The pandemic is wreaking havoc with the economy and people are turning to online shopping in ever greater numbers. Without a website, you are left out in the cold.

Deon’s Dilemma

Covid-19 has been devastating, not only in the number of lives lost, but also in the number of businesses that are suffering and closing. Having a website has become crucial as a way to keep in touch with customers and to keep a business afloat. Those who are not yet in this space are losing out on valuable business.

Take my friend Deon (not his real name) for instance. Deon is in the business of making furniture and he has been selling his products from a brick and mortar store since who-knows-when. He has done vey good for himself when he was in a shopping center where many people came through his shop every day.

He moved to another location far from a shopping mall and retained a steady stream of customers, mainly because he has built a good reputation and his customers followed him to his new location. Like many in his shoes, he cannot only depend on previous customers, he has to continually find new ones. I mean, once you have bought a dining room table and some chairs, you won’t be needing another for a few decades or so, right? Maybe you will need one or two other pieces of furniture, but how much you end up buying from him is based on how much space you have at home. There is a limit.

Since most of his costumers are very happy with his service and the quality of his products, they share pictures of their purchases on their social media pages. They talk about it and recommend Deon to their friends. A lot of his business comes from referrals. He runs most of his sales through a very active WhatsApp group and it has served him well.

Then came the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Like the rest of us, he was forced to stay at home and for the first few months his business ground to a halt. Being the ever industrious Deon I know and love, he used the time to make extensive vegetable gardens at his shop’s location, keeping himself busy and making sure he has more fresh food he could possibly eat by himself, sharing the bounty with friends and those less fortunate.

Business in Lockdown

Lockdown eased and business trickled back in, but not nearly to the levels it was before. He still had to pay rent and utilities, which of course proved to be a great challenge. Somehow he has survived, proving his tenacity and grit in the face of great adversity caused by the microscopically small virus that has wreaked havoc around the globe.

Subsequent lockdowns have taken a further toll, with the last lockdown brought about by the Delta variant again bringing his business to a standstill. I saw a desperate Facebook post of his yesterday, wondering when it will ever end, asking if others are in the same desperate position as he is.

The South African economy was already under severe strain before the pandemic, which has just amplified the problem. To say that it is having a harsh effect is the understatement of the decade. Production levels have fallen dramatically while demand has gone into shock. The gross domestic product (GDP) is down dramatically and the economy has contracted. Unemployment levels, already at an unacceptably high level before the pandemic, have shot up. Businesses are closing left, right, and center. That Deon’s shop is still open is a miracle. But how long will he be able to last?

The Importance of a Website

One dramatic change brought about by the pandemic is the way online shopping has increased. Shops such as Shoprite, Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay are doing brisk business through their online shopping portals, as is Takealot. Monthly online shopping has grown by a massive 40%. The average purchase size is 25% more than pre-pandemic levels, while the transaction frequency has increased by a third. Online shopping is the big winner. Shopping malls, restaurants, and liquor traders are the big losers. As are small businesses such as Deon’s.

I have been nagging Deon for a long time to at least get a basic website up and running, even going so far as to gift him one for Christmas, an offer he has refused to take up. He has stubbornly clung to the old way of doing things and, sadly, he is now reaping what he sowed (or more correctly, not reaping, because he never sowed.) I fear for my friend’s future.

When people are unable to come to your shop because they are scared of getting infected with Covid-19, it is more important than ever to change your thinking. Instead of waiting for them to come to you, it is your responsibility to find ways to reach them. There is no better way to do this than with a website. This is the time of business unusual and those who are not going to make the change are going to face closure, of that there is no doubt.

There are many advantages for your business to have a website:

  • A website helps people to recognize your brand;
  • It makes it easy for your customers to buy from you;
  • Having an online presence helps you to stay competitive;
  • A website makes other forms of online marketing easier, for instance through social media;
  • You can cater to every kind of customer through your website;
  • You can clearly showcase your products;
  • You can stay in touch with your customers.

Most importantly, a website can be the tool that keeps your business afloat during this crisis. The choice between sinking or swimming is an easy one. When a website is a flotation device, it would only be a fool who chooses to sink when a lifesaver is close at hand.

And it does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Indeed, there are companies out there who will build you a fancy state-of-the-art website that will cost you hundreds of thousands of rands. This is not necessary. You could start with something quite simple, even do it yourself using some of the free website building platforms available. You just need to start with some online presence and in time you can refine and improve it.

Get a Free Website

In fact, the situation is so dire, that we here at Baird Media have decided to design a startup three page website absolutely free of charge in an effort to help you get going. You only need to pay for the hosting fee for the year. This is our small contribution to helping those who, like Deon, have been left behind and urgently need a website to get back in the game. More detailed information about this special launch offer coming soon!

A website is a bit like an online business card. Who will notice and remember you, let alone know how to contact you, if they never even get to see your business? A website is of course only the first step in an online journey. Next comes the content to keep people interested and informed, converting them into buying customers. But that you can deal with down the line.

I sincerely hope Deon reads what I have written here and that he takes me up on this offer. I would be very sad to see him lose his business because of his stubbornness to change. A website won’t solve all his business woes, but it would be a starting point.

The pandemic is not going away anytime soon. Adapt or die, the saying goes. So adapt. Adapt right now. Before it’s too late.

To arrange an online meeting to discuss your media needs, contact Baird Media today.