Crisis? Definitely. Big time.  

You are probably reading this update from the comfort of your home – now turned office – in confinement. We are all in a state of shock, because this crisis has its own set of rules, completely different from the previous crises we knew.  

But we do know this: things are changing – scratch that, they have already changed – and in a pace we never knew before.  

So, do we in the Local and SMB industry duck and cover until the crisis is over, or do we bounce back and make the most of it?  

Lessons learned from previous swans …and digital 

We have been through this before – or at least something similar, because no crisis is exactly like the previous one. Over the past 20 years, we can say that digital and local has evolved from crisis to crisis (I am personally a veteran of five black swans… :(  

2000 – Remember when the dot-com bubble burst? The Internet took a dip with big advertisers, only to resurface as a household staple with consumers.  

2001 – 9/11 – Digital crosses the chasm… with consumers and with SMBs. 

2003 – (Terror outbreak in Israel) – SMBs discovered digital presence as an alternative, while consumers were already deeply integrating digital search into their day to daily lives. 

2008 – The economic crash, together with the birth of the smartphone, brought the rise of mobile to local businesses and lead to the birth of many category dominant unicorns. When were Airbnb, Pinterest, Stripe, GitHub, Uber and WhatsApp born? Exactly at that time.  

2011 – The global protests underlined the already dominant social web and brought it to SMBs too. 

What is happening this time? 

  • Recession…? Yes, and as always, SMBs are the first and worst affected.  
  • Social distancing – the new kid in town… dictating new rules.  
  • Where are we digitally? a mature digital consumer environment, where a great chunk of business already takes place in e-commerce and caters to the Local on demand economy.   

What can you, as an Operator, do? 

The Crystal ball: more churn ahead… but way more opportunities. Times will get rough, but, as hard as it is, keep in mind the day after. Focus on your customers' needs, now more than ever:  

  1. Uncertainty is your enemy communicate, let your customers know what’s going on and how you plan to help them get over this crisis. Let them know you are there for them. 
  2. Look and listen; speak to your SMB customers (and other SMBs who are not) to understand what exactly is changing in the way they do business today – habits change, consumers adapt and so do businesses. People confined to homes will need home repairs, but how?  How do small hotel owners cope with no orders?  Can driver instructors switch to other lines of income? What will wedding dress designers do?  If you have an online directory – what are the search patterns? What do consumers look for now? All this to spot the trends and tailor solutions to SMBs. 
  3. Look out for the new SMBs in emerging categories. During the coronavirus crisis and emerging from it, the market will change (you know that because you are looking and listening…). We already see search trends like Health insurance, Cleaning services (B2C and B2B), Retail, Security (B2B).. Deliveries are flourishing, so are moped and scooter sales, remote learning solutions fill in for closed schools and many other categories under the radar.  
  4. Look out for prospects in the new entrepreneurs: people who now must find a new path for themselves and are starting their own business. Be there for them with a starter solution to on board them and jump start their business.  
  5. Tailor offering: funding and features – adapt SMBs to the social distancing era with technology that will enable them to fulfill their customers’ needs on-line, find the pains (not only the financial stress) and offer the cure. Show business flexibility: annual renewal is not relevant now… better have a business paying less for a while then a complete churn. Try new business models… Once we’re all out of this phase – they will be grateful.  
  6. Tailor sales: with the field reps now limited or even confined, switch to online sales allowing multiple options for fulfilment (DIY, DIWM, DIFM). 
  7. Tailor fulfilment – either by working remotely or outsourcing to a 3rd party, work closely with customers to provide materials that are good enough for a digital presence website. Design perfection, bells and whistles can wait for the day after… 
  8. Government plans? The zeitgeist has changed since 2008 and many governments around the world are opening their pockets to help businesses, including SMBs. Become the leading partner in driving government help to businesses (before Google does…)  

What should your customers do?  The immediate 5 

  1. Social distancing is the name of the game. Isolation will drive businesses to e-commerce – whether these are products or services. You, their digital mentor, must be there to help them through – and quickly. Offer lite e-commerce solutions on top of the websites they already have, let them know they can easily set up an online store to sell and deliver.  
  2. Unleash creativity: restaurants can’t host? Use take away, – with or without delivery (order and stay outside the restaurant, where possible…). the gym closed? Customers can’t come to your clinic? Schedule online and hold online video sessions. 
  3. Go all online: SMBs now must move as much of their business as they can online: sell, communicate, serve and supply to consumers who can’t meet with you physically. You’d be surprised how many reluctant businesses will start providing services online, now that their business will depend on it and given the opportunity. 
  4. Corona regulations? Limit on the number of people that can attend venues? Schedule sessions – even for shop owners, so they can pre plan their local customers’ visits. Equip your customers with schedulers and CRM. 
  5. Businesses must stay in contact and stay relevant with their customers – enable them to regularly use newsletters and e-mail to stay in touch and inform their customers. Both businesses and consumers have spare time now to read them and interact. 

Let’s turn this black swan into a Peking duck, I say… 

    Taking a step forward on the practical side, we offer our partners a set of features and functionalities already embedded in the Camilyo platform, such as a Full e-commerce website, a lite commerce site (DIY or DIFM) for SMBs who need to move quickly to e-commerce, scheduler for businesses moving to online service or limited capacity in the venue, e-mail campaign modules for customers to replace Google and FB campaign and many more tools that will be able to provide your customers– free of extra charge until the end of 2020.

    Photo by Qurratul Ayin Sadia on Unsplash