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The world has been moving online at a more or less steady pace since 1995, but never has there been a more immediate need for us to do so. Our work, schooling, meetings and appointments have moved online — we’re even catching up with friends and family over conferencing platforms.

According to the World Economic Forum, internet usage is up 50% in some parts of the world.

For some of us, this has been a (more-or-less) natural progression over a few years — managing distributed workforces and operating our businesses from the cloud — aside from the fact that lockdown was sudden and forced, we’ve been interacting with these tools for longer periods of time.

For others — the late majority —there’s a whole new world to explore. The most they’ve interacted with the internet has been a basic Google search, replying to emails, and checking Facebook. The change that lockdown has brought, as sudden and forced as it was for the first group, has introduced significant challenges that the late majority had never considered facing. — from online shopping to connecting with colleagues and loved ones, and entertainment.

Whether we like it or not, we’re witnessing a major shift. This is new, uncharted territory for a lot of people, and you can be there for them.

Why should you care?

If you are not online, you need to think about how you can be. It is time to own this channel.

It can be a challenge to get people to change their behaviour, especially when they are comfortable doing things the way that they’ve always been done, but nothing encourages behaviour change quite like necessity.

Coronavirus has forced us to adopt new behaviours — people that don’t normally buy their groceries online are doing so — and while this period may be relatively short-lived, behaviours and buying habits may persist and we’re likely to see a longer-term shift. Once people are accustomed to the comforts of being online, they are not going to go back. Just try and think of going back to a world where you stand on the side of the road and wait for your cab you had to pre-book. 

Many of these people are taking their first steps outside of Facebook or Instagram and this presents an opportunity for you to be there.

We’re not saying that you should sign up to every social network and online marketing platform, but you can choose a couple to focus on.

  • If you don’t have a website, you need to get one. It’s cliché, but a website is your business’ online store front and it’s where people will go when they are searching for you — especially in times like these when they can’t visit a physical store. (If money or time is a hurdle, a Facebook page will suffice)
  • If you already have a website, what tweaks can you make to improve your user experience? Is it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for? Is your most popular product up front and centre? Remember: Close the loop — what is the end goal of your site? Do you want someone to contact you, or make a purchase? How do we make it simple for them to do that?
  • Use your database — start a newsletter. Mailchimp has a free plan. Remember: No one wants you to sell to them and no one needs more updates about Coronavirus. How can you add value to their lives? Is it a different way to use your product, or is it giving them a look inside your business and sharing human stories of how your product is made?
  • Is it time to take your first steps into Google Ads? You don’t need a big budget to get started.

Something to consider: In South Africa, we’ve seen searches for online shopping peak — with related queries for Spar, Checkers, and Pick ‘n Pay. South African retailers have scrambled to ensure that their online and delivery services could handle demand, and it looks like they’ve made it through successfully.

Where does this leave businesses who have not been interacting or selling online, now that expectations have been raised, and delivered on by other companies?

Coming out of lockdown, will your customers expect a seamless online experience, and if so, how will your business respond? 

Where can you make an impact?

There is a completely new category of people coming “online,” and no one has figured out what they need and or want yet. Hint: it is not the same as the youth 😉 There is an opportunity to cement your online reputation before everyone goes back outside. User experience needs to take this new audience and behaviour into account. 

How can you make the experience better for your customers? This is a great opportunity to consider how people are interacting with your business and products — spend some time thinking about:

  • How they find you
  • What their first interaction with your company looks and feels like — does it speak to what and who you are?
  • What they are feeling when they interact with different parts of your business, and how you can design the experience so that they leave on a positive note? Here’s how you can create a Customer Journey Map. If this seems like a lot, we can help.

Yoco has used this time to show that they really are there for small business, coming up with clever and relevant ways to assist their customers during this time:

  • Reducing the prices of their card machines by 50%, offering small businesses the chance to accept card payments when customers may be reluctant to use cash
  • Hosting a Small Business Forum on their Facebook page to help small businesses with the situation they find themselves in during lockdown
  • Building a small business directory called South Africans can show their support for small businesses by buying online gift vouchers, donating, or shopping at businesses who are still trading. Since its launch, more than 1000 businesses have listed themselves and R350 000 worth of gift vouchers have been purchased.

In uncertain times, how can you reframe your offering to ensure survival? Book your 1-hour free call. Set a course for victory.

How we spend time online has shifted — visits to learning sites and business sites have seen the biggest climbs, followed by gaming, e-commerce, and streaming. People are looking for guidance, education or training, and entertainment. What are you an expert at? What can you share with people to help them out now?

  • Is there something that your business has done or learned in a short space of time that could help your clients survive? Can you share this with them?
  • What is a part of your business that people don’t often get to see? Is this something that might interest them, or help them buy into the story of your business?
  • We really encourage you to be selfish. This does not need to be charity work. What helps you and them?
  • Take a long view. What can you do now that builds a long term relationship with someone?

Moving forward, making a genuine connection with people is really going to count, and the best way to do so is going to be through intentional communication — a deeper understanding of people’s situation (most of us are in the same stuck-at-home boat) as a way to add value to their lives, instead of just talking at them.

Read Thought 02: Preparing for the lock-in economy –>

This article is an expansion of Thought 01 from Finding North (again). Finding North (again) contains 10 thoughts to help you define your approach to the shift that Coronavirus has brought. Download it here.

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