No one was ready for a global pandemic to strike. Not even large businesses. The sudden distortion of what’s considered “normal” and the drastic change in people’s lifestyles have affected businesses greatly. Some businesses that filed for bankruptcy in 2020 are J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, GNC, and J.Crew.
If large businesses are severely affected, one can only imagine how hard it must be for small businesses such as mom-and-pop shops. They have significantly lesser resources than huge companies. Also, more often than not, mom-and-pop shops are situated in brick-and-mortar stores. They’re also usually not online.
At the beginning of the pandemic, people locked themselves up in their homes to avoid getting infected by COVID-19. And as a result, small businesses suffered and had to close temporarily or permanently.
Larger businesses have more chances of survival because of their presence online. Many of them already have their own websites and online stores, so customers can continue to buy from them even in the comfort of their own homes.
Learning this lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time for mom-and-pop stores to take their businesses online and digitize their processes. Here are some steps that local business owners can take:
Set Up an Online Store
With the limitation of movement among people, a small business won’t survive if they only have a physical store. So the owner needs to create an online store for their shop. However, they may hesitate at first due to the cost of building a website. Mom-and-pop shop owners often have a tight budget. They might also not know about programming and building a website, which may further alienate them from the idea of going online.
Thankfully, some alternatives are cost-effective and easy. For example, local business owners can use e-commerce platforms instead. Some popular examples are Shopify and Squarespace. Both platforms offer easy website builders where users can drag and drop elements to create their online store.
Use Messaging Apps for Transactions
If mom-and-pop shop owners don’t want to build an online store, they can use the conversational commerce model and use messaging apps instead. Some examples are WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger.
An owner will create an account with their shop’s name as the display name so that they’re easy for customers to search. Customers can message that account for orders and inquiries. The owner can also create a group where people can join in and receive news and updates about the business.
Using a messaging app will make the mom-and-pop shops more accessible to their existing customers. The ease of engagement will also encourage them to keep supporting the business.
People are slowly starting to prefer cashless payments. While the U.S. still has a long way to go to become a cashless society, the pandemic has contributed to the faster move towards this goal.
Thus, mom-and-pop stores should be able to accept cashless payments to accommodate existing and new customers. The use of debit and credit cards is the most common way to pay cashless. The new ones include mobile wallet apps (such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Venmo), QR codes, contactless payments, and many more.
Setting up a cashless payment is quite easy. It’s also very convenient and will benefit local shop owners in many ways. For one, e-wallet transactions will always have a digital trail or documentation. And this will make auditing much easier for the owners. Also, they’re not holding a huge amount of cash, which can be a safety risk. And if the owners need to transfer their earnings to their bank account, they can easily do that through in-app money transfers.
Automate Inventory Management
Automation has become more commonplace in any industry. For example, with the right tools, social media uploads can be automated. In big online retail stores, customer service can also be automated through chatbots.
One process that usually takes a long time is inventory management. So to save time and money, mom-and-pop shop owners should consider automating the process. For example, they can use software that will integrate their inventory for their physical store, online shop, and point-of-sale system. This integration allows owners to easily see if certain items are running low on stock, so they don’t need to rummage through their Lakeside Manufacturing shelves to check, which can take a lot of time. Owners can also use another software to automatically place orders for new inventory once stocks are low.
Mom-and-pop stores need to keep up with the technology-centered society. They need to upgrade their businesses through digitization to survive.