The Day Everything Changed – Lockdown and Small Businesses
March 26, 2020 will long be remembered as the day everything changed. As New Zealand went into COVID Alert Level 4 lockdown, people began to fear for their jobs and financial futures, charities ramped up their community support efforts, and businesses (particularly smaller businesses) faced the challenge of adapting or dying.
Perhaps the biggest change for small businesses, particularly those in retail or the service sector, was that face to face contact was no longer possible. This resulted in a dramatic change as consumers adjusted their spending habits overnight and became online consumers.
Sure, some consumers were already buying goods online, but now there was no alternative. If we wanted almost anything that wasn’t available from a supermarket, we had to Google it and purchase online.
The New Zealand business world was turned upside down.
When lockdown was announced, most New Zealand small businesses immediately lost their traditional customer base and were forced to face a simple reality; if you didn’t have an online e-commerce or mobile presence, you were struggling to make sales.
The challenge was obvious. Small businesses needed to adapt to a digital-only world.
And, many did. Some were highly innovative, offering same-day contactless delivery or discount deals, others played it straight and set up basic online sales websites. The one thing many of those who survived had in common was that they did something digitally!
There’s no going back.
Whatever the response during COVID, the reality is this, there is no going back.
Sure, the malls have reopened and people are starting to spend again but, for many New Zealanders, their retail habits have changed. They have been converted to the world of online browsing and purchasing.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy for businesses. E-commerce may present new revenue avenues but it can also be new territory for those businesses without an online presence or whose current website marketing page needs a bit of a refresh.
Your opportunity is now!
Something about lockdown unified New Zealanders. Kiwis recognise the challenging financial journey that sits in front of us and are already making a conscious decision to show support to local retailers and service providers.
How long this move of “shop local” lasts is anyone’s guess. That’s why a smart businessowner will be proactive now. They will recognise that, for New Zealanders, “buying local” doesn’t mean purchasing from the nearest store. It means, purchasing from anywhere in the country, so long as the money is going to another Kiwi.
Right now, there is also a very real opportunity to attract international customers. New Zealand is getting unprecedented overseas coverage following the government’s approach to fighting COVID which adds to our green image and promotes New Zealand companies.
This is where a strong e-commerce presence is vital.
We’ve probably all heard about the New Zealand company that was making alcoholic spirits when the lockdown hit. Suddenly, their client base dried up (excuse the pun!). The bars were all closed and so, they had no one to buy their product. What did they do?
They pivoted! They began to manufacture hand sanitiser. They sold it to government agencies and they sold it online. It was a huge success and meant the company not only survived, they thrived during lockdown!
Another business sold seafood to restaurants. When the restaurants were forced to close, they lost their client base. So, they pivoted! They advertised a “direct to consumer” seafood delivery service and gained customers from all around the country.
But here is the bottom line; for both these businesses, the changes they made are here to stay because, many consumers now prefer online convenience over face-to-face interactions.
Now is your moment.
In today’s world, businesses that rely on face-to-face client/customer contact are limiting themselves and are placing themselves in a dangerous place should there be another pandemic or similar crisis.
Adding an e-commerce side to your business is as simple as engaging the right web-designer to create an online platform for your products. Don’t let the complexity of the setup put you off, your web-designer will handle that. Once established, online sales platforms are easy to manage and require little ongoing maintenance. All you need to do is dispatch the orders.
Hopefully, New Zealand is now on the road to economic recovery. Just remember, in terms of your business’s sales, it’s not the same road we were travelling before. Without a website and an online sales platform for your business, you may find your competitor’s passing by on the inside lane!
Click here to talk to Rich&Co about online sales for your business.