People are more likely to buy local due to the pandemic. The last few months have shown us how important it is to have a strong local supply chain to keep things running smoothly when the borders close. While some consumers continue to buy local out of environmental concern, others have started to buy local to support their regional and national economy. With an unemployment rate that has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, this issue has become more crucial than ever.
As businesses must adapt their practices to ensure their longevity, business text messaging provides a competitive edge1.
Shopping habits have changed since the start of the pandemic. Despite a decrease in total consumer spending and a steep fall in in-store sales, online sales in the US have surged2. Across the border, close to 3 Canadians out of 10 now go online to purchase items they used to get in store3.
It’s crucial, however, that local businesses make their remote purchasing process as easy as possible to compete with online retail giants like Amazon. Incidentally, brand loyalty has been weakened throughout the pandemic. According to a survey of 2,000 Canadian, American and British consumers conducted in March 2020, 40% of respondents said they would turn to less familiar brands if products are unavailable4. For local businesses, this creates both a risk and an opportunity. Some may risk losing clients if products become unavailable, while others may take the opportunity to attract new customers by meeting the needs of their community.
Did you know that even shops that do not have an e-commerce or transactional website can sell goods and services remotely? Once an order is placed by SMS or over the phone, the local seller can send an electronic payment request to the customer by text messaging. Customers can then make their payment through the secure payment portal from their smartphone, tablet or computer at their convenience. Once done, they will receive an automatic payment confirmation.
If need be, the seller can also give full or partial refunds remotely.
With the health measures in place, there is an increased demand for contactless mobile checkout. With a text messaging platform, small business owners can offer mobile checkout without having to invest in a terminal or other costly equipment. Not to mention that there’s no limit on how many customers can make purchases at once. No more waiting in line at the checkout and no need to worry about respecting social distancing measures.
To learn more about the difference between online payments, e-payments and mobile payments, read this article Mobile Payment Terms and Concepts Explained.
For local farming, produce freshness is a major selling point. Health measures have made food delivery services more popular than ever, making it necessary for sellers to provide efficient pickup options5. Unlike emails, where exchanges tend to go on over several days, text messaging is short and quick, making the ordering and confirmation process much faster.
Furthermore, text messaging can be used to notify customers when fresh, seasonal produce is available. Some farmers automatically send out a weekly order form to their customers. This reminds customers to prepare and submit their order on time. A simple text reminder also helps ensure customers are home at the scheduled time to receive their deliveries.
For farms that offer organic produce boxes, sending out a weekly text containing that week’s produce allows customers to plan their meals accordingly. As a matter of fact, 60% of Canadians have been spending more time in the kitchen since the start of the pandemic. Consequently, nearly half of Canadian adults are looking up new recipes more often than before6. This is a great opportunity for farmers to send their customers recipes that showcase their farm’s seasonal produce.
They can just add a hyperlink to their text message, linking to their website or to one of their social media posts. Farmers could also strike up a partnership with a local food blogger or chef. This would help customers avoid letting that unknown veggie from their produce box go to waste or encourage them to try new flavours by adding unusual products to their order.
In accordance with the health measures in place, sellers must limit the number of people in the store and sanitize between each customer. A good way to spread out customers and reduce wait lines is to take visits by appointment.
Text messaging is an invaluable tool when planning these visits in a non-intrusive manner. Sellers can send a message to the customers on their mailing list to let them know they’re reopening. Interested customers can text back a keyword if they want to schedule a visit to the store. Sellers can then direct them to their website or give them a choice of available time slots. The day before the scheduled visit, an automatic message set up by the seller will remind the customer of the visit and request a confirmation. This makes it possible to schedule the number of employees needed based on the number of visitors expected.
Maintaining excellent customer service while dealing with the comings and goings of seasonal staff can be a challenge for some sellers. With text message archival, all employees are equipped to provide efficient customer service. They can, for example, read the entire history of the customer’s exchanges with the company. This also helps provide seamless customer service when replacing employees who are on vacation or leave.
In addition, if a dispute arises between a customer and an employee, the supervisor and owner have access to the entire conversation. This allows them to, if need be, rectify any miscommunication that took place.
Are you hesitating between using your personal phone for business or using a business text messaging solution? Read the article on what you should consider when using a personal cell phone to communicate with customers.
Buying local goes hand-in-hand with a sense of community. Local artisans have the advantage of living in the same area as their customers. In addition to being familiar with regional habits and customs, which sets them apart from their multinational competitors, they also experience the same events as their customers. A communication channel as efficient as text messaging provides optimal reactivity. A prompt response to local concerns or an exclusive partnership announcement shows the seller’s commitment to communicating with its customers.
In addition, if an unexpected event occurs, artisans can communicate directly with their customers and partners. Whether it’s a power outage, blizzard or backorder, they can quickly notify all those concerned by text message and prevent any unnecessary travel.
Using text messaging is the perfect solution for local businesses trying to bounce back after the pandemic and promote their expertise. Whether it’s to offer remote purchasing, provide secure payment options, ensure efficient delivery, maintain exemplary customer service or increase their ability to communicate quickly with their customers and suppliers, sellers are adopting business text messaging to get that competitive edge.
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