With the UK in the midst of a second lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a big blow to all non-essential businesses that rely on ‘in-person’ customers.
As you are forced to close your doors once again, Talkative has put together a list of practical solutions that can help you keep your business running at this difficult time. Not only will these solutions get you through to the other side of the UK lockdown, they could also be very beneficial to your business in the long term.
Build an online presence
One of the best ways to keep your business running during UK lockdown is to build a presence online. Whether you can sell directly online or not, building an online presence can bring a lot of benefit to your business, both during lockdown and beyond.
Building an online presence encompasses a few different elements, which we have split into the following categories: build a website/ecommerce platform; start digital content marketing; and make the most of social media.
Ecommerce - sell online
If you sell a product or service, building an ecommerce platform is the most obvious way you can keep your business running during the latest UK lockdown. It’s so obvious, you’ve probably already thought about it! We're here to remind you that it’s really easy to do it, so don’t be put off by the prospect of building one from scratch.
There are numerous guides online about how to build an ecommerce platform which we encourage you to read. The main thing to decide is whether you’re going to build it yourself, or hire a developer.
With website builders and hosts such as Wix, Wordpress and Webflow, it’s easy to design and build a website yourself, which is a good option if you have limited funds. These are designed for beginners, so don’t worry if you have no design or developer experience.
If you do have the funds, hiring a web developer has many benefits, including giving your website a more professional feel with more advanced capabilities that you might not be able to include yourself. Remember, building an ecommerce platform is an investment for the future that can bring return well after the UK lockdown ends, so don’t shy away from spending money to do a good job.
Another option is to sell your product on third party websites. If you don’t feel your business is ready to have it’s own ecommerce platform, and/or you do not feel able to manage one, there are many third party sites you could turn to. Becoming an Amazon seller or selling on Etsy, for example, is a great way to introduce your product to a large online audience.
Content marketing - blogs, tutorials, videos…
One of the biggest worries about going online is attracting customers; an ecommerce site doesn’t automatically bring sales. This is where content marketing comes in.
Taking your business online isn’t just about selling online. Digital content marketing is one of the best ways to increase awareness of your brand, bringing more customers to you not just during the UK lockdown, but also when it ends and you can reopen.
A great place to start is creating a blog. You don’t need to be an expert writer, you just need to know what potential customers might be searching for online. This is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - you want to appear in the top positions of search engine results when someone searches for something related to your business. This brings free traffic to your blog, growing awareness of your brand and creating potential inbound leads. (To get started on SEO, read Ahrefs complete SEO guide).
You don’t need to have an ecommerce platform to make the most of digital content marketing. It can take many forms and is ideal for businesses that don’t sell a product and therefore can’t benefit from selling online during lockdown. If you run a local restaurant or cafe, you could start a blog where you share your most popular recipes. Hairdressers and beauticians can film and share online tutorials of beauty hacks and home haircuts (I’m sure these are in high demand!). Florists can share their top flower arrangement and maintenance tips and tricks. Get creative and start sharing content that will intrigue and attract future customers.
Don’t forget to make the most of social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube are all great places to increase brand awareness and build customers for the present and post UK lockdown climate. Facebook alone has 2.7 billion monthly users - that’s a pretty wide audience that you won’t get elsewhere.
Social media platforms are ideal partners to content marketing, as they allow you to share and promote your blogs, videos etc. to your followers.
If you have the money, you can also use a platform’s paid ads option to promote your business beyond your current followers. With audience segmentation, you can target specific users that express an interest in what you offer. Retargeting previous visitors to your website/blog is also a good way to bring people back to your site for a potential sale, or simply keep them aware of your brand for a future conversion.
Instagram has also launched a ‘supporting small business’ feature specifically to help SMEs during lockdown. This lets Instagram users promote their favourite small and local businesses by featuring a sticker that mentions the business in their Instagram stories. When the story is shared, their followers can see the sticker, making more people aware of the business. If your active on Instagram, encourage your followers and customers to use this feature to help you out.
Maintain communication with your customers
Key to keeping your business afloat during the recent UK lockdown is to maintain communication with your customers. Closing your physical business doesn’t mean closing off customers.
Keep your customers and clients informed of how the lockdown has impacted your business and what you are doing to try to mitigate it. If you have a website and can offer an online service, or a reduced service in some sort of capacity, let them know. Social media is great for keeping an open line of communication, and email is a good tool for letting customers know key changes about your situation.
If you have a website, it’s a good idea to offer at least one online customer contact channel. This allows existing customers to easily contact you if needed, and also lets potential customers quickly get in touch.
Click to call and live web chat, for example, are both cheap and effective channels for real-time communication with customers when they’re on your website. Live video calling is also a great way to support customers through your website, offering the closest thing to the face-to-face service they would receive in store. This is also a good way to repurpose any staff you employ in-store, as you will need people to man these channels and respond to requests.
The same goes for call centres. As your business is forced online, you should expect greater demand on your call centre. To keep up with this demand and continue communication with existing and potential customers, it’s a good idea to diversify your contact methods with channels such as web chat, live video chat, and web callbacks.
To help you out, Talkative is offering a free 14 day trial of its website contact channel solutions, including live chat and video chat, so don’t hesitate to sign up and give them a go. Contact us directly to see how these can be integrated into your website.
Communicate with & repurpose your employees
First things first, if you employ staff, it’s very important to maintain clear communication with them. Another UK lockdown brings further fears over wages and mental wellbeing, and it’s vital that you are open and honest with your employees. Keep them up to date on how the business, and their roles in particular, will be impacted.
To keep your business running during this difficult time, it’s a good idea to repurpose employees as far as possible. For example, if you are working on your online presence, employees can help. Ask them for content ideas and to help with creating and producing different blogs and videos. Ask someone to be in charge of your social media profiles. If you introduce online contact channels, such as live chat, you will need some employees to manage them and support customers online. All of this will maintain a role for employees while building sales and awareness for your business.
Diversify your business
Now is the time to branch out and diversify what you offer customers. UK lockdown has forced many businesses to rethink their sales strategy and explore uncharted territory. Local pubs and restaurants have started doing takeaways, gyms and personal trainers are offering more and more online classes - there are a lot of ways a business can adapt.
A good way to get ideas of what you can offer is to ask your customers what would benefit them. Maybe they would like an online course where you share your expertise or give specific tutorials. With christmas hot on our heels, you could offer gift vouchers that allow people to buy now and use it later.
These new strategies could be really beneficial for your business in the long term, and at the least, they can help you stay afloat until things go back to normal.
For businesses across the UK that are really struggling to keep things going during the latest UK lockdown, you can get support from the government. Help includes:
- Cash Grants
- Tax relief
- Furlough schemes to help cover employee wages
For more details on what is available, including eligibility criteria and the application process, head to gov.uk.