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How Growing Businesses Can Stay Afloat In Uncertain Times

Brexit and rises to business rates and the national minimum wage have all given businesses something to think about.

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Brexit and rises to business rates and the national minimum wage have all given businesses something to think about.

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How Growing Businesses Can Stay Afloat In Uncertain Times

Brexit and rises to business rates and the national minimum wage have all given businesses something to think about.

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As business rates and the national living wage rose once again last week, it’s expected to place an even heavier burden on Small and Medium Business (SMBs), who are already feeling the sting of rising inflation and the cut-throat environment of the retail world.

With 20,000 businesses shutting their doors and 150,000 people losing their jobs in 2018 alone, SMB owners need to do all they can to stay afloat. It’s a fight for survival on the high street and if we are not careful, there will be no independents left.

Meeting consumer needs

SMB owners can’t rely on the government alone to come to their rescue. They need to be forward-thinking and lead the changes that are needed in their industry, whilst also attracting and retaining customers.

It’s no easy feat, and they simply can’t do it all. Many SMBs want to stay laser-focused on giving customers what they want and realise this is critical to providing an exceptional customer experience.

In order to do that, SMBs need the help of partners and third parties such as payment providers that understand the specific challenges they face

At the moment customers want shorter queuing times and a more personal experience, and technology is a key way for SMBs to offer this. Technology doesn’t have to break the bank.

Simply by having internet in store and the resources on hand to order out of stock products, to be delivered to the customer’s front door, makes the whole experience more convenient and pleasant for the customer.

Alongside this, customer long for a payment method that best suits their needs. For instance, Kenna Plumbing, a South West London based plumbing company recently made the change to accepting card payments.

Since doing it has worked with 360 new clients each year, gained 720 new clients over the past 24 months and secured an extra 30 jobs per month. The company has also saved 90 hours a month on administrative tasks, time SMB owners could use to source new business opportunities.

Despite the rise in operational costs, it shows that there are ways in which SMBs are able to stay profitable and thrive.

Attract and retain customers

Faced with rising costs, many SMBs have no option but to pass this onto their customers by raising prices. By doing so, businesses can no longer offer the same level of service. With new and increased prices, customer expectations will also rise.

A few initiatives can help ease this situation, such as loyalty card schemes that many coffee shops already provide. Offering a coffee for free creates a relationship between the business and consumer, making them feel that they are getting true value for money.

Another route SMBs can take to improve customer service is to invest time in internal staff training, to better educate employees on customer service and develop their skills. Customers connect with these employees daily, so it’s important that they can offer a high-quality service.

SMBs can also proactively drive a social media strategy to engage customers and keep them updated on the latest products or services on offer online. Setting up an Instagram page for instance is simple, and free.

Consistently uploading attractive and creative content, or running online competitions will encourage customers to come into the store. It is a great way for SMBs to connect on a personal level with customers, and create a presence online that encourages customers to get involved.

Planning in the face of uncertainty

In the midst of growing economic uncertainty, further disruption is the last thing SMBs need. These business owners need to have a plan in place, if they haven’t already, that take things such as the rise in business rates, and the national living wage into account.

While organisations can’t prepare for every road bump that they encounter, being as prepared as possible will make them easier to manage in the long run and keep their doors open to the high-street consumer.

Steven Stewart is director SMB Solutions, UK and Ireland at Valitor.

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How Growing Businesses Can Stay Afloat In Uncertain Times

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