How to reinvent your business: Creating value and keeping customers during difficult times

COVID-19 has impacted many SMMEs’ ability to operate and earn, only 8.5% are back to normal at level 4. It has changed consumer mindsets and shifted the way businesses need to operate to be successful. As is true with any crisis, be it a recession or any other external factor, it is not WHAT happens to your business, but HOW you deal with it that separates the survivors and thrivers from the rest! 

More consumers than ever accessing products and services online and trying out new service providers and brands. Consumers are buying food and clothing online, but also procuring services from professional services providers, research travel and accommodation once lockdown is lifted, look for construction quotes, research manufacturers and farming sector providers in both the B2B and B2C sectors. 

There is huge opportunity for SMMEs who are agile and can adapt to change quickly and effectively. How are you going too adapt your business to make the best of COVID-19, and beyond? 


If you want to reinvent your business model during a crisis you need to look at the four aspects of your business and align them; (1) you customers, (2) your value proposition, (3) value demonstrations, and (4) your capabilities. It is your job as a business owner to capitalise on opportunities, shift your thinking, and come up with innovative ideas that will keep your clients interacting and, most importantly, willing to pay for your products and services.

1. Catering to the needs of the new hyper-health-aware consumer 

South Africans have started doing more digital activities during COVID-19, like remote learning, video conferencing, online gaming, online fitness, and grocery or food delivery. Interestingly, more than half of South African consumers have started shopping at new stores and websites, and most expect to continue (McKinsey & Company Survey, 5 May 2020). 

Consumers are expected to reduce in-person activities across all industry sectors, for example shopping, travel, movies and events. If you operate in one of the sectors affected by COVID-19 like professional services and retail, how best can you continue to service your customers? 

SMMEs in the services industry

About 75% of businesses should be able to trade again at level 2 and 1 (BusinessTech, 6 May 2020). So as lockdown levels begin to ease face-to-face service driven businesses, like salons and professional services, may be able to operate fully again Prepare for reopening by making innovative health and safety plans like visors and mask for staff and safety screens between staff and customers. 

SMMEs in retail 

Revise your procurement and supply chain to compensate for the change in consumer spending patterns during lockdown. Consumers are buying (and in some cases in bulk) essential items while avoiding discretionary spending on items like skincare, make-up, household furnishings, consumer electronics, apparel, jewellery and other luxury goods. Communicate openly with your customers if you can’t deliver specific products or services during lockdown and make plans to ensure delivery can commence once allowed.

2. Tweaking your value proposition

Diversify and take advantage of the industries that are on the rise.Home delivery services, personal shoppers, cleaning services and PPE suppliers are only a few of the industry sectors that have seen growth during the lockdown. Think about how you can diversity your offering to make the most of the boom is sectors of the market that are still operational. Consider a home delivery option for your products or offer a new product line of essential goods items. 

3.  How are you demonstrating value? 

Show value! As schools have been forced to close, many parents have asked themselves why they need to continue to pay school fees. As a results school have been forced to show value in order to continue getting the consumer Rand. Think the same way about your business. You need to find ways to show value to your clients – whether it is video conference lessons provided by schools, free delivery for items ordered from your store or online workshops that teach your clients new skills. 

Show customers and/or your clients that you are ready.In the new normal, all industries will have to be innovative to continue servicing their clients. The trick lies in using the time at hand in the more restrictive levels of lockdown to prepare for opening once lockdown regulations are eased in the less restrictive levels. Keep your channels of communication open and be transparent with your customers. Even if you can’t begin trading yet, keep the conversation going to ensure your business remains top of mind when you do open. 

4. Change up your capabilities

Ecommerce is here to stay, so consider capacitating your business to be able to operate virtually where possible.Now is the time to embrace digital transformation. Revisit and revise your digital strategy to respond to consumers who are increasingly shying away from in-person interactions. Free website building resources like WordPress and Wix can help you get started without spending a cent. Also try low data options like WhatsApp, Facebook Marketplace on Free Basics or investigate getting your online shop zero-rated. While there many online payment solutions like Zapper and Snapscan that help you get paid online, for those businesses that are in the retail industry.


McKinsey & Company, Survey: South African consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis, 5 May 2020. (

BusinessTech, South Africa’s spending patterns during lockdown, 13 April 2020. (

Harvard Business review, Assessing Coronavirus’s Impact on Your Business Model, 15 April 2020. (

Business Tech, A summary of the national small business survey, 6 May 2020.

Cnpsjepsononchapter, Your Chapter News On Marketing and Digital Marketing, 12 may 2020.

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