The global fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 has caused many businesses to close their doors or alter their operations for an extended period of time. Now, as governments across the country continue to ease social distancing guidelines and trading restrictions, it’s time to start optimising for the ‘new normal’ when it comes to getting back to business.
Due to the complex nature of what we’re facing and uncertainty about how the situation will unfold over the coming weeks and months, there are still many restrictions that may apply to your small businesses and your customers for the foreseeable future.
That’s why it’s important that you adopt an operating model that complies with these measures but also enables you to open your doors and start getting back in the black as quickly as possible. Here are some tips that may help boost your small business right now.
Communicate with your customers
Keeping your customers informed is critical to the health of your business now and as more restrictions are lifted in the coming months. So let your customers know where they can find you, how they can support your business and what your new operating hours are.
They will likely be active across multiple channels so ensure that you use all the communication platforms at your disposal, including your website and social media profiles, and email your base with business reopening updates.
Health and safety
If your business operates in close proximity to your customers, like restaurants and cafes or hair and beauty salons, health and safety precautions are imperative. While the curve is flattening, care and vigilance remains a priority and your customers will expect you to take every precaution to look after them.
Put up signage, add decals or markers to the floor, ensure that personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, like masks and hand sanitiser, are readily available. You might also need to think about the configuration of your store, salon or restaurant to avoid overcrowding and ensure your space is equipped to adhere to social distancing laws.
Try contactless selling
With social distancing guidelines remaining in place for the foreseeable future, many businesses are turning to contactless selling to limit in-person interactions. If you’re a retail business or offer a product or service and you’re not already doing so, now is the time to start selling online.
Having an online directory of your products not only enables you to showcase all you have to offer, but you can also highlight best-selling items or seasonally relevant products too. Online checkouts also provide a fast, secure and simple way for customers to pay.
Outside of websites, social media channels have become a popular avenue for selling over the last couple of months. Many platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, are enabling retailers to integrate product links to their profiles and posts.
For example, Square recently released an online checkout feature that enables retailers to add a unique checkout link to social media posts, so customers can simply click on the product they like in your feed and pay instantly.
Don’t forget, there are also a number of alternative payment options that don’t require online promotion or in-person contact with your customers, like taking orders over the phone and keying in card payment details, or sending e-invoices.
And if you’re back in your store or place of work, only accepting card payments rather than cash can help minimise physical contact too.
Diversify your offering
Although restrictions are starting to lift, you may still have some limitations in terms of what you can offer your customers, whether it’s due to shipping and logistics, available inventory, a change in consumer behaviour or new government regulations. Don’t be afraid to get creative with new ways to add extra revenue.
Sell electronic gift cards, for example, which are a great way to increase cash flow for businesses across a variety of sectors, including retail, hospitality or hair and beauty. There are many platforms at your disposal that can enable you to sell gift cards online, which you can then promote to your customers via social media.
Restrictions are changing the way that people live, work and interact with businesses, so delving into the latest trends or surveying your customer base to determine what their needs are right now are also great ideas.
It could be as simple as adding extra in-demand items, such as decorative face masks and gloves, promoting locally-sourced products, or changing the way you host your customers in your shop, salon or place of business.
While restrictions are easing across Australia, ‘the new normal’ will, for some time, be very different to what many of us remember. For small businesses, making a successful return to business will be dependent on putting in place the best processes and precautions to make the most of the gradual easing of restrictions in the short to medium-term.
Chris Rich is the Customer Success Lead at Square Australia