This is an article in a series on how businesses and consumers need to adapt to mitigate the short and long term effects of the corona epidemic.
These are troubling times for local businesses.
Restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, hairdressers, flowers shops and more, are struggling due to a global downfall in consumer demand and other effects related to the corona crisis. Due to, what is hopefully a short term situation, we risk wiping out entire chunks of our service industry and many local businesses risk going under. We need new solutions now, if we want to keep our local businesses.
Many struggling local businesses need two things right now: 1. An immediate cash flow boost, and 2. A midterm reassurance that there will be money coming in. A subscription business model can solve both of these problems.
Local businesses can quickly adapt their service, use online tools for subscription management, and leverage free marketing to rebuild their business using subscriptions – in a short amount of time and with little investment needed. Successfully doing so can result in a stable cash flow which can help them through the crisis.
Adapting the service
To successfully adapt the service or product to a subscription model, local businesses need to be creative and listen to the customers.
Right now a lot of people are working from home and are not willing (or able to) walk through the door of establishments. How about a daily or weekly home delivery service instead? Or an outdoor local pickup service? This should work well for bakeries, restaurants and flower shops. For example a local bakery could provide fresh bread delivery three times a week, and let customers pay a flat monthly fee. The flower shop could provide a fresh set of flowers every week for customers who now largely work from home.
For the local hairdresser or massage shop, perhaps a monthly subscription service promising one visit each month will work well. This could act as sort of a pre-payment and if customers are not able to visit the shops right now, they could postpone and use their “credit” when things become a little less chaotic.
To adapt the service, one needs to be creative and allow iteration into a solution that works. At tip here is to reach out to the local community and talk to them about what they want and need right now. They will be happy to help you.
To run a subscription business you need some kind of subscription management “platform”. This serves at least three purposes:
- Handling the purchases – i.e. act as the store-front for customers
- Managing the customer/subscription data – i.e. keeping track of customers
- Handling the billing and payments – i.e. securing the recurring payments
These however, can be managed using very simple online tools. The simplest way possible would probably be to accept orders via email or phone, use a spreadsheet to keep track of customers, and accept payments either by credit card (when doing delivery) or another simple payment service.
Going one step further, one can use a real subscription management platform to handle all of the above. There are several modern platforms out there, which are easy to setup and contain everything needed to run a subscription business. Some examples include Subbly, Recurly and WooCommerce. With these tools you can set up a simple website (or integrate with your existing) and then accept recurring payments from your customers.
Leverage free marketing
To reach the local customers, one can leverage free marketing channels. In these times, people will want to help their favorite local businesses, if they are given the opportunity. For example, a sign outside the establishment advertising the new service will probably go a long way. Active engagement in local Facebook (or other social media) groups is another important channel.
Do you need help to set it up? Reach out for an online meeting and we’ll advise you on how to package your product, set up the basics and start you advertising – free of charge of course!
Are you a customer of a local business which you know is struggling? Send them this article and perhaps we can help them.