By Jeanae DuBois

A recent Commerce Department report shows that retailers lost more than 16 percent of their revenue from the month prior to shelter-in-place, which is the worst metric reported since 1992. This crisis will change consumer behavior, and business as usual will not be enough to meet their needs following the pandemic.

Though COVID-19 has spread throughout every industry, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to start thinking now about what happens after the pandemic. 

Embrace Technology

For SMBs who are looking to remain profitable, technology that seems like an investment during a chaotic time can actually be a savior. SMBs that have delayed integrating technology are starting to show their service gaps as safety restrictions make in-person/traditional business impossible. SMBs should be looking for ways to better understand their customers. Investing in anything to improve your mobile applications, create user-friendly websites or implement customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and understanding the importance of sales enablement are great first steps.

If the reasons for better tracking/understanding your customers wasn’t clear, according to Gartner, 65 percent of a company’s business comes from existing customers. When looking towards the future, Gartner estimates that 80 percent of a company’s profits will come from just 20 percent of the existing customers. These figures also highlight the value of keeping your current customers happy, rather than chasing new customers. And with customers increasingly moving toward the digital channel, it’s critical that you make it as easy as possible for your loyal customers to interact with your brand through every channel.

Consider Customized Mobile Applications

Next, it may be time to invest in a customized mobile application. It was a business differentiator in the last decade, but now it’s a critical business asset.

According to Statista, mobile point-of-service payments have grown by more than 154 percent since 2017. By 2023, that figure will be more than 442 percent. If you don’t have the capabilities to build a quality mobile app in-house, reach out to a development shop to help you get started.

Keep in mind that your app should do more than just deliver an easy-to-use customer experience, but it should also allow you to track detailed information on how your customers are engaging with your mobile storefront. Metrics on page visits, length of visit, and any pages visited but abandoned will provide valuable insights. Data like this can ensure that you are personalizing information to customers and capitalizing on that information. 

Focus on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Solutions

Finally, utilize a singular solution to monitor all of the data you are collecting from all of your sources. CRM solutions allow you to organize information by segments, analyze existing versus potential customers, digest that information through reports and real-time flags, as well as analyze and forecast sales.

A recent study conducted by IDC found that companies saw ROI ranging from a minimum of 16 percent, to more than 1,000 percent after successful CRM implementation. CRMs can automatically and intuitively provide critical information to allow you to make real-time business decisions⁠—which is especially critical now, but will always be valuable even after the pandemic has subsided. 

If you start adopting technology to better analyze your customers’ shopping behaviors⁠—especially across multiple platforms⁠—you’ll be well served despite a global crisis. A Nielsen study found that 62 percent of consumers cite brand trust as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. You’ve worked hard to foster a relationship with your customers; now is the time to track and analyze data in order to better serve and retain those customers.

This is key to ensuring that you are providing the best value and offering products your customers want. It can also help identify any gaps or areas that need improvement, as well as guiding your marketing efforts. 

Technology is enabling SMBs to better reach their customers, especially in a world where interaction, whether it be virtual or in-person, is key to securing business. As COVID-19 diverts how we approach business, it’s important to take this time to adapt to remain competitive. Having the ability to gather and understand data on your customers will be the key to success moving forward.