Turn to digital to survive social isolation

Please note: on the 23rd of March 2020, the British public were asked to stay at home (PM address to the nation on coronavirus: 23 March 2020). Please check for updates on the situation to find out what you should and shouldn't do based on current advice (GOV UK updates here).

COVID-19 has caused huge amounts of worry and uncertainty to businesses of all sizes (let’s not even mention the Brexit anxiety right now). Social isolation and quarantining make it extremely difficult for traditional companies to continue business as usual (unless you are a toilet roll manufacturer, you're likely in for some tough times ahead)!

But in this digital age, there is so much you can do to (keep calm &) carry on serving your loyal customers. And there is no doubt that people around the world want to do all that they can to support their favourite local businesses.

So, as digital natives and problem solvers, we have some suggestions on how may be able to pivot and rally to continue to reach your customers and hopefully come out stronger than before.

This is a basic overview of some ideas (some might seem super obvious), but with the right precautions, can be great starting points to surviving the isolation.

Before we get into it, here are some useful resources to stay safe & informed. Things could change quickly:

GOV UK business protection

GOV UK COVID-19 general advice

NHS symptom checker

Brick and mortar food and drink locations

(cafés, restaurants, pop ups etc.)

You’ve had to close doors to limit spread and exposure or are struggling with lowered footfall traffic. Your customers have still got to eat, and there is only so much pasta you can eat before you get bored. They'd love a wee cake and coffee, or a trusty burger from their fave burger joint to break up the monotony of working from home.

Solution 1: Third-party delivery order service.

You can DIY this by getting on a third-party platform like Deliveroo (latest COVID-19 advice from Deliveroo here) or Just Eat (sign up info here).

There are pros and cons, the pros being that the infrastructure is already set up and ready to go. Some cons may be that there are some initial setup hurdles, you are relying on another service (meaning on going fees, cuts and uncertainty in the case of their service struggling), and you don’t have full control over your brand image from order to delivery.

Solution 2: Offer non contact collection and delivery through your own website.

This solution can vary in degrees of complexity, depending on your time and budget restraints.

Simple: Set up a basic holding page website, with your menu and a phone number for customers to order for collection at your store. The orders could be taken by staff in the same system you’d normally use, and your customers can be given a collection window. Delivery could be added in, if you have the permissions, insurance and means to do so.

Fancier: Online ordering system with e-commerce on your website. Get your menu up online, with some great photos and descriptions. With a full e-commerce system, your customers can add items to their order and pay online. You will receive the order with the type (collection or delivery and time), and can fulfil the order, letting the customer know when to expect it to be ready.

Benefits over using a third party set up include: more control over your brand and messaging; control over offers; can tie into your marketing efforts; build your brand and customer relationship. Downsides: can be costly to get started (although can be used as a long-standing solution so it is a good investment).

Traditional service providers

(hairdressers, barbers, salons, mechanics)

Safety concerns, fear of exposure and social isolation efforts means that your customers have to cancel appointments, and no new appointments are being made. Your customers still have a requirement for your service, although may want to save money, and with less social commitments they might put that haircut off for a week or so.

Solution 1: Reassure and inform!

If it is safe to continue with your services, take to social media to reassure your customers that you are following hygiene protocol. Do you have a following on Facebook and Instagram? Share your routine in your story and on your feed, keep customers in the loop.

Solution 2: Take your business to them.

Are you in a position to safely offer home visits? Take to the road to offer your services at a reduced risk to customers. Promote via social media, and take bookings on your website or simply over the phone.

Consultation services

(personal trainers, gyms, group exercise classes (yoga etc.), dog behaviourists, training classes and other one to one services)

Solution 1: Virtual classes/one to one session using conference calling.

Video conferencing platforms can be used to let you continue your normal schedule (we recommend Zoom) – whether you’re a personal trainer or run group yoga sessions. Offering their first session for free would allow your existing clients to try it out without commitment. If you’re a personal trainer, this could be more difficult without gym equipment, but you could run your clients through safe bodyweight exercises they can do at home to keep fit during the isolation.

Take to your social channels to promote your continued services and new initiative. People want to keep active and will be struggling with cabin fever and inactivity after days inside. For new bookings, you could utilise events services on Facebook Events, Meetup (Aberdeen's Meetups here, guide on setting up your own here) and Eventbrite to promote your classes and reach a wider audience.

Solution 2: (long term) use your website as a resource hub.

This can be done in tandem with the above solution for extra impact. Write guides, articles and advise on how to safely and effectively train at home. Offer these for free or sell them to future clients. Your website acts as the home of all of your accumulated information and expertise, pre-recorded videos and courses for your most popular classes/lessons/problems can be great to help your clients with common problems you see in your line of work.

Local stores and boutiques

Solution 1: Sell online using an existing service.

(Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and other location based selling platforms). Use an existing service to sell a small number of your key products online, capture some high quality photos of your products and take to your social channels to let your customers know you are doing this. Utilise Instagram stories to update customers on what you have in stock or any specials. Keep posting to maintain momentum and interest, you can pre package orders for collection so that customers can pick up with no contact, or post them for increased safety.

Solution 2: Use your website or Shopify to sell online for collection or delivery.

With an e-commerce store, you can list all of your stock for sale online, allowing customers to shop and order online. If you’ve not already done this, now could be a great time to invest in moving your business online. With your own website, you have control over your brand image, appeal, messaging and any offers and incentives.

Shopify has a free trial available to new users but make sure you check subscription costs before spending too much time on that platform if you plan to set it up yourself. Most web designers can work with Shopify. If your existing website doesn't already have e-commerce but is set up on a platform with e-commerce capabilities, your shop can be added natively to your site.

Hopefully these ideas can get you started on how you can continue to reach your customers at this tough time. As always, keep yourself informed with the latest news and government advice, and keep the community safe.

For advice on implementing any of these digital solutions, get in touch – we’d love to chat!