Changing Times – How To Pivot Your Business During Lockdown

by Klaus on April 16, 2020

in Articles

In the years to come, 2020 will be remembered as a time of loss and uncertainty as the world struggled to tackle the coronavirus.  For many brand owners, it will be remembered as the year that all their planning and hard work was flushed down the drain during government-imposed lockdowns.  

From early to mid March, countries across Europe closed the doors of their pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops in order to slow the spread of the virus.  

In addition, office workers were switched to home-workers for the same reason.  Although some brands have been able to carry on without too much disruption, bricks and mortar businesses have suffered badly.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Getting around the lockdown

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen restaurants and cafes switch to collection and delivery rather than customer seating in a bid to stay afloat during lockdown.  Although it’s not quite so easy for a lot of brands, it is still possible to pivot your business until normal times come around again.

Spread your net

One of the hardest hit sectors during lockdown is that of the independent store and boutique.  These small businesses usually rely on the high street foot traffic which has been stamped on by the new restrictions and, these brands will have seen their small profit margin disappear overnight.  If you own this kind of business, particularly if you’re selling non-perishable goods, you need to be thinking about taking your business online, if you’re not already doing so. 

We’re not going to lie – turning your real shop into an e-shop is going to take a lot of work and a bit of expense.  You will, in all likelihood, need a reactive website which is set up to accept payments and, although you can do this yourself, it’s almost always best to seek a professional if you want to see results.  You can also, of course, try selling your products on sites like Amazon and Etsy to maintain cashflow whilst your shop is shut.  

When taking your business online, you’ll really need to think about marketing.  Chances are that, if you’re a bricks and mortar store, until now you’ve relied mainly on local advertising – and that will have to change.  When operating solely online, your entire focus will be on driving customers to your site and, so, you’ll need to get on board with PPC and social media promotion to make it work. 

Out of service

If your brand delivers B2B service within a particular area, the lockdown will no doubt have disrupted your business in a big way.  If this is the case, it’s vital that you take stock of the following when thinking about pivoting:

  • Your equipment and resources
  • Your employee skills
  • Your available funds
  • Your knowledge of the catchment area

Once you have this information to hand, you can start to think about how you can utilise these resources in a different way.  For example, London based food distribution brand, Reach Food Services, was employed in supplying fresh meat and seafood to restaurants including the popular Cote Brasserie chain.  

When Boris locked Britain down, the owners of Reach knew that they had to think fast to stop their business going under.  

The result was two new ventures:  Cote At Home – a partnership with Cote Brasserie through which customers can order ready to cook meals and, Reach My Kitchen – luxury meat and seafood delivery to homes within the M25 area.  This is a classic example of brand pivoting and, one which has seen the brand achieve huge success. 

Together apart

So far, you may be thinking that this is all very well, however, what about the business which revolves around getting people together in one place?  Sport and leisure companies, art galleries and performance events are all activities which would usually involve a gathering of people in a single venue so, you can’t pivot that, right?  Wrong. With this kind of business, it’s more than possible to diversify in order to stay afloat and, you can do this in a number of ways: 

Live streaming – for a performance based brand or gallery, you can keep customers interested by streaming events and offering virtual tours for a fee.  The beauty of this is that, not only can you keep your business running but, the world is, quite literally, your oyster. Whereas before your business was confined to a physical locale, you can now offer it up to the whole world.

Online workshops and events – for personal trainers and other instruction based brands, the internet is your new best friend.  It’s relatively cheap and easy to switch your business to interactive video and, with so many people confined to their homes, this is an excellent way of drumming up new business.  A great example of this is wine-tasting company, Club Vino. 

A brand which was once all about getting people together for wine tasting events at particular venues.  The brand has pivoted its business by offering a two part service in which customers receive wines by mail and then take part in tastings via video link.  

A new lease of life

If there really isn’t a way of easily adapting your current business, all may not yet be lost.  Have a think again about the resources available to you to see if you can do something different.  For example, your brand may be a niche store which sells luxury gelato to the public – why not consider keeping your shop open but selling a more essential product such as fresh fruit and vegetables or general groceries?

Starting again

Although it is, of course, important to find ways of keeping your business afloat during the lockdown, brands do need to be looking a little further ahead.  Although it may not seem like it at the moment, there will come a time when the world – and our businesses – start to return to normal. In this vein, it’s a good idea to spend some time on planning for the future – and you can do this in a number of ways. 

Content – If you’re experiencing quiet periods, this is a really good time to knuckle down and get writing content for future use on your website and social media.

Bringing customers back – Once lockdown is lifted, you’ll need to plan how you intend to entice your clients back.  This can include sending ‘welcome back’ emails and offering discounts or incentives. 

Foresight – When lockdown ends, we may not be returning to the same world that we put on pause in March.  Put some thought into what your customers may want or need as they start the process of getting their own business up and running again – and then work on how to deliver it to them. 

As we’ve said, 2020 is a year that none of us are going to forget for a long long time but, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your business.  By keeping an open mind and taking the time to examine your strengths, you can not just survive the lockdown but, come back stronger than ever. 

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Aaron April 17, 2020 at 22:56

Thanks for sharing! Adjusting to the “new reality” is, of course, taking some time, but these pivots are necessary. As you mention, live streaming has exploded in popularity, and I wonder what the implications for the medium will be as we move forward through this crisis, though the same could be said for nearly any industry. Good read!

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