By Laura Lam
Running a small retail company in the time of a pandemic has contributed to an abundance of scares and anxiousness, but also experimentation and excitement. For a small social enterprise that has traditionally relied upon less than 10 percent of our income from our online store, we learned a few things along the way to help us with a significant increase in revenue in the last four weeks. It’s not smooth sailing from here, but at least there is a bit of hope in generating some cash flow during the pandemic. Here are a few lessons learned:
We created a small-batch, specialty item
I got inundated with emails from retailers that I didn’t know I was subscribed to about new offers and discounts. We sent one from the voice of our founder and documented our mutual struggles while stressing our ability to be resilient. Not a marketing tactic but sending an honest story out. We made a batch of our signature item, but at a slightly lower price point, because we didn’t want people to have to sacrifice good quality, healthy products in the time of a pandemic, and offered free delivery especially for those who are most vulnerable – and it was so well received we are making a second batch now.
Speaking of newsletters … communication is key
Our newsletter has been essential. Instead of just sharing items for sale, we tried to increase the amount of information we are sharing – new recipes, new tips around the house during this time – because newsletters shouldn’t be just a robotic ask, but an invitation to share and engage. We have gotten people responding back to our newsletter from our past customers. What a pleasant surprise. We might try to add a video tutorial next!
Partner with other online stores
We learned to partner with other bigger online stores and list our items with them as well. As a food company, we knew of other companies that were actually looking to increase their product selections, and we can help! As a consumer myself, I am looking more to support local businesses whenever I can, so I can see why others would choose local while doing their shopping online.
Take advantage of digital marketing deals
Tech companies are offering special discounts and free programs for small businesses (many lists available, I liked this one curated by Unbounce) – and take advantage of that! Google announced just a few days ago that they will now let any business list products on Google Shopping for free. This is huge – they haven’t done that since 2012. Use this time to dig into new tools that are available or you wanted to test but never had the time to try!
(Maybe) don’t give up on physical stores
This differs from each industry, but surprisingly, we had two new clients approach us during this time – because while they are still open, they are looking at possibilities for new products in their stores especially since (see point 3), they have customers looking to support them! We also refreshed our wholesaler prices and made sure we are in communication with those that might be ready once the lockdown is over.
As a small social enterprise, we found that moving our operations all online encountered some small blessings – time to refresh stale pages, research digital channels that we have neglected. But we were also happy to see the reciprocity of our customers and other local businesses who are in the same boat and want to support. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to force us to prepare and reflect, and not sit idly by.
Laura Lam manages marketing and operations for The Good Chocolatier, a social enterprise handcrafting artisan chocolates.