According to most experts in their field, a new habit takes just 66 days to become fully automatic behaviour. As I write we’re at day 34 of the Covid-19 lockdown but, despite media pressure on the government to publish an exit strategy, all common sense, epidemiology and medical evidence suggests we have a long way to go before any sort of normality returns here in the UK and the jury’s out about what sort of phased return will be possible. Of course, businesses are champing at the bit to get going again, not just because of financial pressures but also driven by a fear that previously loyal customers will have deserted them come the ‘new normal’.
Not all businesses are struggling to the same degree though – many have learned to be agile; to adapt quickly and make the most of a dire situation and are finding it works for them. Some small businesses have started taking credit cards either contactless or by phone and have realised that the reason they never accepted cards in the past, have largely evaporated because the days when you needed an expensive merchant account from your bank and expensive point of sale equipment are gone forever. Today, you can sign up online an be accepting cards by phone, online or in person within 48 hours and the cost? Around 1.75% per transaction if you make your choices wisely. The same businesses have also realised that they are seeing new customers because of the new ways they’re find to operate. Who knew a small cafe could prosper at a time when they weren’t allowed to open their doors and who knew customers were happy to pay a premium to have haberdashery delivered to their door?
Of course, we are in unusual times, to say the least and it wouldn’t be sensible to assume buying habits now will be the buying habits post-lockdown, would it? Well, it might be …
Your customers will have changed
We have no real idea what the business landscape will look like post-lockdown. Some are predicting a 20 year recession while others are predicting a boom and return to ‘normality’ much quicker. The truth is out there somewhere but, whatever the speed of the transition and the economic impact, one thing is almost assured, we, as consumers of products and services will have changed and changed forever. Even putting aside the socio-economic factors, for now, we will have developed new habits and none more so than the way we use technology and the way in which we engage with service providers.
During the lockdown many of the people who said “I’ll never use social media” or “I don’t trust online shopping” or “I don’t use email” or “If I want to talk to someone, I’ll just phone them”. They will have realised that, actually, it’s convenient to find your weekly shop delivered to your doorstep or a copy of the book they wanted slipped effortlessly through their letterbox. They will also have realised that Zoom was not only a fondly remembered ice lolly from the 60s and 70s but is actually a great way of keeping in-touch with friends & relatives in 2020.
In other words, they will have changed their behaviors.
What is the new normal?
It would be easy to think that one day the government will say “It’s over, back to normal folks, fill yer boots” and we’ll all be rushing to the out of town shopping centres, high streets, garden centres etc. and carrying on like we used to, as if nothing had happened. The fact is that regardless of the official line, we’ve all be scared and fearful and, for the first time in three generations, nothing was certain anymore. Yes, we may see a rush to rampant consumerism for a few days, weeks even, as we just need to get out of the house and spread our wings but that novelty will soon rub off and we’ll take stock, once again, of what has just happened to us.
Clearly, Covid-19 will have claimed many small business scalps by the time it’s exhausted itself but, as sad as that is, new opportunities will have arisen and it’s those small businesses and self employed, lone wolf traders that have been agile in their thinking and adaptable in their approach that will fill the gaps to take advantage of changing customer habits going forward.
If I read the signals right, in the new normal, we’ll see a strong resistance to ‘globalisation’ and renewed importance placed upon ‘localisation’. Conveniently driven partly by Brexit and partly by a realisation that, in a crisis, we’re way too reliant upon foreign imports and manufacturing that takes place in a far off land, I predict we’ll see new opportunities for light manufacturing, research and online trading. If one good thing could come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it could be a resurgence of British manufacturing and a customer base that now understands that’s it’s better to pay a few pence more for your goods than rely on foreign imports. Revitalisation of the economy has to come from within.
Can you adapt your business?
There has never been a better time to take stock of your business; what you do, how you do it and who you do it for. Can you adapt to be more resilient, more profitable and service a wider customer base? It’s time to think differently, not just to make it through the current situation but, beyond and forever. Put aside the judgements you made previously about trading online, having meetings online and pre-judging your potential customer base. It’s a new world, a new normal, where new opportunities will exist and, with agility and adaptability, we small business owners can take advantage and thrive and help to rebuild the economy.
- Think about how you can use technology, your online presence and social media platforms to engage and sell to a new audience.
- Think about opportunities to diversify.
- Rethink your business model – can we sell for less but sell more?
- Think about ‘value added services’ such as home delivery.
- Look closely at your base product or service and think about how to add value to it. For example, if you sell gift items, can you add delivery, gift wrapping and personalisation to increase your turnover and ‘customer value’.
- Can you offer online video consultations?
Here to help
As a small business ourselves and also having a solid background in marketing and business consultancy, we’re happy to discuss opportunities with any small, local business looking for inspiration and different ideas.
Of course, our core business is making websites and if you think your business could work online in the ‘new normal’ then do get in touch. We’re adapting already and diversifying into online learning and also looking closely at our business model and a realisation that while profit is, of course, important we’re happy to look at that profit over a longer period so, if you would like us to make you a new website now, there’ll be nothing to pay until October 2020 at the earliest.
Call now on 01227 392566 and we’ll book a Zoom call to discuss your ideas, needs and aspirations.