Post Covid, what will the new retail landscape look like for small businesses? Pedddle founder Nicki recently chatted to Jo of Firain, a business that supports people in planning, starting and growing online shops and creative businesses. They discussed the things that have changed in the pandemic and how you can create an effective hybrid business using both online and in person sales and marketing.
Establishing a good balance between online and offline business is key, and using a combination of the two can give us a great insight into our business and the next steps we should take. If it suits you to do just one or the other that’s fine – but you could be missing out on customers and most importantly, sales.
Amidst the Covid turbulence, embracing the new challenges that lie ahead for small businesses can seem a minefield, so Jo and Nicki discussed how to make the right business decisions for your goals, and how to be realistic and clear with your own expectations.
Check out our tops tips from the IG Live chat below
What is the new retail landscape like, amidst the pandemic?
In the early 2000s, you could pop into a shop like Selfridges and it felt like an immersive creative environment, but some big retailers’ shops have seemed a little stale in recent years. Online shopping has been growing steadily for a while, but the pandemic has obviously driven so much online that there are understandable worries about the recovery of the traditional High Street. In fact, British High streets have seen over 17,500 chain store shops shut during the pandemic. Online shopping is here to stay – some people are still shielding or are unable to get out, so sales platforms like Tresstle are vital in providing that market experience for them.
Politics, environmental concerns, and worries about the economy have all fed into the drive towards shopping from independent retailers, with the pandemic and resultant shop closures providing an opportunity for small businesses to mould the new retail landscape themselves, to some extent. Shopping online has made retail more democratic, and perhaps even opened the way more for small businesses.
We’re generally much more diverse and open than we were 10 years ago; we now want to shop with brands that identify with our own personal values, dress sense and politics. Small businesses are always more agile so can follow those current trends more easily, but the challenge then lies in clearly defining your own values and ensuring they steadily run through your business.
The Pedddle community is full of makers, therefore our small business owners want and need to spend their time making – striking up an online presence becomes just another job on the ‘to do’ list. This is where the balance issue really comes in. We therefore need to address how we can be seen both online and in person, whilst spending our time making and being creative.
How can we find out how our customers feel?
Talk to them! Ask them how they found you, do polls on Instagram, do IG Live chats, answer their questions or add Instagram Stories to ask your audience questions. Consider how your customers might feel about shops opening up.
Your customers may be struggling financially right now. If you sell higher price products, you might want to create something will a lower price to give them the option to still buy from you. Think about your audience and why they would buy your products.
The main things that small businesses need to do now are:
- Understand your customer journey both on and offline – assess how, when and where they can come across your business and what makes them buy from you
- Be present at in-person pop up shops, markets & events. Make sure you’re seen! You can see what’s on and apply for markets here.
- Embrace social media – especially video content, which is huge right now. Look at making Instagram Reels or even getting TikTok – people love the quickness of these channels and will connect with you there. Check out our Reels for inspiration!
- Collaborate with other small businesses. Consider running a joint Giveaway, brainstorm with them, or even just share each other’s work on social media.
- Offer a fantastic customer experience. Give people a good time and they’ll remember you and your products, trust you, recommend you and buy from you in future! People remember experiences – do you have a product they can try at your market stand in person, or something quirky that would draw customers in to look at?
- Have at least 7 ‘touch points’ for your customers, both on and offline. This could be social media channels, your website, an email newsletter, your website blog, markets and events, pop-up shops – a ‘touch point’ is a place they can connect with your brand.
Quality over Quantity – don’t overwhelm your customers
The Covid situation has left us all feeling stressed and overwhelmed. As important as it is to offer different price points, offering too much choice can be just another overwhelming decision for potential customers in the new retail landscape. People now want a tranquil escape from their everyday lives, so shopping gives them a chance of escape and a treat.
If you do have many varied products, as a market you could hide options behind the scenes, if you have a product in various colours/styles/sizes. Once a customer shows interest, you could then strike up a conversation and mention that you have it in different colours/options, which will give you a talking point and also make them feel special and exclusive.
Striking the balance between online and offline selling
It’s all about getting the balance and using one to influence the other. If you’re selling online, mention markets and events you’ll be selling at and any shops you can be found in person. Make sure your social media handles and website/selling platforms are somewhere on your business cards or packaging, so that when people open their product at home they can easily follow you online. Have a stand at your events that clearly states your social media and consider a QR code so you can easily found online as people pass by in person.
The new retail landscape is all about drawing customers in at every opportunity, in person and online. Think about:
- How you can bring your products to life. Even the best product photographers can struggled to bring out the detail of a product, so even just doing 1 live event a year will teach you so much and help you to connect with your audience.
- Decide how to use feedback. Can you let things go or do you want to invest your time and energy making changes to your business? Bear in mind we’re still in a pandemic – things haven’t changed that dramatically, be realistic about your own circumstances and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make lots of changes and progress.
- Make your own opportunities. Pop-up shops provide a great opportunity – places like Priormade, Mersey Made and The Pop-up Club are amazing. However, why not create your own pop-up shop locally? You could look for empty premises in your area that may be willing to offer discounts or short-term rents after the pandemic. You could gather other small local businesses and serve your community – think about who’s shopping from you already and what they might need from you to spot an opportunity in the market.
- What did we do before Google? Think about the ancient pre-internet days and how you could reach people the old-fashioned way – flyers, posters, postcards, business cards or the modern version – a QR code – brainstorm your ideas and see which ones stick with you and make you excited!
Where should you show up online?
The new retail landscape for small businesses is largely made up of online presence. Here are some online places you might want to consider:
- Instagram & Facebook are the classic channels and are offering new tools all the time (such as product guides and tagging), making it easier than ever for small businesses to sell online.
- Depending on your product, look at having a blog / newsletter on your website so your audience can find out more about your product process, business ethos, values and practices.
- Twitter is great for PR – check out the hashtag #JournoRequest.
- LinkedIn is great for networking and discovering good contacts.
- Pinterest is great for driving traffic to your website. If you have a website, it’s worth investing some time in Pinterest too.
- Community building apps such as Clubhouse and Flock can be good for building a community. If you want to offer something like Patreon, a sponsorship package, it might be worth looking into.
- Set up a Google business listing – this could help your Google ranking and SEO.
- Get involved with online events as well as in-person ones – there are plenty of people still shopping online or who can’t get to markets. Check out Tresstle for some fab online markets coming soon!