The COVID-19 outbreak has completely changed the way we live, the way we do business, and the way our economy functions as a whole. Many states are still in lockdown. More people are being asked to work from home. Video conferencing and Zoom have replaced face-to-face interactions.
And with so many people being asked or choosing to spend the majority of their time at home, it’s been an especially difficult time for many small businesses.
But there’s one business model that’s booming in the midst of the coronavirus crisis—and that’s home delivery.
More consumers than ever are turning to delivery services to get the products they need (for example, downloads of the grocery delivery app Instacart increased a whopping 218 percent from February, before the pandemic hit in the US, to March when stay at home orders started to roll out across the United States). So, if you want to continue to drive sales, you should consider pivoting your operations and moving towards a delivery model to better serve your customers.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a deep dive into how business owners can run a successful delivery company during the COVID-19 crisis (and continue to drive sales and revenue as we navigate the new normal):
Figure out how to pivot your business model to delivery
If delivery is uncharted territory for you and you’re offering delivery services for the first time, the first step to running a successful delivery company? Figure out how to pivot your current business model to delivery.
How to successfully pivot to delivery is going to depend on your business, your customers, and your bandwidth, but some questions you’ll want to keep in mind when figuring out your delivery strategy include:
- How will we deliver to our customers? Are we planning to partner with a third-party delivery service or are we going to handle deliveries in house?
- Are we going to be delivering our full product offerings or selected products? So, for example, if you’re a restaurant, are you going to be offering your full menu for food delivery or a limited menu of delivery-only items? Or, if you run a chain of grocery stores, are you going to list every item in your store for delivery or are you going to focus your delivery service on surplus inventory?
- What additional support do we need to pivot to delivery services (for example, additional staff, delivery bikes or vehicles, packaging, etc.)
- What kind of opportunity does delivery add to my business? For example, if the majority of your customers are within a five-mile radius of your business, there would be a lot of financial opportunity in delivery services—but if your customers are spread throughout the state, building an e-commerce website and shipping your products might make more sense.
Handle the logistics
Once you’ve figured out how to pivot towards delivery, it’s time to tackle the logistics of adding delivery services to your business.
While every business will have different logistical issues, some of the logistical tasks you’ll want to tackle before launching delivery services include:
- Figure out your costs. Your delivery business isn’t going to be sustainable if you’re spending more money to deliver your products to your customers than you’re making on each sale; you need a positive cash flow to make it work. Look at all the costs associated with making deliveries (including gas and labor) to determine the minimum order amount and maximum delivery area that makes sense for your business. So, for example, you might deliver within a 5-mile radius for orders over $15—and any orders below $15 or outside of your delivery area would only be eligible for pick-up/take-out.
- Adjust your inventory and supply chain management as necessary. When you move your business from an in-person to a delivery model, you might need to adjust your inventory and supply chain management to support your new business needs. So, for example, if you run a clothing boutique, you’re not going to need as many in-store display items (like hangers or racks)—but you are going to need more boxes and bags to package your deliveries—or if you’re a restaurant and you’re shifting towards a limited delivery menu, you’re going to need to adjust your ingredient ordering to support your new dishes.
- Figure out staffing. Just like your supply needs may change when you pivot to delivery, so might your staffing needs. As you’re moving towards a delivery model, look at your current staffing and scheduling and determine how you’ll need to adjust to support your delivery services (for example, hiring delivery drivers or scheduling more staff to fill delivery orders during busy shifts).
- Look into additional insurance needs. If you’re going to be handling deliveries in-house and transportation wasn’t a part of your prior business model, you may need to get additional insurance coverage to cover yourself and your business in the case of an accident or injury. Talk to your insurance company to see which option is the best fit for your business.
Develop a system for managing delivery orders
When it comes to deliveries, there are a lot of moving parts; you need to keep track of your orders, collect a payment, assign orders to delivery drivers, and make sure that each order is making it to your customer quickly, efficiently, and with each item, they ordered and paid for. Without a clear system in place for managing your delivery orders, things can quickly devolve into chaos.
This is why you need a system in place from the get-go. Before you launch your delivery services, you need a clear plan in place for:
- How customers submit orders (for example, will you be taking phone orders or should customers place delivery orders for your website?)
- How customers submit payment
- How orders are fulfilled (for example, who is in charge of fulfilling orders as they come in? How long are you estimating it will take to fill orders?)
- How to assign delivery times
- How to check orders are accurate before they’re sent out for delivery
- How to assign orders for delivery drivers
- How to confirm orders are delivered and received by the customer
Once you’ve developed your delivery system, it’s important to make sure you implement any necessary technology (for example, secure payment processing or an order processing system) and train your staff. That way, when you launch your delivery service, everyone knows exactly how to take, fulfill, and deliver orders to your customers.
Spread the word about your delivery services
You can’t run a successful delivery company if no one knows you’re offering delivery services. So, one of the most important aspects of launching delivery? Getting the word out.
If you want your delivery services to take off, you need to let people know that you’re offering delivery. If you’ve been closed, email your customers to let them know you’re reopening as a delivery service. Share discount codes on your social media profiles to encourage your customers to order delivery. Look for creative ways to generate buzz around your new delivery services, like partnering with other small business owners to deliver local product packages or offering free delivery for frontline healthcare workers.
The point is, a clear marketing strategy is a key part of building any successful business—and if you want your delivery service to succeed, you need to spread the word to as many customers as possible.
Implement safety measures for your customers and delivery staff
The well-being of your customers and delivery personnel needs to be a top priority when you’re delivering in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—and that means taking the necessary safety precautions to protect them.
Make sure your team is practicing social distancing and taking proper sanitation measures when fulfilling delivery orders. Provide face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves to your entire delivery staff. Offer contactless delivery options to minimize exposure between delivery personnel and customers.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, you can’t be too safe, so make sure you’re taking any safety precautions recommended by the CDC and World Health Organization and are doing everything necessary to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers.
Deliver your way to a more sustainable business
There’s no denying that small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19. But by adding delivery services to your current business model, you can build a more sustainable business to carry you through these uncertain times—and emerge stronger on the other side.