Few businesses or people could have prepared for the coronavirus epidemic affecting our society now. While technology is helping some businesses stay operational through teleconferencing calls and e-commerce orders, several restaurants, small businesses, and shops have had to temporarily close their doors.
People want their favorite small business owners to survive this crisis and open up again, and business owners are counting on their customers now more than ever.
If you operate a small business, consider implementing a few of the following strategies to bring revenue into your business. If you are a patron of a few small businesses in your area, consider buying a little extra to help companies survive these difficult times and beyond.
Everyone is wondering how small business owners can overcome the COVID-19 impact. We are here to help.
1. Sell Gift Cards
If you don't already, consider selling virtual gift cards to customers. Offering gift cards allows people who cannot visit your business now to give you working capital that you can use to stay afloat. For example, if you operate a bar that is closed, customers can buy gift cards and use them when your business is up and running again.
While you want customers to use gift cards when they receive them, many go unused each year. Up to 3% of gift cards are never redeemed, which benefits businesses since they don't have to exchange products and services for the store credit.
2. Extend Return or Exchange Dates
Many people aren't leaving their homes because of social distancing or mandated quarantines. Extend your return policy to accommodate these shoppers. This strategy can help your business keep customers in the long run. You are less likely to lose customers if you provide good customer service after the pandemic is over.
3. Offer Discounts If Possible
As a small business owner, you know that your current profit margins can be limited. However, you may be able to give your business life by offering discounts. Consider offering specific discounts to people who have to work during the pandemic — nurses, grocery store staff, pharmacists, delivery drivers, and other essential workers. This effort demonstrates how you can support your community while still promoting sales.
4. Offer Free Shipping and Delivery
Many small businesses have set up delivery services when they otherwise wouldn't. For example, a bookstore can deliver books to customers if its sales floor is closed. Restaurants are hiring delivery drivers. As a small business owner, you may be able to use your personal vehicle to reach customers who aren't leaving their homes in order to slow the spread of the virus.
If you can't deliver, consider offering free shipping. This strategy may encourage more customers to buy more now than they otherwise would.
5. Give Away Gifts With Purchases
If you want to encourage customers to spend more money with your company, set thresholds where customers receive gifts when they spend a certain amount. These gifts can be monetary thresholds (such as $25 or $50) or apply to a certain number of items that customers buy.
Giving away gifts can also help you unload inventory that cannot be stored indefinitely. For example, many bakeries have offered buy-one-get-one sales because unsold baked goods would otherwise go to waste. You can also give away new products that you want people to try but couldn't promote.
6. Offer a Free Month of Service for Long-Term Plans
Now is the time to sell long-term plans and subscriptions for your business. For example, a gym can offer a free month of service for customers who pay for the next six or 12 months upfront. Salons and spas can sell quarterly packages for services that customers can redeem after the coronavirus crisis concludes.
Many customers want to support small business owners during these tough times. Service plans and other bulk purchases allow them to do that.
7. Offer Online Classes, Resources, and Customer Service
If possible, find out what types of products or services you can offer online. Many gyms have released several hours of classes that people can participate in at home with minimal equipment. You may be able to offer a virtual course or webinar that customers can access through online registration.
Let your customers know what types of customer service you offer if you have had to close your physical doors. Make sure they can reach you by phone, email, and social media if they have any questions or concerns.
8. Create Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes are popular now, with 15% of shoppers signing up for one or more subscription boxes. Create one for your company. This offering can include a few sample products to let people know what you sell or a handful of full-size items that customers can enjoy. Subscription boxes can benefit your business after the coronavirus crisis ends if you decide to continue offering them.
If you are trying to get customers to shop local, you can deliver the boxes yourself or have people pick them up. You can also partner with other businesses to create a unique subscription box service.
9. Suggest That Clients Buy More Items Than Usual
If you are trying to offload inventory or make up for lost sales, consider encouraging customers to buy more than they otherwise would. Your customers would be open to this idea for many reasons:
- They don't know when your business may need to fully close in response to state or local orders to shut their doors.
- They may want to stock up on items that they need so that they can stay home.
- They want to support your business.
Give customers the option of buying more (or giving a higher tip) and consider offering a discount for people who reach higher spending thresholds. You can also package your products in ways that encourage people to buy in bulk.
10. Thank Your Customers for Their Support
During this time, many business owners are scrambling to adjust their operations and processes to stay open and keep customers engaged. Take a few minutes each week — or even each day — to thank your customers. Let them know that their support, whether it means buying gift cards or subscribing to long-term plans, can significantly help your business and keep it afloat. We are all in this together, and a little appreciation goes a long way.
11. Keep Communication Open
Whatever you decide to do during the coronavirus crisis, don't stop communicating with customers. Share via email, social media messaging, and other channels how you are staying in operation and what your plans are if you have to temporarily close. Share with customers what you are doing during the quarantine. Let people know as soon as you plan to open again.
Your customers want to support you, and communication can help them keep your business in mind.
12. Comply with Public Health Mandates
If you are able to stay open during the coronavirus crisis, stay up-to-date on the latest mandates and make changes to your operations as needed. You may need to change how you do business to stay in business. For example, Starbucks was one of the first companies to react to the coronavirus by preventing customers from bringing their own cups to prevent the spread of germs.
Communicate how you are changing your business practices to stay ahead of health guidelines. This strategy will reassure customers and protect your business throughout the coming months.
13. Post Regular Updates on Social Media
Let your customers know that you are still open. Many companies have gone beyond the requirements set out by local government officials. They have closed completely or changed how they operate. Communicate if you are open and how customers can support your business.
14. Be Genuine with Your Customers
During this current public health crisis, you have the ability to share personal updates with customers and receive their care and empathy. Be genuine when you communicate how your business is doing and how you hope to stay afloat. Talk about what you need from customers and how they can help. You may find that they are more willing to support you than you realize.
Even when the coronavirus epidemic concludes, many small business owners will still be worried about additional business challenges ahead. Some economic experts are predicting a future financial crisis that could change how businesses operate every day. However, by staying true to your customers and being flexible during these uncertain times, you can pull through and come out on the other side stronger than ever.