Corona and the aftermath - How SMEs successfully emerge from the crisis
The end of the Corona pandemic is in sight. This is how you, as an SME operator, can stand tall in the aftermath.
Almost everyone is tired of hearing it, but Corona concerns us all, not just socially but also economically. In addition to a toll on our health and the social aspects of our lives, Corona presented numerous challenges to entrepreneurs of small and medium sized businesses, some of which could be overcome, others little or not at all. However, thanks to vaccines becoming more readily available and the prospect that medicine to treat Corona will enter the market by the end of 2021 we can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
But in order to be able to use these freedoms for a successful new start, simply returning to how things were before the pandemic will not be enough. Customer habits have also changed along with the ways to reach them and how to deliver services and products. That is why it is worth taking a look at the challenges that have been overcome and the resulting changes in everyday business to be able to find the best way to emerge from the Corona pandemic.
Corona and the challenges for SMEs
We were all in the thick of it and everyone had to deal with the restrictions. Nevertheless, some companies were hit harder than others because of the type of business they have, which determined how strong of an effect the measures had on their business. Closing down, only making deliveries, mapping out safety plans for customers and employees, staying open with restrictions, staying open as an essential company and having a higher risk of contracting the virus - the challenges were many.
In combination with curfew restrictions and everyone taking more precautions, this caused a sharp drop in sales or, in some cases, even a complete loss of sales. Although there was government aid in many places to help everyone get by, many entrepreneurs only hoped that they would remain one by the end of the crisis.
Improvise, adapt, overcome - what's changed for SMEs
Nobody wanted to simply succumb to the situation. Resourcefulness, organizational talent and the willingness to try new things were the hallmarks of those who did not just stand by and do nothing. They wanted to develop alternative ways to generate sales during the crisis and also establish new pillars for the future. Many solutions were rolled out quickly and, especially with a return to normalcy on the horizon, these can be improved and firmly integrated into the business process.
Those had who previously operated retail shops established online sales channels (either via Click & Collect or full-scale e-commerce), while those who had previously catered to people in restaurants or bars included deliveries or set up a pick-up window for takeout. Consulting companies and agencies switched heavily to digital communication channels, both internally and externally, and workshops and courses run by craft businesses took place online.
According to a study by 99designs and Corus, 56% of entrepreneurs had already changed their business model in April 2020 and more than two thirds of those who were not online before were already planning to focus more on e-commerce. It seems that many companies adopted the same motto: challenge accepted. Now, however, it is important to combine this somewhat forced path of change with the soon-to-be "normal" business activity from before in order to take the best of the past and the present with us.
Getting close to the customer again
One of the most important aspects of returning to normal is closer contact with customers. Instead of communicating online or over the phone, it is again possible to sit across from one another, face-to-face and chat directly in person. In retail shops and among service providers, direct customer contact and personal advice on available products are also once again part of daily business. And restaurants as well as hotels can finally greet their guests again.
So far so good. However, just because business can resume as before doesn't mean that customers will behave as they once did. Therefore, it would be wrong to simply remove the sales channels and processes that were newly established during the crisis. As mentioned earlier, these can serve as new pillars and opportunities for increased efficiency.
On the other hand, it is still important to bring customers back, maintain personal contact and therefore strengthen customer relations. Customer loyalty can be increased in the long term, and regardless of whether customers rely on old or new sales channels, sales will clearly increase again as a result. But how do I bring back customers and how can I keep them in the long run?
Your importance as a local business
As an SME, your business is usually an important part of your local economy - both as a local supplier or service provider and as an employer. Remind your customers of this and not only inform them of when your business returns to normal, but also create welcome-back offers. The easiest way to inform your existing loyal customers is via newsletters - this can be done quite easily, for example, with the Newsletter Module in the Partner App, included in the myWorld Premium Partner Program.
At the same time, it is recommended that you collaborate with other businesses in your region. Form a regional business network that helps everyone support one another. Consider joint advertising, cross-company discount campaigns or cooperation in areas where there are overlapping points of interest. This helps not only to keep commissions in the region but, by working together, it also expands the customer base for everyone with those who might have otherwise made a purchase elsewhere.
Service is your success
Considering all of this, it is most important that you celebrate regained contact with your customers. Let them feel how nice and important it is for you to have them back. This includes welcoming them on their return, advising them while shopping, providing them with a service and maybe even presenting them with a small gift at checkout. Something small will do, such as a chocolate bar or a thank you card to show customers your appreciation and to rebuild relationships lost due to Corona.
You can further strengthen these efforts by asking customers after their visit what they would like to see from your company now that it is fully operational again. For this purpose, the myWorld Premium Partner Program offers the practical Customer Communication Module with which you can create surveys in advance and have them sent out automatically.
If you would like to emphasize your return to normal, then organize an event for your customers to commemorate a new start. You decide the size of the event-whether it's a cosy get-together with drinks and snacks, a lively party or a business brunch, the main thing is that you show how nice it is for you to be there again for your customers.
Don't push new things to the side
Another thing you most certainly shouldn't forget is what has helped your business overcome the challenges of the pandemic. If you have established a digital sales channel for your company, then continue to pursue this course. The same goes for delivery services, online workshops or additional digital offers. It would be a shame to put aside all the work of the past months. After all, you've created additional sales channels and opportunities to stay in touch with your customers and increase company efficiency.
With all of this in mind, we wish you all the best and much success while you return to a time without restrictions and obstacles. Be sure to share this joy with your customers and enjoy good company again. We at myWorld are definitely looking forward to it.