A Small Business Guide to Surviving a Covid Christmas

It should come as no surprise that Christmas will be different this year. From office parties to celebrating the special day with your loved ones, everything is likely to be unfamiliar with festivities adapting to social distancing rules amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid Christmas

photo credit: Antonio Sokic / Pexels

For your small business, this could be daunting, especially if you traditionally rely on the Christmas rush. With most spending likely to occur online, there’s also the added competition of e-commerce giants like Amazon.

That said, the shortcomings of major retailers may stand to benefit small independent businesses. Amazon, for example, was accused of leaving warehouse workers unprotected while continuing to profit off the boom in online sales. This led to more shoppers boycotting large corporations, instead favouring local and small businesses for their shopping needs. It’s been reported that 82% of shoppers are willing to pay more money as long it supports small businesses through the pandemic – great news for your business during this festive season. Here, we’ll outline what to expect and how to capitalise on the changing consumer behaviour.

Reassess your delivery methods and times

The pandemic has put a huge strain on warehouse staff and courier services, increasing dispatch times and slowing delivery as result. If your business relies on the Royal Mail, it’s worth checking Christmas delivery dates well in advance and ensuring all your customers are aware of potential delays. It’s also a good idea to inform them that their goods will be delivered by Royal Mail, which can be notoriously slow during December.

It can also be a good idea to work with a dedicated courier service provider more equipped to deal with the busier period. Most courier companies offer a range of delivery options, from a more relaxed time period of a couple of days to fast same-day delivery, depending on your needs. It may be worth offering a priority service for last minute purchases. CitySprint, for example, offers a priority courier service for a same-day delivery service where packages are “last on, first off” to get your goods to your customers as soon as possible.

Once you’ve confirmed how you’ll be delivering items, you should clearly indicate the latest date that orders must be placed in order for items to be delivered on time, which may well change depending on your delivery options.

Market to a local audience

By delivering to customers predominantly in your local area, you’ll be able to offer quicker delivery times at a much cheaper rate. You may even be able to forgo the delivery charge by offering a free collection service, which may be enough to entice more local customers to buy from your business.

If you’re able to, get your business involved in local markets to advertise and sell your goods and services. Most major cities around the UK host traditional English markets on a weekend and many of these have been able to continue despite local and nationwide lockdowns. While shops will be able to open from December 2nd, many will be reluctant to visit indoor shopping centres and may prefer to shop at outdoor markets that provide fresh air and more space to distance from others.

Social shopping

Reward loyal customers

It can reportedly cost up to seven times more to gain a new customer than it is to retain existing customers. What’s more, once a customer has made an initial purchase, they’re 27% more likely to return to your store, and 54% more likely following a second purchase. Working on customer retention should, therefore, be a major part of your business strategy. One of the best ways to do this is to offer rewards to loyal customers, whether in the form of redeemable points or through exclusive discounts.

Loyalty programs ensure that your customers feel valued which, in turn, can help to build an emotional connection with the brand. This kind of loyalty typically means customers are more willing to recommend your business to peers and can also encourage them to spend more each time they shop with you.

Up your social media game

Lockdown brought a surge in internet use which resulted in higher levels of ad engagement. Research found that mobile ad engagement increased by 15% in 2020, a figure which has been largely attributed to changing consumer habits during the pandemic. On top of this, customer interaction with sponsored posts reached 57 million in July 2020, marking an increase of 500% in comparison to March 2020.

Instagram’s recent homepage redesign also shows how social media giants are themselves moving towards e-commerce. Its shop channel now features prominently, with a tab that surfaces personalised recommendations, editors’ picks curated by the @shop channel, shoppable videos, and new product collections.

Take advantage of consumers spending longer on social media by ensuring your profile is regularly updated with engaging content that showcases the products you have on offer. Take it one step further by making your Instagram profile an online marketplace where users can purchase products without needing to even visit your site.

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