We are experiencing a generational crisis: riots, protests, depression, anxiety, stock market volatility, political gridlock, pandemic—the list goes on and on. This chaos is a reality for most Americans.
As a small business owner, what should you make of this moment? Keep reading for a few ideas that could help you take advantage of the chaos and scale your business.
The pandemic is not a disruptor; it is an accelerant. We are currently experiencing the biggest fast-forward of a century.
Does your business have a website? If not, get one.
Does your website have eCommerce capability? If not, get it.
Are you ready to fulfill orders from your website? If not, get started today.
Everything about your business needs to be in cyberspace, at least to some degree. If you previously relied on in-person retail commerce, you need to pivot quickly. Retail shopping will return, but not soon enough for your business to survive.
This pandemic will not be over soon. Convert every part of your customer interactions into a digital experience. The best part about all of this in 2020? It’s cheap; cheaper than it’s ever been.
Start with what’s free
- Zoom: teleconferencing software
- Calendly: calendar appointment scheduling
- G Suite: the cost is your data analytics, but no dollars need to be spent
- Google Voice: voice-over IP phone number and voicemail that automatically forwards to your cell phone)
- Google Drive: 15GB of storage and cloud sharing
- Google Sheets: spreadsheets for accounting and project management with cloud sharing
- WordPress: a basic website is free on wordpress.com (Elementor is an amazing plugin)
- Blog to show your expertise
- Social Media
- Gain followers and showcase your work
- Mailchimp: email Blast software
- Canva: graphic design software for social media and brand marketing
- SurveyMonkey: to capture the voice of your customers
- HubSpot: customer relationship management software
- io: web app builder
- Stripe: payment processing (they only make money when you do)
Then, move on to almost free (sunk costs that can be leveraged):
- Have a smartphone? Use the still camera and video to capture your work
- Post on social media and your website
- Own a vehicle? Local deliveries are cheaper than shipping
- Mileage/gas can be a tax deduction under certain circumstances.
Then move into areas where a little investment can go a long way:
- Don’t want to hire an employee? Use Upwork freelancer platform for:
- Graphic design
- Web design
- Social media profile writing (e.g., LinkedIn)
- Squarespace offers all-in-one solutions that provide payment, website building, email campaigns, eCommerce, and analytics for a low investment per month. Eating takeout probably costs you more.
Where to spend the real money?
Your best friend in the new digital age? Webcam. A webcam is the place to invest the money. This is your entire customer service department: front desk rep, your customer account manager, your transparency guarantee. You can use the webcam as your first and last point of contact with potential customers. You can use the webcam to showcase the printing/decorating/engraving of the piece they ordered. You can use the webcam as proofing/acceptance for the final product. You can use the webcam to show how you package and ship your customers’ items.
Your other best friend in the new digital age? Internet connection. Everything relies on broadband. You need to be able to download and upload as fast as possible. In the new digital economy, there is the quick and the dead. Be quick. Get the fastest and most reliable service you can find and pay for it. Check every month to make sure there isn’t another option available. Cable, satellite, DSL, and fiber optic all offer the same basic service. What you need is wideband internet. Aim for 1-gigabyte service at a minimum.
Remember, your entire business needs to go online, and your internet connection is the concrete you constructed your shop on. Any cracks or poor quality in your internet connection will lose business.
Other notable investments to consider are taxes, accounting, attorney, and insurance. These are all expensive and possibly overvalued services, but think of them like anything else you would want in an emergency—better to have and not need than to need and not have!
Retail as we knew it is dead. The pandemic killed it. The emerging generation of consumers (millennials and Gen-Z) want to do everything online. They don’t want to spend time taking the emotional and physical tax of going out into the world.
Retail Dive reported in 2018 that 81% of global eCommerce shoppers ordered items online for in-store pickup, up almost 30% from 2017. This may be confusing and uncomfortable for older generations who like browsing, telephone conversations, and cash transactions. The good news is those experiences will not disappear; they will become a small portion of the new economy.
Amazon, Click & Collect, Uber Eats, and Teledoc have proven that the vast majority of any transaction can and will be done from the comfort of your own home. The final 20% is rapidly becoming “last-mile delivery,” and what we once knew as the storefront retail experience will become a fraction of the modern economy.