Management & Finance > Merchant Voice

Planning my business for a new world

Journalists in the U.K. keep pressing the government about ending the Covid-19 lockdown. Governmental leaders prefer not to say, concentrating on the here and now. I suspect the actual “exit strategy” — ending the stay-at-home order — is to observe the actions of Spain, Italy, and France (which are two weeks ahead) and copy the parts that work.

It’s not a bad strategy, just politically incorrect.

A business, however, should plan now for the end of the lockdown. How will your company operate? What about revenue, expenses, and employees?

The world will be different — likely in a recession. There will be many unemployed people with little or no money. Their buying habits may change. Disposable incomes may change. Try to envision how your customers and prospects will react.

If I were an inventor, I would develop a “smart” larder — an automated home-storage system using a smartphone or tablet that tracks food and other essential items and then tells me when to restock. I would keep a month’s supply and avoid panic buying.

I would consider upgrading my ecommerce site to recommend stock levels and remind customers when to re-order. Ideally, I would integrate with that smart larder so orders would go directly to my site. Realistically, however, only big companies such as Amazon could do this; independent retailers would ride along.

The biggest mistake

But with the right consumable products, independent merchants could still create a system for helping customers and generating repeat business.

Covid-19 is not going away quickly. There could be a lull and then a return to lockdown. Moreover, another virus will presumably come along sooner or later.

It is not easy to change stock lines. Google is often slow to index new products and rank them prominently. The earlier you list, the sooner Google will find them.

You may be unable or unwilling to change products. You have your existing inventory, after all. Hopefully, it’s in demand after this pandemic. Prepare now by reviewing your search engine optimization tactics to improve the visibility of your site and products. Improve product descriptions and images.

Use the current downtime wisely. Take a hard look at your product range. Trim and remove items as necessary. Consider a post-lockdown sale.

Research your market for opportunities. An email survey of your (bored) customers could receive a decent response.

The biggest mistake is to do nothing, to assume consumers will pick up where they left off. The world is changing as you read this.

Richard Stubbings

Richard Stubbings

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