Small businesses are truly the backbone of the Indian economy, but what do you do when lockdowns and COVID restrictions have impacted the way you conduct your business? And even if your business is open, how do you convince customers that it is safe to come out and shop again?
This is where you can leverage technology to continue your business operations despite the lockdowns. In Part One of our “Leveraging Technology During COVID-19” series, we talked about how you can use tools like social media, digital marketing and WhatsApp Business to service your customers better and run your business more efficiently.
In Part Two, let’s talk about how to transform your sales and operations through small but revolutionary technological interventions that will help you reach more customers efficiently and in a cost-effective manner.
Join an e-commerce platform
With the pandemic still ongoing, consumer behaviour has shifted to adjust to our new way of life. We keep going in and out of lockdowns, social distancing still needs to be maintained, and with the weather heating up, people now prefer to be cool and safe and stay home while buying whatever they need online.
So, as a business owner, you should adjust to this new consumer behaviour and start offering your products on e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon to meet your customers where they are shopping. If you already accept digital payments, the process of registering on the platforms is straightforward. If you don’t, find out why accepting them is beneficial for your creditworthiness.
Another added benefit of being on an e-commerce platform is that many platforms in India are now offering their sellers financing options right from their platforms! Through CreditEnable’s partnership with Flipkart, sellers on Flipkart can access customized financing options based on their financial history and sales.
Now we’re not saying you need to move your entire inventory online in one go. Start small and try out a couple of products first. Understand the delivery process and customer needs, and then gradually add new products.
e-Commerce is here to stay, so once you’re online, this platform will help your sales even after COVID-19 restrictions have eased.
Use delivery platforms
Just like how e-commerce platforms help retailers reach customers in their homes, if you’re in the Food and Beverage or FMCG sectors, using platforms like Zomato and Swiggy will help you reach customers and boost your sales when people cannot dine at a restaurant.
Such technology platforms also collect advanced analytics on customer behaviour and preference and may offer you deeper insight into customer behaviour in your vicinity: what types of food are popular or what times are best for delivery, allowing you to adjust your business practices to match demand and optimize operations.
Using technology services like Dunzo, Pidge or Wefast to make inter-city deliveries is also another option. Similar to Uber or Ola, these platforms determine the price of delivery based on rider availability, distance, and the weight/size of your package. They are a convenient way to make deliveries to meet your customer needs safely. They are also useful when you simply need to send an important document to a client or send something to a loved one but are unable to drop the package off yourself.
Digitize your billing and finance systems
We discussed upgrading your payment systems to accept UPI and phone wallets in part one. These are convenient methods for you to maintain your cash in and outflows, help lenders get richer data on the health of your business, and improve your creditworthiness for when you apply for a business loan.
To complement your payment system, we also recommend using technology to digitise your internal finance and billing systems to make your accounting easier. Many small businesses have started using apps like KhataBook, Dukaan, and OkCredit to digitise billing, manage their bookkeeping, and customer communication, along with other business operations. KahatBooks also offers SMEs MyStore, a digital storefront, and Pagarkhata, a simple staff and salary management platform.
Such apps also allow you to send your customers automated reminders for payments due, freeing up your time to focus on running your businesses more efficiently.
Integrating such technologies into your business operations indicates to lenders that you run your business in a smart and informed manner that can keep up with the market and constantly changing customer demands.
Store your documents on the DigiLocker platform
To continue doing work remotely, renewing expired licenses online, filing your taxes online, and applying for business loans online, you need to have digital copies of important documents that you can access from anywhere. But with more of your documents digital, storing them in a safe place online is also something to consider.
To do this, we recommend using DigiLocker, a safe and secure digital service offered by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), Government of India. DigitLocker is a free service, and it is integrated with most central and state public services, including ADHAAR, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Income Tax Department, Employees’ Provident Fund, and some public and private banks.
It serves as a digital document wallet, where users can safely store electronic, authentic versions of their documents. This reduces the hassle of searching for relevant documents when you need them and allows you to access them anywhere and anytime, making the delivery of government benefits and services faster.
Especially right now, when going from one government office to the next to apply for documentation will put your health at unnecessary risk, this is the perfect way to store your documents online securely and conveniently.
Of course, you can also store your documents on Google Drive or OneDrive if you are more familiar with those platforms.
Use social media to monitor consumer trends
Our last recommendation is to use social media, not just as a tool to reach new customers but to also monitor changing customer preferences. Social media has a huge impact on what people eat, wear, and buy. Monitoring these changing preferences on platforms like Twitter and Instagram will help you make informed product choices based on observed customer behaviour.
For example, if you run a restaurant that specializes in Pan-Asian cuisine and you notice more and more people are talking about Momos on social platforms right now, update your Zomato or Swiggy profiles to display this dish better. Since social media influences our taste, this could also drive up customer demand for that dish. Anticipate this and add the “Chef’s Special” tag to the menu item, add a photo of the dish to your gallery, and ensure your menu has an attractive description of the dish. Asking happy customers to review your restaurant on these platforms is always a great way to attract more people to your profile.
You can also use your social platforms to market the dish and attract more customers that way. Read how to do that here.
Technology is here to help your business operate more efficiently. The pandemic has increased the speed at which customers now do business online, but that is the direction retail has been moving in anyway. So, you must keep up with your customers and help your business stay healthy and growing.
If you need a business loan to add technology solutions to your business, apply for a business loan with CreditEnable. We help SMEs across India get the finance they need within days. We’ve digitised the loan process, so our application is 100% online, and you don’t need to visit a lender or do market research for the best loan terms. Just apply, send us your documents online, and we do the rest of the work for you! Get started today.
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