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5 local businesses who are embracing digital to cope with the coronavirus crisis

It’s a trying time for small businesses at the moment, especially those that rely on traditional face-to-face interactions.

9 minute read

In this piece, we’ll be looking at how five local companies across different industries have embraced digital to keep their offering alive so that they continue to engage with their target market throughout the crisis.

1. The Reef (beauty industry)

Last Friday, The Reef (a beauty salon based in Maidstone), was finally forced to close their doors to customers. Like many small businesses across the UK, The Reef is worried about what the future has in store since they rely on face-to-face interactions to generate their income. Business Owner, Clare, has been brainstorming ideas about how she can keep the business going both now and when things return to normal in the future.

To keep the brand alive, The Reef has introduced several schemes:

  1. A Facebook group that anyone can join where the team are sending positive messages unrelated to the current pandemic.
  2. An online gift-voucher scheme that gives you more for your money via their website that allows customers to pre-purchase vouchers to use once the salon reopens (i.e. when you purchase a £50 voucher you get £25 for free).
  3. The Reef Community – a subscription to a Facebook community where the team will be sharing tutorials, blogs, and tips around meditation, make-up, facials and more. The subscription also promises members additional benefits including 10% off of all services, among others.

There are some excellent initiatives here, and some we’re sure will be taken up by other local salon owners. We’re already seeing other beauticians taking to eCommerce and social media to sell products during this low period.

2. Celebrity Circuits (fitness industry)

We’ve seen lots of personal trainers and influencers taking to social media to encourage children and home workers to keep fit, which under the current circumstances is a fantastic initiative as it’s great for mental health and important to keep the body moving. Just this week, Jo Wickes had 800,000 people sign up to his morning exercise session – not only is it a great initiative, but it’s also fantastic marketing for him.

Celebrity Circuits is another local business and an incredible example of how fitness enthusiasts are getting creative about how to keep their clients safe and also keep business moving. Business Owner, Sarah, recently opened up her studio in Ashford, and in a bid to keep her clientele and ensure her business rides the current wave, she too has taken to Facebook to keep customers in the loop. They’ve also expanded their offering by introducing virtual classes, virtual personal training sessions, and delivering protein products.

3. Thurnham School (education industry)

Across many industries, teaching and training is still important, whether this is online, in college or schools. There are already many businesses that have embraced digital learning, such as those that use V-Learning portals like our client Stonely Training, and LinkedIn’s LinkedIn Learning. These platforms work well to keep people educated and well-informed in their area of expertise, but for many schools across the country, learning has traditionally taken place in a classroom.

Thurnham Infants School is one of the many evolving institutions that already use learning apps such as SeeSaw to keep track of their children’s progress on a day-to-day basis. This digital involvement has meant the transition to their students being at home hasn’t been as challenging as others who are still reliant on pen, paper and the ability to print off exercise sheets. For the students at Thurnham, it’s been an effortless adjustment. With parents now having access to the SeeSaw app, their children can check in daily to complete work, ask questions and submit their learnings, on whichever device they have available. Not only has this meant that the families aren’t in the dark, they’re also not scrambling to find printers. Instead, they’re empowered, and the children can be left to their own devices (literally) to complete their schoolwork almost as if they were still at school.

This is just another prime example of how digital can enhance your offering. Whether you’re a school, training organisation or local business; consider how an app or online portal could transform how customers interact with your learning content.

SeeSawApp

4. RedSprout (recruitment industry)

It’s a tough time in the recruitment industry, although we are seeing lots of positivity and creativity from local businesses who are powering through these uncertain times. Since recruitment has traditionally relied on face-to-face interviews, it’s definitely a no-go for employers and job seekers at the moment. However, even though sadly many businesses are having to make redundancies, many other businesses are still trying to grow, so there is still a demand for new employees.

Based in Canterbury, local recruitment agency RedSprout have been very open on LinkedIn about the worries facing their business and their concerns about what the future holds. Their content has been a breath of fresh air for many LinkedIn users, as they continue to talk about daily life while not ignoring the elephant in the room. To keep their brand alive, they’ve also introduced a few schemes which will also keep business booming now and after the crisis:

  1. Bouncing Back Webinars – a reasonably priced webinar series designed to help people harness their brand and leverage LinkedIn during this time. The webinar series substitutes their LinkedIn Bootcamp that had seen success in early March.
  2. Live Candidate Interviews – free webinars for agencies, directors and candidates to get their names out there, ask questions, and potentially find fresh talent and new opportunities.

5. Edinburgh Zoo (hospitality industry)

Edinburgh Zoo is just one of the many Zoos that will suffer as a result of not being able to allow the public through its doors, but they too are embracing digital. Not only have they continued to use their website and social channels as a means of sharing content and engaging with their customers, but, they have also been promoting their Live Camera, where you can watch the animals go about their daily routine, which is surprisingly therapeutic. It’s yet another great example of how, through digital, even in the darkest days, your business can continue to generate engagement and create brand advocates.

EdinburghZoo

Bonus example: Bond Street to Your Street (retail industry)

We mentioned in our previous blog, ‘digitising your business: surviving the crisis,’ that small local shops will also bear the brunt of social distancing as they’re forced to shut. That said, we found one local example who refuses to let their business fail, and it’s also been a fantastic example of people banding together and encouraging others to promote their business and support their livelihood.

Bond Street to Your Street is a luxury handbag retailer based in Cranbrook, and business owner, Emma, regularly uses Facebook to expand her audience by posting daily videos of the hottest items and their prices. On Tuesday, Emma posted a video to her Facebook page explaining that she’d had to close up shop and this meant that she was worried about what the next few weeks or months was going to hold. She asked the community if they would be happy for her to continue posting her usual videos, as she didn’t want to be insensitive to the current pandemic as she felt that what she sells is not an essential item. This was the response:

The comments were very positive. Everyone joined together to show their support for the business, and many stated that they loved the videos and wanted to continue to show Emma that they cared about her business. When we came across this example, it was just too good not to include, and it really showcases that you shouldn’t be afraid to put yourself and your business out there at this time. People are more receptive than you may think, and it really could transform the way you do things in the future.

Next steps

While we understand that these ideas may not apply to all businesses, they’re all great examples of how thinking differently and embracing digital can help businesses of all sizes to thrive in a crisis.

So, if you too want to embrace digital and take the steps now to not only survive the current pandemic but also to transform your business in the long-term and to potentially position yourselves above your local competitors, now is the opportunity to reinvest your time back into your business. To help you get started, we’ve put together the following to-dos:

  • Use this time to do all the things that have been on the bottom of your to-do list (even if that’s clearing out the dreaded emails).
  • Brainstorm some creative content that you could produce (videos, blogs, email marketing, social media etc).
  • Up-skill your team with online courses like LinkedIn Learning.
  • Do a competitor analysis – you might have done one before, but it’s likely to be outdated if you’ve not looked at in the last 6 months. This can really get the creative juices flowing and make you think of things you never would have thought of.
  • Consider your website – if you’ve not got around to updating your website copy or imagery, now is the time to reinvest, see what your competitors are doing and start to plan how you could encourage more people to engage with you online.
  • Build your personal brand – if you’re not already utilising LinkedIn to engage with others in your industry and share relevant content, now’s the time to start.
  • Read a book – take this time to reflect on your business and think about new ideas. We recommend They Ask You Answer, which is a tried and tested way to boost business.
  • Think about how you could change your business to encompass digital – whether it’s giving away free advice or selling your videos, webinars and e-learning courses.

We hope this blog has proven useful to you, if you’d like to keep up to date with our hottest content, please sign up for our newsletter using the form at the bottom of the page.

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