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How has 2020 changed what people expect from small businesses?

It might actually be faster to list elements of the business world that haven’t been substantially changed by the events of 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to countless company shutdowns and job losses (and economies everywhere plunging into recession as a result), there’s no viable way to forge ahead with a strategy unchanged from the pre-pandemic days.

If you’re currently running a small business, you might be looking towards the new year and considering how you’re going to make 2021 a success. Well, in addition to investing in promotion and finding new creative avenues, it’s about going back to the basic process of ensuring that what you’re offering is right for your target audience. Customer needs have surely changed this year, but in what way? Let’s get into it.

More people must battle just to get by

The financial difficulties touched upon in the intro are incredibly serious, and they’re not going to disappear in the event that we finally get the pandemic under control. Throughout the world, there are so many people struggling to pay their basic bills: their job prospects are bleak, and they’re getting nothing more than lacklustre support from their local and national governments.

Things get worse when you factor in those who already faced difficult circumstances. People with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or PTSD (particularly veterans) have been left with even less assistance than they could access before this all began. And while there are some advocacy organizations (helping veterans get entitlements, for instance — one example — or supporting the chronically ill), there’s never enough help for everyone who needs it.

What does this have to do with customer needs? It’s simple. Many of them need to protect their financial stability before they buy from you, so trying to milk your loyal customers for money at this time is going to be a bad move. Reduce your marketing, make affordability a priority, and provide convenient interest-free payment options. People will appreciate the effort.

Concessions to safe operation are vital

Whether you’re providing products or services, you now need to follow a range of safety measures intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. If you’re visiting people’s homes, you need to wear a mask, avoid contact, and wash your hands regularly.

If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store, you need transparent shields up and a customer number limitation in place. And if you’re running an online store, you need a fulfilment process that cuts out the need for signatures (particularly for food) and gives customers various delivery options (leaving items in safe places, for instance, or dropping them off at pickup locations).

If you fail to adhere to best practices, you won’t just need to worry about facing legal action. You’ll also put your brand at major risk: after all, it only takes one scathing social media review from a displeased customer to set your target audience against you.

People demand stronger corporate ethics

On the topic of customer reviews, it isn’t just action pertaining to COVID-19 that they’re increasingly prone to demand. It’s also ethical conduct in general. When times get tough and people really start to suffer, they become less willing to tolerate companies obsessively pursuing profit regardless of the damage they cause in the process.

In short, then, customers need the small business they support to be laudable. Now that so many companies are operating online, there are more options than ever before, and it’s easy enough to find an alternative if a former favorite starts to act in questionable ways. If you want to attract new customers — and hold on to your existing customers — then you need to show that you care about more than simply maximizing your revenue.

Wrapping up, then, 2020 has placed many people in dire straits, stretching their finances and driving up their anxieties. If you want your small business to thrive in 2021, you need to demonstrate that you understand how your target customers are struggling, and are ready and willing to make well-meaning concessions.

Image by Athree23

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