Changing times and changing consumer habits has shone a spotlight on the challenge's businesses are facing in growing domestic sales. Julie Cook, Business Growth Advisor considers how a renewed focus and strategy can be key to sustaining growth and securing your businesses future.
Stay ahead of the curve
The effects of COVID-19 have forced businesses into adapting and re-thinking strategy. Consumer buying behaviour has changed, the shift to shopping online has been accelerated and selling directly to the customer has become a necessity for many businesses traditionally associated with wholesale only. Businesses have had to rapidly accelerate development to keep up with new demands and circumstances. Digital innovation, automation of workflows, contactless pick-ups and drop-offs - the need to adapt has been fast and furious.
COVID-19 has propelled businesses ten years forward. With face-to-face sales temporarily on hold, home working is the new normal and investment in cloud-based IT systems and digital marketing has become essential. The challenge of having to adapt at such pace has seen changes in operational focus to maintain infrastructure, people and customers. But businesses have also had to reconsider their strategic direction and growing domestic sales has become a priority.
Understanding how to stay ahead and innovate, retain existing customers and nurture new customers and keep the wheels turning has been paramount. To grow domestic sales, businesses need to establish who is the target market and how they can reach them, identifying the digital channels customers use to find them, and determining a marketing strategy and targeted communications approach.
The customers journey is something all businesses need to be aware of. It is this sort of information that allows businesses of all sizes to target their efforts more efficiently and attract new customers more effectively with tailored marketing campaigns, unique user experiences and on trend products/services.
Channels for change
Store closures, lockdowns and travel bans make it more important than ever to have an online presence. Consumers around the globe have been spending more online than ever before - the standout shift in buying behaviour resulting from the pandemic. Ecommerce and selling online can drive sales of any business and protect its future - reducing the reliance on retail can insulate business from partner demands, rent and staffing costs and can expose business to a larger audience outside of normal retail hours.
Selling in this way also allows you to build a data-based customer relationship, data that can be used to create unique shopping experiences and build a stronger brand using these insights. The opportunity for greater personalisation and repeat custom through subscriptions, loyalty rewards and offers is vast. Providing clear, recognisable value and making the consumers journey feel easy and exclusive will go a long way in securing business immediately and in the long term.
Heinz is an example of business succeeding at this. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Heinz U.K. quickly realized many of its consumers were finding it difficult to access products because they were self-isolating or unable to get to physical stores. For the first time in its 150-year history, Heinz launched a direct to consumer offering to make food products available to vulnerable populations and essential workers. Heinz to Home also provided customer insights that will drive future innovation designed to boost sales.
“This platform was created in the context of COVID-19 with a purpose to support consumers that could not access our brands,” says The Kraft Heinz Company’s Head of Commerce in UK&I, Jean-Phillipe Nier. “In the future, this channel will be incredibly powerful to get closer to our consumers, get insight, and take learnings to the rest of our business.”
A local business, with the support of GC Business Growth Hub, 4 Sisters Gin Distillery made a pivot of their own by shifting their corporate events online. Offering the opportunity for team building with Gin Tasting events online, this swiftly followed with many households making the most of the gin tasting events during lockdown. Another business to have benefitted from the support of the Hub, South Catering – employing over 40 people and historically supplying Greater Manchester businesses with lunch offerings - found more custom than imagined by launching their own website, which had them purchase 8 x 40ft containers to hold stock for pre-orders of hampers over Christmas.
Logistics: Save time and money
With the demand for home deliveries comes packaging requirements, supply chain challenges and selecting from a variety of ways to sell to your customer. Consideration must be given to distribution, capacity, passing on the cost to the consumer (or not) and potentially how to ship chilled, ambient or frozen deliveries. Potential customer platforms include Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram, as well as the option to sell directly from a website. Balancing, linking and fusing all these systems creates efficiencies rather than endless problems with paperwork and orders from every channel. A task not for the fainthearted but giving rise to huge potential for increased sales and growth.
The pandemic has brought out the best in entrepreneurialism, the businesses of Greater Manchester have responded quickly to the needs of the customer, innovating and learning at speed – SEO, PPC, Keywords, and the 4 P’s (product, price, place, and promotion) of marketing. Thankfully for Greater Manchester, the GC Business Growth Hub is available to support, challenge and guide you through the ongoing changes.
The Business Growth Hub is always #HereForBusiness offering support and guidance to organisations on the current challenges and market changes. Get in touch here or call 0161 359 3050.
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Julie Cook, Business Advisor - Growth
Julie Cook, Growth Hub Business Advisor, has experience in leading high growth SME’s and working in BPO corporate environments, with B2B and B2C experience crossing multiple sectors. Covering a wide range of business needs - from strategy, system implementation and development to business positioning, customer journey and PR - Julie is an expert in supporting change and helping businesses grow.