Local Businesses Innovate Online During Shut-down

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I’ve been pretty impressed by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of local businesses during this time of isolation and social distancing.  It can’t be easy, but these businesses have been able to keep moving forward and improving their prospects while all of us wait for a time when we can be more normal.


I’ve seen local pizza restaurants shift within a week to a carry-out by appointment model.  They took an existing carry-out business and super-charged it.  They ask what I want on my pizza, give me a time to pull up and ask me what car I’m arriving in.  Gloves and hand sanitizer protects the transaction, while a hot pizza is handed over by a friendly staffer. 

The local independent grocery store allows online shopping and curbside delivery to your car for those that don’t want to enter the store.  Others (like me) who shop in person see all cashiers and those stocking shelves with gloves on, and sometimes masks as well.  Their website talks about their enhanced safety protocols and commitment to the community.  People are talking about how great this offering is from a small independent grocer.

A local small catering company (which can’t cater gatherings anymore) cooks and packages up delicious meals – and simply posts a picture on Instagram saying essentially “Come and get it!” By private message you tell them how much you want and pick a time window to pick it up.  Word of mouth recommendations are growing, as we all get tired of our own cooking at home.

My favorite butcher shop also turned on a dime and shifted to curbside delivery.  When its initial ecommerce payment provider had problems calculating the right amount on the emailed invoice, they answered an email within minutes, apologized and explained how to proceed.  Then next day, the payment provider was changed out for one that worked smoothly.  They also called to confirm two days before my order was packed and let me make changes.  The shut-down pressed this business to step up their email communication to customers, beef up (no pun intended) their ecommerce processing, and also add all the dry goods (wine, olive oil, spices, etc) to their shopping website – which has previously not been listed.  The best part was getting a call within minutes of sending an email with a question.  It was obvious they dedicated staff to email response.

Here’s what stepping up your online marketing game looks like:

  1. Make sure to email, message or social message your customers with your new process – and keep in contact with them over this time
  2. Make sure it works, and (when it doesn’t) fix it fast and let your customers know it’s fixed
  3. Keep the human element – curbside pickup, phone follow-up, etc. are all opportunities to thank your customers and remind them you care

Doing these things well will help deepen your bond with your customers. 

These SMB’s and many others have leaned into this historic time in our country and stepped up their online game.  We’re grateful for their efforts and encourage them to keep innovating after the shut-down lifts.

Photo by Aaron Murphy from Freeimages.

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