We are currently facing troubling times, but small businesses have flourished before in the face of adversity. Our client owners routinely impress us with their tenacity, focus, and strength of character. We suspect these traits can be generalized to the small business community at large, as our clients’ creativity and grit - fused with GetVirtual’s diverse skill set - to be a potent alloy. For many small businesses, the path forward is dark. Let us shed some light by illustrating the problems your customers are facing and how your business can adapt to meet them.
In this time of uncertainty, in which reality sometimes feels like a dream, consumers are searching for answers. Individuals do not only buy goods and services for their practical use, but for the feeling and lifestyle that the good or service provides. For example, Kanye “Yeezus” West could sell out of plain white t-shirts at the astronomical price of $120. In the case of the “Hip Hop T-Shirt”, the shirt satisfied buyers’ desire for status and association with the Yeezy brand. Consumers felt that wearing the luxury product indicated their membership in an elite class of creative minds. The Hip Hop T-Shirt deftly illustrates the power of interpretation as the value of a product is not contained within itself, but within what your customers perceive the product to mean. Having that said, not everyone is able to sell any product they want - you or I could not command Yeezus prices for a t-shirt. However, the meaning lies within the compelling power of your good or service; that is, the critical factor that makes people want to buy your product, is contained within emotional simulation. A potential customer may subconsciously ask themselves, “How will I feel after buying this product from this business?” They consider, both explicitly and subconsciously, a multitude of factors when considering the associated emotional implications. Does the product solve a problem I am facing? Who am I buying from? What values does this brand embody? What does buying this product say about me? As they answer these questions, the context of the purchase becomes essentially distinguishable from the product itself. Behavior that initially seems irrational becomes easily comprehensible through the emotional lens.
One of the single most important questions a small business owner can ask themselves is: “How does my customer perceive their life to be better after doing business with me?” The answer to this question should not be generalized in relationship to your competitors. For instance, an Indian restaurateur that answers “my customers satisfy the feeling of hunger” competes with every food vendor in their area. However, if they respond, “My customers are transported to my home state of Andhra Pradesh where they are treated to a course of authentic Telugu cuisine,” they may have no competitors at all. The difference of answers can position the restaurant as satisfying the desire for authenticity and new experiences. Framing your business as a solution is a critical component of a compelling value proposition.
Let us now look at a new problem consumers are facing and examine how some businesses are already solving it.
Example Problem: Too Much Free Time
This problem can be rephrased in different ways. For example, “My kids and I have nothing to do at home and they’re beginning to drive me crazy.”
Work From Home (WFH) has eliminated the commute, making getting ready for work as simple as putting on a shirt (and maybe pants). Consumers finally have the time to pursue activities they have been putting off–or at least, they expect to.
Consider the following infographic:
A famous quote describes, “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Modern research lends some credence to the statement. Humans, especially today, get bored easily and boredom hurts. One study found that participants preferred giving themselves a small but painful shock over doing nothing in a room. Not everyone has a taser – so what are people doing instead?
Across the board, consumers are engaging in activities they always said they would do, “only if they had the time”. Among these neglected activities cooking is most common with 48% of consumers stating they expect to cook more over the next two weeks. The next category makes up 21% of consumers, who anticipate dedicating more time to improving their homes. The news is all well and good for grocery and home supply stores—but how can small businesses outside of these sectors take advantage of consumers’ newfound free time? Well, a few businesses have had some success in the fight against Covid-19:
Home/Work is a Santa Cruz based home décor/gift shop centered around sustainable products that tell a story. Pre-Coronavirus, Home/Work’s revenue came almost exclusively from in-store purchases. When non-essential businesses were ordered to close, Home/Work was forced to rapidly transfer to online sales. Yet when the store opened their virtual doors, they found consumers buying significantly different goods then before social distancing and stay at home orders.
Puzzles and storage bins saw significant increases in sales, an interesting phenomenon which can be explained when circumstances are taken into account. Parents have more time to spend with their kids, but family activities like going to the beach are no longer safe, causing families to engage in at-home entertainment. Additionally, as more time is being spent at home, the clutter of a disorganized house gets all the more unbearable. Thus, logically, puzzles and storage bins become the solutions to both respective problems. Post-Coronavirus, Home/Work has featured these items more prominently in their marketing materials, leading to an increase in sales.
Comedor is an Austin-based Mexican restaurant that prides itself on the authentic taste and cultural heritage of their cuisine. On March 17, Texas governor Greg Abbott issued an order closing all bars and restaurants. In response, Comedor came up with an innovative solution by offering cook-it-yourself meal kits, complete with the restaurant’s high-quality ingredients and written instructions by their award-winning chefs. These meals were so delicious, Texas Monthly named Comedor its Restaurant of the Year. Capitalizing on changes in consumer preferences was the critical factor of Comedor’s success. Consumers feel they should be doing more with their time, but Covid-19 has left them feeling powerless to effectively use all of their free time. The owners of Comedor and similar restaurants understand that the value of meal kits is not their mere convenience, as their solution also provided the sense of accomplishment from making a meal for the family.
Recognizing the Opportunity to Pivot How can your business modify its offerings or messaging to become the solution to potential customers’ problems? With the pressure of WFH and general uncertainty about the future, your client base is experiencing significant stress. If you are a masseuse, can you pivot to sharing your relaxing expertise via instructional videos? If you sell skin products, can you emphasize how relaxing the process of self-care is? If you are a restauranteur, perhaps you can be the comforting hot meal and the end of a long day. Framing your business as the solution to client needs makes your offering more compelling by making your product or service the answer to a lived experience. Meaning, communicating in a clear way how the value you provide will make your customers’ lives better. Here is a list of Covid-related problems people are experiencing. Can your business alleviate any of them?
Too much free time
Feeling unable to manage all their responsibilities
Feeling generally stressed
Struggling to balance working from home with parental responsibilities
Being unable to find entertaining activities for kids stuck at home
Having sleep disturbances due to Covid-19
Watching family pets display strange behavior due to routine disruption
Feeling cooped up inside
Being unable to communicate to elderly/immuno-compromised relatives and show how much they are loved
The list is by no means a comprehensive one, but we believe the points to be a solid jump-off point for thinking about how disruptions in your customers’ lives can be turned into opportunities to serve them.