Just over a year on, and it’s safe to say that we’re all still feeling the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. With the UK now just starting to emerge from lockdown number 3, with retail and other sectors opening there's still an air of uncertainty around about what will come next.
Though hope seems to be on the horizon with the speed of distribution of vaccines for the virus, the reality is that we are likely to continue facing restrictions in some shape, way or form for some time. We don’t know what that will look like; whether we’ll see the re-introduction of the tier system across the country, whether we’ll see yet another lockdown, or when we can expect to go back to business-as-usual at all.
This means that many of us - small businesses especially - can no longer rely on our usual means of driving revenue. It may be time to switch up your service. That means it’s time to get online.
Few businesses are likely to have made it this far unscathed, but it’s small businesses that’ll be hit the hardest. This means that it is particularly essential for them to continue to trade in the only way currently deemed possible and that is future proof - and that’s by getting online.
At the time of writing, businesses like non-essential retail and hospitality are just starting to open up but have been surviving on the high street primarily through click-and-collect and delivery, which under the UK lockdown regulations are permitted. This means that such businesses who can’t facilitate that service are struggling and relying on government.
Take the high street giant Primark, who were predicted to lose £1.05bn in sales if they stay closed until February (which they did) - yet they refused to go online, despite rising customer expectation for them to do so. But with the huge influx in sales they’ll receive when they do open - as one of the UK’s most popular retailers - they can afford that loss. What about all of the businesses who can’t?
In the UK, hospitality has arguably suffered more than any other sector when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions. Seemingly always the first to close and the last to reopen, the most heavily restricted even in the more relaxed sections of the tier system, and only permitted to open after undergoing major, expensive changes in-house, takeaway and delivery services have been the major players in allowing these businesses to survive.
What’s more, with little else to do or look forward to, online food orders have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic. Customers are ordering more food, more often, and no longer just as a once in a blue moon treat at the weekend or on payday.
Online trading has been a lifeboat for many. The problem is, the most popular online ordering systems - JustEat, Deliveroo and UberEats to name a few - require not only listing charges, but take a percentage of each order placed. So the profits in comparison to in-house orders are still not matching up, at a time when restaurants most need it to. Takeaway services and click-and-collect are more viable from this perspective, but are under threat from tighter restrictions which would force their closure to the public on account of being non-essential.
So. It’s a tough spot to be in, for sure. Let’s look at one of our own clients - The Drift, a local restaurant who were facing this exact issue.
The Drift approached ITK in April 2020 with this precise problem: they wanted to remain trading online, but were losing 20% of each order to JustEat. For a small, family-run restaurant in the village of Westward Ho! - an area that is often reliant on the tourism trade, which has been impacted itself this year - this loss on each order just wasn’t viable.
What they really wanted was to keep being able to trade online via takeaway and delivery - without sacrificing such a substantial amount of revenue on every order. They wanted to continue offering the menu their customers enjoyed so much in-house - with a number of dishes with variations to suit individual tastes, such as burgers customisable with sauces, salads and cheese, and a pizza menu that required the ability to choose extra toppings.
We decided to set them up with a plugin called Food Online for WooCommerce. The appeal here was the flexibility it gave us to create a menu that allowed variation and add-ons, as well as the general key features we needed to design a takeaway and delivery system.
It was also important - and this is one of the bigger challenges we faced - to ensure that the team were receiving every order that came through. Notifications for new orders would be through the WooCommerce app, as well as via email, but as the team at The Drift is quite small and service hours could get busy, there was a real worry that incoming orders could get missed, especially during a time when maintaining customer satisfaction was so essential.
In-house, orders are passed through to the kitchen via till receipt tickets, so it was important not to cause too much disruption to normal service. Instead, we needed to make the new system work within The Drift’s existing operations. We wanted to send the incoming orders automatically to a till printer, which would print once an order was placed.Google Cloud Print would have been our usual method here, but was set to be discontinued from January 2021. Rather than setting them up with a temporary system, we used a different plugin which would wirelessly send orders to their printer through an app called Printnode. We set this up, and after a period of trial and testing, were delighted to launch the menu online so that they could finally cut out the middleman of JustEat.
Here at ITK, we understand what it’s like to be a small business trying to get through this pandemic. So we want to help you.
Whether that’s setting you up with a new website - and all the nitty gritty details like design, maintenance and hosting, or assisting with something more specific, like your own online ordering system or ecommerce shop, we’ve got a range of packages and plenty of expertise to suit your needs.
For us, one of the most important parts of providing our service is aftercare. What’s the point in creating something to suit your business, if your own team isn't able to use it?
We’ll take the time to talk you through what we’re doing. Whatever solution works, we’ll teach you how to use it and compile a comprehensive guide for you to use.
For The Drift, we ensured that we chose a popular ecommerce platform - in this case, WooCommerce - to ensure that it integrated seamlessly with WordPress. This meant that future menu maintenance could be done by the team in-house, as it has a much more user-friendly interface, and became easy for them to use once we built them an adequate how-to guide to refer to.
Of course, for anything more technical that they do need our help with, we’re always just a phone call away. We don’t leave our clients hanging.
‘Jack’s communication with us has been brilliant and he always adapted things when we asked, and happily changed things when we would think of things last minute. The website looks amazing and the online ordering is simple to use. They are also very helpful with explaining things and follow up care.’ - Danielle Habib, The Drift
Getting online has never been more important, and we’re here for any services you may require. But if you’ve got any burning questions before you want to commit to anything, we’re here to listen. Get in touch for a chat - from one small business to another.