taken to promoting sales of their skiing face masks and goggles as those are needed now for purposes other than skiing. With ski resorts are prematurely closed, it is a good way for them to sell through inventory, and to meet the needs of consumers and first responders.
Make the connection
Your current consumers are valuable. Develop a campaign to connect with your consumers directly. For personalized services, connect through a phone call. For less personal products or services, connect through an email campaign. If you have a strong social media following, engage your consumers there. If you do not have contact information for your consumers, determine the profile of your consumer and brainstorm how can you reach those types of people directly.
For example, if your store is in a specific geographic area, you can develop a campaign to reach your consumers in that geographic area through social media. The most important thing is to make a connection with your customers. You may also need to think of different ways to connect with your consumers for events. In-person conferences are now going virtual though webinars or all-day seminars.
Think outside your current customer base
Are there products you currently sell which you could now sell to another audience? Are there essential businesses who need your products? It may be worth placing a phone call to those businesses to familiarize them with your products. At this time, you should also think about expanding outside of your consumer base or geography. A digital fitness, dance or martial arts class can be shared by your current customers with their friends and family all over the world. You may develop new customers across the country.
Someone who sells cute clothes at craft fairs throughout the country may want to try their skills at making stylish cloth face masks which are at a premium in many states. This may be a time to change your focus or your industry. It may seem overwhelming but start small. Begin with the first step and develop your plan from there.
Do you need help coming up with a strategy for adapting your business to these changing times?