Months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the economy is finally beginning to reopen across the country. While fears of a second wave may prompt new lockdowns in the future, it seems like we may be in the early days of economic recovery.
Even though businesses can reopen, however, there’s still serious damage to contend with. Many consumers still aren’t ready to return to crowded public places, like brick-and-mortar stores, and unemployment remains significantly high. Demand will recover, but it’s low right now and will probably stay that way for a while.
B2C companies will need to play it smart through the rest of the year. Here’s how to conduct business in 2020 based on the current state of the economy and the likely recovery.
1. Audit Your Spending and Consider Cuts
At the very least, take a close look at current investments and determine which are essential. Delay or cut down on fixed costs if possible.
You may need to freeze pay or cut back on perks, but letting employees go should only be considered as a final resort. The cost of lost expertise and labor, as well as hiring replacements, will almost certainly outweigh the short-term gains to cash flow.
2. Prepare for Continued Supply Chain Disruptions
Manufacturing and logistics are mostly back online around the world — but a resurgence of COVID-19 or new restrictions could easily disrupt the supply chain again, if on a smaller scale.
Good supply chain management can help you identify potential risks and develop strong bonds between your business and suppliers. Larger companies may also benefit from supply chain audits and mapping. These approaches will find possible weaknesses in your suppliers and the ones they rely on. From there, you can determine the areas of the world and the country that could disrupt your company’s supply chain.
With this information, you can diversify your suppliers and work to build a more resilient and responsive supply chain.
3. Delay Growth and New Investments
Most businesses should freeze new hiring and put large investments on hold. While the economy is beginning to reopen, there’s really no telling what the recovery will look like. Demand may return very quickly for some companies, while others may face a more L-shaped model. These businesses will need to contend with low or no growth for an extended period before demand starts to ramp back up to pre-COVID levels.
You may be ready to return to business as usual. However, it’s a good idea to take things slowly, especially in the first few months after reopening.
4. Be Ready for Immediate Emergencies
If you’re reopening a physical location, you should prepare for emergency costs. Commercial generators that have been left idle for a long time, for example, may short-circuit due to a buildup of dust on their windings. HVAC systems that were not maintained during shutdown may also cause problems.
Ensure your equipment is ready for reopening — and prepare for unexpected costs, like HVAC repairs or generator maintenance.
5. Phase Out Aggressive or Greater-Than-Usual Discounts and Sales
Many B2C companies, looking to cope with reduced demand, launched major deals and bundles over the past few months. These discounts may have saved a lot of businesses, but they may be dragging you down at this point.
Try to return to a pre-COVID average order value. Reel in your use of discounts and sales. This doesn’t mean eliminating them altogether, but you should start decreasing discount amounts so average order value moves back toward more normal levels.
6. Make E-commerce and WFH Tech Sustainable
Many businesses implemented digital stopgaps — in the form of new e-commerce and delivery services, plus WFH tech — to keep functional during COVID-19. While people are beginning to return to public spaces, these digital offerings are likely about to become the new normal. Most experts believe that working from home and shopping online will remain popular, even once COVID is a thing of the past.
If you’re still struggling with new tech, strive to implement more workable and permanent solutions. You may be using them for a while.
7. Retain New Customers and Reactivate Lost Ones
Your business has also likely lost some typically loyal repeat customers to churn. Work to reactivate them with targeted email blasts, special deals and updates on product availability.
Also, many new customers who shopped with you during COVID-19 won’t stick around. You can nurture those who seem interested and possibly turn some into regulars.
8. Upgrade Your Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is likely to remain key for the foreseeable future. Focusing more resources on SEO, email and social media may help you attract a larger audience during the early phases of reopening.
If you’re already investing heavily in digital marketing, you should work to adapt to some of the changes COVID-19 has caused in the online marketing landscape.
Continue to maintain regular communication with your customers. You may need to relay important information about store hours and policies as you reopen. You may also need to keep updating them on new product offerings and stock availability.
10. Get Set for the Recovery
Be ready to manage the rise of demand. You want to be first of your competitors to take advantage of the customers who increase their spending toward pre-COVID levels. Keep high-demand items in stock, prepare new advertising campaigns and take advantage of demand as it begins to ramp back up over the next few months.
Preparing Your B2C Company for the Rest of the Year
The economy is beginning to reopen, but that doesn’t mean things are returning to normal just yet. B2C businesses will need to continue carefully managing their finances, logistics and messaging over the rest of the year.
All B2C companies should prepare for a slow return to more normal levels of demand and be ready to adapt to new methods.
Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.