The new future. Adapting to a new reality.
Ever since there’s been anything to sell, there’s been a marketplace. A place for multiple sellers to gather, and for buyers to compare what’s on offer and make their choice based on needs, wants, and price.
For local producers and small-to-medium sized businesses, the COVID-19 crisis has bought up many challenges as they attempt to survive in a world without contact. The decision-makers seem to be pushing businesses to move from the traditional face to face, to an online marketplace. While e-Commerce is being made to sound easy, it is most definitely not. There are a plethora of considerations – not least – the thoughts and behaviours of New Zealand consumers. If we build it will they come!?
What we do know is spending with local butchers, grocers, bakers, fishmongers, artisans, liquor, fruit and veges have come to a screaming halt. Social distancing has caused Kiwi buyers to spend more in a handful of grocery stores, evidenced by the recent paymark report.
Consumers are adopting new behaviors (particularly online) that could continue even after the COVID-19 shutdown dissipates. Some are turning to websites they have never visited previously for the basics, shopping at the online stores of Countdown and New World, adopting home delivery alternatives. For these national brands the demand has outstripped logistical capabilities and most online shoppers are experiencing long delays.
For local producers, however, the shift to online shopping creates future opportunities. At level 3, for example, local producers who can offer click and collect or delivery options have the chance to win customers back from brands they otherwise would have remained loyal to when business resumes.
Navigating the NOW and THEN
The call to action for owners of traditional local retail businesses is to become ambidextrous. Many operators are spending much of their time in crisis mode when they also need to think about planning to get ahead of the eventual recovery.
They need to balance those two horizons and make sure they’re not spending 95% of their time on the now, leaving very little for figuring out their game plan for the recovery and how to start selling again.
The best way to prepare is to maintain a real-time sense of consumer behaviors, needs, and emotions and become more agile in responding to their shifts. It may be about figuring out what can immediately be done online, evaluating options and discovering ways they can shift from a traditional distribution model to meet the demands of social distancing and consumer behaviour.
New technologies like TotallyLocal are emerging for example, that make it easy and fast for local operators to respond. This is a really important time to think about and make sure you are investing in getting your products to market, and the question is, how do you do that? Part of that might be ensuring that your loyal customers and new customers have an immediate way to access your store without compromising social distancing.