The necessary mindset for small ecommerce businesses. Covid caused a bounce in online shopping unprecedented in history todate. It pushed small businesses far out of their comfort zones. Retail and hospitality businesses were hit especially hard, with rolling closures forcing owners into a total rethink of how they were operating.
But hardship gave way to innovation. Faced with an uncertain future, retail and hospitality’s resilience shone through: fine dining venues became Instagram cake delivery services and event caterers launched top-shelf food trucks. For many, the pandemic was a chance to step back, reassess, and simplify their dreams. For some it was regretfully having to put up the shutters and for others it was a case of keep your head below the parapet and hope for the best.
As we can begin to enjoy being out of lockdown, with an impending recession, there’s a lot we can learn from these change makers.
Now might be the perfect time to try something new
Michael Bascetta saw Covid’s impact on hospitality first-hand. As well as owning several food and drink venues, he’s the CEO of Worksmith, a community hub and co-working space designed specifically for hospitality. His clients come from every corner of the industry, from chefs to those managing their PR and graphic design.
But while Bascetta has seen some businesses close, he says many operators have sped up their ambition over the past 12 months – and he’s not surprised.
“Forced into a corner, creative people really flourish,” he says. Let go from their jobs, he says young creatives have said, “why not now?” to the lofty business goals they had thought were years away. Worksmith has more people connecting and working in its spaces than it did before the pandemic hit.
Customer expectations also shifted, to flexible lifestyles that included picking up meals from community groups, ordering hand sanitiser from gin distilleries and embracing dessert for breakfast. For food and beverage businesses, this meant a rapid shift to an agile new way of working.
“It’s been really nice to see that, while we’re all going through a difficult time, younger people are flourishing,” Bascetta says. “They’re getting a nudge towards that thing they’ve always wanted to do.”
Some are using their passion and experience to create new, specialised businesses. Worksmith is host to Holy Sugar, a single operator making incredible dessert boxes, and Tarts Anon, a croissant chef now taking filled pastry cases to the streets, among many others.
The right business tools are more important than ever
A common theme in 2020 was a massive shift to digital. It wasn’t just that many of us were forced to work from home; with stores, restaurants and bars closing, we had no choice but to move our purchasing habits online.
A prime example of immense update was at Stripe, which offers payment options to suit every business, with minimal entry requirements. More importantly it acts both as a merchant account and payment provider, thereby immediately negating exorbitant addition fees that the banks have nicely created for themselves.
Sole traders are invited, avoiding the need for registering a company. We watched thousands take their bricks-and-mortar operations online, linking everything from simple online payment processing to cloud-based accounting and inventory management. Internet bank accounts like Tide have likewise thrived.
Centralising everything will give operators more time to focus on their core businesses, whether that’s running an incredible new pasta shop or turning their stage-building skills into office furniture. We recommends taking a careful look at each tool to make sure it’s the right fit. Think about front of house, back of house, financial performance, stock control. Analyse how well each element is working.
Centralising operations will be key for small businesses in 2021. Tools such as Xero, SKU IQ pull everything together so it’s all synced, checked and ready for the next day of hustling. One solution offers you the ability to email all you customers once or twice a month, with exactly the ever-changing things they are most likely to buy next. Predictive personalisation software, (PPS), is a SaaS plugin, which take just a couple of minutes to install, which they will do for free to, if you don’t know how.
Personalisation has been the buzz word in ecommerce for the last 3 years, and yet small businesses sadly lack way behind, “mainly due to fear of the unknown” said Dan Fuller owner of Fin & Fur Petfoods, who now enjoys an additional 16.82% turnover pa from the SwiftERM PPS solution, requires zero human input whatsoever, including zero training.
“That retailers expect their own developer to know all the solutions is scary, we knew nothing of this app and neither did our developer, but look at us now” said Fuller. “At just £100 per month for £3500 turnover (50% GP) is a staggering ROI of 1650%.”
The way businesses had been operating isn’t going to work any more, people have started to realise these efficiencies give back time to the new things they could be doing. Going into doing takeaway menus during lockdown, respective tech tools have made ecommerce for small businesses much easy.
There’s a community ready to support you
Through a variety of issues over the last few years, many businesses have closed. In retail and hospitality, operators have been open about their challenges in ways they never have before – and that’s created a whole new world of collaboration.
“Ten years ago, people didn’t want to tell each other what was actually happening in their businesses,” Fuller says. “The pandemic has made people work together and leverage each other, rather than working in silos. People are more open to talking about what’s actually happening and looking to each other for support.”
We have seen all sorts of collaborations, from simple social media takeovers to pop-up restaurants, and from partnering on new products to full-blown venues with two different businesses coming together.
Whenever people go through a shared experience, there’s more togetherness, rather than competing, the next six months is going to be all about people. Without people, the ecommerce industry is nothing.