A Tale of Two Locals — SMBs Facing a Crossroads in July 2021

With a bit of good luck and many more jabbed arms, things should be very different in the world of local commerce by July 2021. And by different, we mean resembling the world we all knew some 16 months ago. Or, perhaps, the local commerce world will be fundamentally different come July.

We can’t ignore the complete disruption the pandemic had on local commerce. Not to mention the small and medium-sized businesses that are the foundation of local commerce. Complete lock-downs, curbside only pick-up, contactless payments. It’s been like nothing we’ve ever seen. 

So what will local commerce look like in July of 2021 and beyond? We think it looks a whole lot the same as it did 16 months ago. And it will also be totally different.

What Stays the Same?

The auto repair shop owner will still be spending more time managing his/her operation. Chiefly finding qualified technicians, making sure they show up for work and stressing about parts arriving in time. They will also still be fidgeting with a quirky POS system and troubleshooting a crappy office operating system.

The local dentist will still be making sure they have the supplies they need, that the staff is following CDC guidelines for infection prevention (most good dentists have been doing this forever), and that patients show up on time. 

The roofing contractor will still be hoping for good weather to finish their jobs. And they will be praying that supply chain disruptions don’t impact their business. And, most of all, they will worry about immigration authorities arriving to round up their laborers. 

Even as we return to “normal”, nothing will really be the same. All of these business personas must find ways to leverage technology so they can be more efficient and effective in serving customers. And they must upgrade the overall customer experience they deliver. Anything short of pursuing these parallel paths will put businesses at risk of obsolescence. 

And What Will Change?

That same auto repair shop needs to do a much better job of showcasing its technicians. And the experience and training those technicians bring to the shop. They need to consider turning on video cameras — think webcams — to highlight the cleanliness and precautions they’re taking to keep the virus at bay.

They also need to upgrade their websites and the content on those websites to communicate why they’re in business and what separates them from their competitors. And they need to push aggressively into real-time communications so that they’re no longer playing phone tag with customers or finding themselves in voicemail jail. 

That dental office needs to move to real-time communications as well. That means online appointment settings, text reminders, and updates. They could also more aggressively profile their dental hygienists and technicians, highlighting their experience and training.

And those pre-Covid infection prevention procedures? Those should be highlighted on their website to remind patients that infection protection has always been at the forefront of quality practice management. Behind the scenes, that dentist should be upgrading their practice management systems to drive more efficiencies — making manual and time-consuming tasks automatic. 

Roofers also need to upgrade their digital presence. They’ll need to find ways to shift from relying on paper checks for payment to contactless payments. They too will need to upgrade their website to reflect any new practices they’ve put into place to adjust to the new normal. And what about their supply chain? We think they should be transparent about where and under what circumstances the shingles were made. And the roofer’s foreperson will have to get familiar with how to text pictures of job progress to their customers. 

Ready for the New Consumer?

You see, come July 2021, the era of the modern “post-pandemic” consumer will fast be upon us. And that consumer has been trained in new behaviors by the likes of Amazon, Chipolte, InstaCart, Apple, Google, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. And these companies have conducted this training through via their mobile apps.

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