There’s a global downturn and Australian bricks and mortar retail is in a slump. 2020 is going to be a rough year. Everyone knows that, but a lot don’t know what to do about it.
Australia still has a good underlying economy, but its marketplace is unique and very tough. It doesn’t have the huge populations of China, the US and Europe with their massive economies of scale, but it’s still forced to compete with them because it has no choice.
Its marketplaces are very crowded and very competitive, which makes surviving in a downturn even tougher for small companies.
But they can thrive in tough times as long as they prepare themselves properly. Of course, it can be hard for them as most don’t have the budget or time for research and hiring specialists. All too often the owners have to make decisions under pressure or don’t know how to plan properly. That might work when times are good, but not when they’re bad.
Good planning is as important as cashflow.
Planning is just a matter of keeping a cool head and understanding the problems being faced, then creating the right environment where a company can not only survive but thrive.
Bad times call for thinking outside the square. But before that, companies must make sure their core functions are properly controlled and efficiently run. Just because a company produces a good product doesn’t necessarily mean that its accounts department or buying functions are working as well as they should be. If they aren’t, a lot of costs can get out of control without being noticed until it’s too late.
Every company needs the ability to stand out from its competitors. But it’s even more important for small companies operating in a crowded market during a downturn.
Customer Service cannot be ignored
One completely free way of standing out in a crowded market is something I strongly believe in, and have always focussed on as a core business belief, is the delivery of a very high level of Customer Service. This is something every top online casino will know if they are to survive in a tight niche. Too many small companies offer really good products or services but are very bad at Customer Service.
Today’s customers can access a range of services with the swipe of thumb on a phone. They demand hassle free service and if they don’t get it from one outlet, they switch to another. Blind brand loyalty is a thing of the past! Companies need to work very hard to maintain their customers and capitalise on the benefits of repeat business.
For the smart companies, ramping up their Customer Service during downturns can really pay off.
So, something that costs absolutely nothing can be a company’s most valuable asset. It’s what creates great online reviews and word of mouth referrals, both of which are essential in business today.
Next there’s the upsell, it’s the classic ‘do you want fries with that’. Companies just have to identify what the ‘fries’ are. For a restaurant it could be offering takeaway, for a locksmith it could be offering extra keys at a package cost when fitting a new lock.
Upsell is the first stage of diversification and strengthens a company’s point of difference. And by utilising its existing infrastructure like sales and accounts, it can add new products or services and create extra income without putting up its fixed overheads.
To use the locksmith example again a simple diversification would be to move into fitting security devices like entry cameras and phone activated garage door openers or voice activated biometric locks.
Diversification also gives benefits in other ways. Buying more product from a supplier or manufacturer allows companies to negotiate better prices and settlement terms. Deliveries, especially offshore ones, can be consolidated saving on shipping and clearing.
The final benefit of surviving during a downturn is that a lot of the competition won’t. When that happens, it’s the survivors that thrive.
Business Leader and Entrepreneur