If you own a retail business or any other kind of business that has traditionally relied on customers coming to you to buy your products - I have some ideas to keep your sales coming as more and more people are forced to stay at home over the coming few months.
1. Get your business e-commerce capable
This, of course, is the biggy. And no surprise coming from me no doubt. But all that means is having a website that can display your goods or services and a system to take orders, payments and facilitate delivery to your customers.
This can, at a stretch, be done on a number of platforms including Facebook.
Having lived recently, for over a year in Vietnam, I can tell you that most small businesses in that country sell all over the region just using Facebook.
Facebook is a good short term solution that can be propped up with something more dedicated and streamlined such as Shopify as you move forward. To start on Facebook make sure you add the Shop tab to your page and begin adding products to it manually. These product listings can include pictures, descriptions, pricing and a few other details. Customers can then contact you on Messenger to order and pay.
2. Liquidate stagnant or slow-moving stock now and replace it with more reliable lines
Most experienced business owners already understand this. Goods on shelves represent investments going mouldy. And at this stage, slow-moving stock is likely to stop altogether for months - depending on what it is.
If you’ve got gear that is taking up space and owes you money, get rid of it for what it owes you now. Take advantage of stimulus packages and boredom spending to cut your losses and reinvest that value elsewhere. Doing this now could give you some much-needed cash flow to make some tactical decisions such as moving the rest of the business towards e-commerce.
3. Use social media and email strategies to keep in touch with your customers and share new arrivals, offers and news.
This is something all business should have been doing long before now but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great time to start. If you have a customer list with emails, you can reach out to those people in a number of ways. But you need to be careful and legal with how you do it.
The most important advice I offer my clients at the moment is this: Entertain, educated, enlighten and engage your customers. Don’t sell to them all of the time, in fact, I use a ratio of one to three. One brazen sales pitch to three of the four E’s.
With more and more of your customers spending idle time at home over the next few months. This is a prime time for you to start learning what they want, how you can enrich them and building those lasting relationships.
4. Spend on smart marketing to expand beyond your local area just enough to make up for shortfalls plus ROI.
Free posts on social media are called organic posts. What’s important to realise here though, is that just because you have 500 Facebook fans, doesn’t mean all 500 will see your posts. That’s just not how it works. In fact, your post could be pretty awesome and still only 60 of your 500 page-followers will see it. I don’t have time to make you a social media expert in this post so feel free to reach out to me or do your own research.
The best way to reach your existing customers and more potential customers is to pay for some advertising on social media. But my advice to small businesses today - without professional help - is to start small and aim to make up the shortfall in your normal day-to-day business.
That means reaching out to your local area and the customers you would normally have and getting them engaged in the systems you have set up in stages 1-3 of this video. Let them know you are still operating and that they can browse and buy your goods online or contact you and deal with you remotely.
Target your page "followers and friends of followers" first to stimulate some activity on your page. Then target your audience based on your five very best customers and keep your geographical reach small and local. $5 to $10 a day should see you getting some traction.
Once again. This is general advice only and if you need more help, reach out to a professional.
The take away here is that your customers won’t suddenly stop wanting your products, you just need to make them accessible online and put systems in place to keep the commerce happening.
I want to personally wish you all luck over the coming months. None of us knows how it will all pan out but my belief is that out of these bad times, good things will come.
If you live in Perth Western Australia and want a free 40-minute consultation on how to get your retail business e-commerce ready, please contact me today.