There’s no question about it: 2020 has been challenging for small businesses. From protracted lockdowns to massive job losses leading consumers to cling more tightly than ever to whatever discretionary income they might have, the market has not been kind.
Now, as the make-or-break holiday season looms and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, small retailers are scrambling to figure out how to salvage the year. If your small business has not yet fully embraced today’s retail technologies, now is perhaps the perfect time to do so.
The good news is, it doesn’t take that much time, cash, or expertise to trick out your business tech. And the effort may well make all the difference this holiday season.
Online Ordering and Curbside Pickup
In the age of COVID, social distancing requirements and store capacity restrictions are likely to take a major bite out of your bottom line. However, allowing your customers to order products online and pick up the items curbside can go far in offsetting those losses. This is especially true if you’re able to offer same-day pickup — even better if you can promise pickup within an hour.
Another way to boost sales in your virtual storefront is by offering — and heavily promoting — home delivery. In certain cities, you may be able to partner with shipping and delivery services, from Shipt to DoorDash. Even an in-house shopping assistant to pick items and deliver them to the customer’s home can be a tremendous asset, especially in reaching customer segments who simply can’t or won’t leave home right now, even for curbside pickup.
Even Better than the Real Thing?
There’s no question that we’re all facing more than our fair share of pandemic fatigue right about now. Your customers are almost certainly pining for a sense of normalcy, especially for the holidays. At the same time, many may be unwilling to risk a crowded brick and mortar store, no matter how tempting it may be.
You can take this opportunity to try to recreate the in-store holiday shopping experience on your virtual storefront. Give your e-store a reboot with a strong holiday theme. Play up the nostalgia. Feature holiday-themed designs and focus on promoting holiday-related products — not just gifts but the essentials that customers would usually buy in-store. In short, use your virtual storefront to help customers re-create a traditional holiday, even in these untraditional times.
The Power of the (Digital) Purse
It’s not only online orders and your e-store that you want to focus on for the holiday season, however. You’re also going to need to take your in-house technology to the next level as well.
One of the easiest but also one of the most important ways to do this is by giving your customers mobile payment options. Three out of five smartphone users in the US have a digital wallet. The majority want the option to add cash to their digital wallet while in-store and also to be able to use loyalty points for in-store purchases using their smartphones.
If customers know they’re not going to have to wait in line at a cashier to make a purchase, they’re not only more likely to visit your physical store but also to buy from you. In the COVID era, the more contactless options you can give your customers, the better.
Best of all, the technology for making it happen is accessible, affordable, and amazingly functional. Tools like QuickBook Payments, for example, enable you to securely access digital payments in a variety of forms, from credit and debit cards to e-checks and ACH payments.
Going with the (Work)Flow
Today’s tech isn’t just going to help optimize customer-facing functions. It can also be a powerful tool for boosting the efficiency of your organization. And, in the face of so much uncertainty, it’s more important now than ever to be streamlined, saving time and money whenever and wherever you can.
An automated workflow system can be miraculous in coordinating activities among diverse teams. And when your marketing, sales, and customer service teams are all on the same page, every day, you’ll avoid costly delays and needless errors. That means you’re not only saving money, but you’re also delivering an exceptional customer experience — earning their loyalty and some great word of mouth.
Don’t Fall for the Hype
Exploring all the ways that technology can benefit your small business, both during the holidays and beyond can sometimes make it feel like tech has all the answers. The benefits are real, but so too is the risk of going overboard.
So make sure to look before you leap onto the technology bandwagon. Make sure to do a thorough assessment of what your company needs, now and in the future. Be judicious with your technology investment. Choosing the right tech can be transformative for your business. But technology can quickly become a sucking money pit when it’s not useful or necessary.
The holiday season has always been the savior of the calendar year for small businesses, but few seasons have ever been as important as this one. Fortunately, with some deliberation and strategy, you can harness the power of today’s business tech to overcome the challenges of this pandemic market and potentially make these holidays the most lucrative yet!