How to recover fast from the COVID-19 shutdown

After nearly 3 months of shutdown, 33% of Australian businesses reported reducing work hours. This impact was most evident in the hospitality sector. The pain inflicted on the economy and people may take awhile to heal. However, Australia is reopening and the consumers are ready to open up their wallets and return to normalcy as soon as possible.

Unless your business is one of the few eCommerce players who actually thrived during quarantine, it is likely in a worse situation as you reopen. Your customer engagement will have likely been on pause during this time and you will need to (re-)acquire customers to drive traffic to your physical or online stores. The path to recovery can be challenging for many, especially since most states still have at least some restrictions on maximum capacity and types of interactions a business could accommodate.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with how to re-energise your business and expand as the economy starts to slowly rebuild, here are some guidelines to help you put together a plan.

1. Strengthen your funnel

While many customers are eager to go out and make up for the economic dormancy they were forced into, the businesses are also going to be fiercely competing for customers’ attention. So you may want to invest in ads and referral campaigns so that you are driving more traffic to your website or digital storefront. If you haven’t done it before, now is the time to polish your knowledge around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies so that your business/brand is able to appear first upon relevant searches.

Blogs and media will be publishing many articles listing businesses that have reopened to help eager customers resume pre-pandemic routines such as eating out and shopping. Reach out to the media to promote your business or be interviewed so your brand is featured in local and national news. Be everywhere – that’s how you can attract more customers quickly.

2. Arm yourself with data

In order to strengthen your funnel and revive your sales, you must have data. To get the right return on investment in paid ads, you have to track and analyse the impact of your marketing activities real-time. This may be challenging for some SMEs who do not have sophisticated data analytics systems in place. Data is no longer a luxury only enjoyed by big corporations. It is a nonnegotiable necessity for any business which intends to stay competitive for long-term. There are web analytics tools and physical traffic analytics tools you can easily access for free or at affordable prices. Understanding what parts of the customer interactions are high-value vs. low-value will allow you to pivot quickly and expend money where it matters. If you are not too data-savvy, it is strongly recommended that you take business analytics courses to educate yourself so you will be able to analyse and apply the collected data.

3. Rethink your real estate

Brick-and-mortar business model was seriously challenged during the pandemic shutdown. Businesses will also be reevaluating how they utilise their current physical real estate. Highly desirable prime locations with high foot traffic often require extremely high rent prices. And pandemic has taught us that such significant capital expenditures pose extremely high risks as foot traffic can be completely out of the store owners’ control. Expanding your digital store (e.g., by introducing deliveries) is the only future-proof way to ensure your revenue streams are diversified and protected. Many mega department stores are now on the verge of bankruptcy. You may also want to consider expanding your product lines so that your digital store can reach national or international customer base. It is time to rethink your digital-physical store design cohesively.

This does not mean physical stores should just shut down and only exist virtually. You may want to explore partnering with other brands to diversify and expand customer traffic and reduce the cost of storefronts. What about on-the-go stores on the wheel? With social media, sharing the daily location of your store is no longer an issue. It is sometimes even used as a marketing strategy to create intrigue.

4. Find ambassadors

People are craving social interactions and loyal customers will want to return to your business and bring as many friends with them as possible. Thus, offer greater incentives to loyal customers who bring additional clients and traffic. Simply having them help post about your business alone is a great marketing channel. In fact, word of mouth is the most effective and coveted marketing channel for all businesses. Right now is time to reward customer loyalty in unprecedented ways.

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