Shifting gears during the COVID-19 crisis
The last few weeks have been weird. On March 20th, 2020 the City of Regina declared a local state of emergency. All non-essential businesses in Regina were ordered to shut down. On that day, we decided to shut down our sister company Floprint for a while, until all of this blows over. At Squareflo, we are pressing on and wanted to share a bit of an update and a few client success stories.
For the last few years, unless a client wanted to meet with Jaco at our office in Regina, our team members have been working from home. So, in terms of our day-to-day operation, not much has changed for us. So far, we have been very fortunate in that we've been keeping ourselves busy working on several projects. Before the COVID-19 lockdown hit Regina, we were actively developing two new exciting web-based platforms. For one, we launched a BETA version of Noodly.io, which is a new online publishing platform for magazines, newspapers, and bloggers. Secondly, we are putting the finishing touches on a sleek heavy machinery sales platform which will be launched very soon.
Sadly, many local businesses in Regina are either shut down or operating in a limited capacity. Like many other small businesses around the world, we are definitely feeling the negative effects of COVID-19 on our local economy. For example, we're getting far fewer quote requests for new websites. Fortunately, we have a few clients who are shifting gears right now, which is requiring us to make changes to their websites and digital marketing strategies. For now, we've got enough work to keep us busy and for that we are grateful.
Pivot! Now IS the time to embrace this buzz word. Some business owners are using it to describe the change of direction that has allowed them to keep operating and in some cases to thrive despite the current circumstances that we find ourselves in.
One great example of a business pivoting to keep the doors open is Nyama Catering. This long-time client of ours, operates a successful BBQ catering business based in Oxfordshire, in the UK. They, like many others, were facing their worst nightmare; all events, weddings and mass gatherings in the UK banned just as Nyama's busy season was about to start. Johannes, the operating partner, found a way to pivot the business into survival mode. He looked at what they had, instead of what they had lost. He realized they had a great reputation, access to fresh produce suppliers, a fleet of cargo vans, and a team of core staff willing to do whatever it would take.
They had everything they needed to get a fresh produce delivery service up and running, in a matter of days. When Johannes approached their suppliers with the idea, they were happy to work with them, since every restaurant in the UK was either shut down or in the process of shutting down.
George, Nyama's other founding partner/marketing manager updated their website by simply adding one page with information and an online order form. It just took a few simple tweaks to their website, and they were off to the races. News of Nyama's produce delivery service spread like wildfire amongst their existing clients and friends. Their website traffic increase by 1000%. In fact, at one point George asked us to remove the social share buttons we had placed on the page because they could not keep up with the demand. We are thrilled with their success.
District Brewing Co in Regina, is another good example of a business that is finding success through their website, by offering alcohol delivery in Regina and Saskatoon. Let's face it, the demand for the delivery of essential goods has greatly increased during this period of social distancing. And yes, it appears locally produced beer and spirits are considered "essential" by many because people are placing a lot of orders for delivery through their website.
District Brewing has always relied on the eCommerce features included in our standard website package, for online sales of T-shirts and other branded merchandise. So, it was relatively easy to pivot and offer the option for people to order alcohol online and get it delivered the same day. Much like Nyama Catering, District Brewing's website is also experiencing a massive increase in traffic.
Although most of the District's increased traffic is organic, much of it is due to effective pay-per-click and retargeting ad campaigns we set up on Google, Facebook & Instagram. Seeing the payment for delivery orders roll in through District's Stripe account every couple of minutes is super satisfying.
Both of these successful businesses pivoted to offer a delivery service, and it's working because of the increased demand.
The Party Store is undoubtedly the best place in Regina, to rent everything you need for a wedding, birthday party or any special event. Whether you need a huge tent, tables, and chairs, or the little things like paper plates and balloons, The Party Store is an amazing go-to place. However, since events in Regina began getting canceled or postponed, their day-to-day business has been hit hard, to say the least. Desiree, who runs the business, recently asked us to add an online store to their existing site. This is something we were happy to do free of charge since we offer all of our clients' unlimited technical support. Ever since we set up their online store, the team at the Party Store has been busy updating it with product images and info. In this case, their goal is not to necessarily change the direction of their business as some others have done, but rather to use this downtime to improve the business for the future. Once this COVID-19 nightmare is over, The Party Store customers will be able to order what they need, right from the new online store.
Although it may seem like Regina's economy is non-existent right now, it's not all bad. Velocity Vinyl, another long-time web client of ours recently learned that the Spring Home Show was canceled. For those of you two don't know, the Spring Home Show is a massive construction industry trade show held in Regina every year. Businesses like Velocity Vinyl spend the bulk of their marketing dollars to present themselves at The Home Show. This is because they normally generate most of their business for the upcoming season, at this one tradeshow. With the 2020 Spring Home Show being canceled, this business had no choice but to pivot.
Families will most likely spend even more time in their backyards this summer, trying to make the most of this lockdown. They'll spend more time than ever staring at the old wooden fence that surrounds their yard, which has begged to be replaced for years. That said, we can safely assume many people will still be looking for a PVC/Vinyl fence expert in Regina. In fact, if we look at the data: the number of Google searches related to PVC/Vinyl Fence Installation in Regina, we can see there's still some action. Less than usual for sure, but it is still there. We've worked hard to ensure Velocity Vinyl is already in the top 3 organic search results related to phrases such as "Vinyl Fence Regina" or "PVC Fence Regina", so now we just have to make sure we cover all the bases. During this time of businesses needing to pivot, we've set up some Google Ads to make sure they also lock down a spot in the paid results, to maximize their visibility on Google. And it's paying off.
The last few weeks have been crazy, and often a bit scary. We don't know when the crisis will be over, and what will be left of our economy and client-base when the dust finally settles. On the one hand, we sympathize with small business owners in Regina and beyond, who are facing uncertain times. We're in the same boat. We recognize that not every business is lucky enough to have the option to pivot or try something new. We know the longer the COVID-19 lockdown drags on, the more likely it is that many businesses will shut down permanently. Despite the uncertainty and tough times, we feel grateful that some of our clients are finding a way to move forward.
In closing, if you are one of our existing clients, we want you to know that we're here for you. Make use of the unlimited technical support we offer as part of your CMS license fee. If you think the addition of an online store or any other website features might help your business keep it's doors open, let us know. We're standing by, and as always as an existing web client, you won't be charged if we activate or configure a CMS module. Even if you want to just discuss some ideas, give us a shout.