Thanks to our friends at Xero.
COVID-19 has proven to be the biggest economic disruption in a generation. Businesses have been forced to pivot to provide new products and services and find new and inventive ways of reaching their customers. We’ve been so inspired by the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of business owners within our community. And while it’s not always a smooth journey (read: this year is bloody tough), the learnings have been invaluable
Understanding the changes in the psychology of your customer is key to shaping your business for the future, whether you’re currently facing a tightening or easing of restrictions. Our friends at Xero have unpacked the key customer and industry trends shaping our immediate future in their guide Stronger and smarter: a small business handbook. Here are the top ten trends, tips and tools you can action right now to keep your business moving and growing into the future.
1. Making the move online
Having an online presence has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Customers now expect a seamless online process to browse, book and make payments, so you may need to boost your back-end technology to provide real-time information. The benefits of investing in this technology pay dividends in automating manual tasks, giving you more time to take care of your business.
Taking your business online opens you up to a whole new customer base, so beyond your website, business owners must consider their social media presence. Whether you focus on one platform or dabble in them all, a social media strategy will help you target your marketing and serve as a digital customer service desk
Tip: Replicate your in-store experience with high resolution images showcasing multiple angles and detailed descriptions of the product.
2. Low contact and cashless
The switch to cashless transactions has been accelerated by the global pandemic, with benefits to businesses including quicker reconciliation, reduced risk of theft, lower storage, transportation and security costs, and the all-important reason, hygiene. Cashless transactions also present the opportunity to gather data about your customers that can be used for marketing purposes.
Tip: Consider moving all your transactions to cash-free, tap-and-go. Explore new checkout options, including digital wallets, and contact-free ways to service your customer such as home delivery.
3. Distributed work
Lockdown restrictions and public safety concerns have turned dining tables into desks for millions of Australians. Digital technologies, cloud-based file storage and workplace collaboration apps have boomed as businesses have been forced to work remotely. The businesses that embrace this flexibility into the future may find a boost to the morale of their teams, making the all-important work life balance easier and sending a clear signal of trust. The benefits of remote teams don’t stop there; the talent pool expands significantly when you’re open to remote hires and contractors.
Tip: Check in with your team to understand their working preference, and make sure your IT systems and in-home devices used for work purposes are secure from cyber attack.
4. Continuity planning
If we’ve learned one thing in 2020, it’s the value of a business continuity plan. No one could have predicted that in a few short months we’d be hit with bushfires, smoke pollution, wild storms, a global pandemic and economic recession. While no one has a crystal ball, businesses can put plans in place to prepare for events that may cause disruption. Think natural disasters, cyber attacks, recession or equipment failure. Consider the potential impact of such disruptions, and note some actions that you could take should the worst happen.
Tip: Develop and rehearse contingency plans with your team and seek advice from business owners who have been through similar disruptions.
5. Less splurging, more sharing
The hit on business and subsequent job losses of the pandemic has swept in a wave of caution about how our hard-earned money is spent. Even businesses doing well this year are acting cautiously, with conservative spending patterns tipped to extend into the future. The high uptake of buy-now pay-later services and pay-as-you-go subscription services reflect the customer’s desire to spread their cashflow to suit their budget. It’s more important than ever to think about how your products and services are positioned, and offer customers flexible payment options.
Tip: Consider offering customers flexible buy-now, pay-later payment options.
6. Volatile demand
The pandemic has had a severe impact on supply and demand of businesses. In a few short months we’ve seen supermarket shelves stripped bare, and some businesses shut their doors while others boom. Economic progress is not orderly, predictable or linear, with location and population size contributing factors.
Tip: Develop plans to shorten lead times and scale production up or down as required.
7. Local first
Businesses relying on overseas imports were hit hard as border restrictions came in, and we’re subsequently seeing a trend of businesses reducing their dependency on single suppliers and those based overseas. Not only do local supply chains reduce risk, they help support the local economy, which has never been more important than during a recession (plus, it’s a significant value to many customers).
Tips Review your suppliers with an eye to reducing risk, and highlight local sourcing in your product descriptions to harness the power of storytelling.
8. Health front and centre
Suddenly, health and hygiene are front of mind every time we leave the house. We’ve all learned how to wash our hands properly, we’re sanitising like never before, and we’re no longer ignoring that lingering cough or cold. These habits are here to stay, and your customers are likely to remain vigilant around potential sources of infection as we move into the future. We’re also seeing a growing desire to better understand our own health, so businesses operating in the health and wellbeing sector have the opportunity to adapt to a whole new world of healthcare, including wearable tracking devices, home testing and home-delivery.
Tip: Keep on top of government regulations to ensure your business is compliant, and ensure this is clearly communicated to staff and customers.
Our homes have provided a sanctuary during the pandemic, and the desire to spend our leisure and working time in our safe space will likely be sticking around. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses offering products or services for the home, as customers invest in setting their space up for leisure, work and exercise.
Tip: Promote existing services that allow your customers to be self-sufficient and trial ways of providing your services at home.
2020 has been labelled by some as the “great pause”. While this year has been incredibly challenging, it has also allowed non-essential workers to spend more time with their families. The shift to a slower, simpler lifestyle has led to an inward focus on wellbeing. Many customers are now aspiring to be physically fitter, healthier, and pay more attention to their mental health
Tip: Check in with your own team to see how they are coping and share stress-relief strategies to support their mental health.
As we move through 2020 it’s important for business owners to be kind to themselves. Plateaus and struggles are a reality for everyone right now (especially in light of increased restrictions in Victoria), but the resilience gained through these challenges will put you in good stead to tackle the future. If you’re struggling with which steps to take next, you can find more support and practical insights to help keep your business moving inside Xero’s handbook.
Business Chicks have partnered with Xero to provide you with a host of informative and inspiring content on everything from tax and cash flow to mental health and wellbeing (and all that lies in between). All so you’ll be prepared to master the ins and outs of small business life – now, and into the future. For more, check out our Small Business Hub.