By David Gens, CEO of Merchant Growth

After many weeks of patiently waiting, the majority of Canada is well into Phase 2, meaning many Canadian brick-and-mortar small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are reopening. While this may sound exciting for most, this is an extremely crucial time for SMB owners to be looking at their finances, to create a solid plan in order to survive post-pandemic. I am hopeful that Phase 2 will give retailers a chance to get back to work and make up for the loss of profit over the past four months, if they remain agile and follow these three learnings:

  •  E-commerce Capabilities
  •  Always-On Marketing
  •  Having a Plan

1. E-commerce Capabilities

Brick-and-mortar retailers were impacted heavily by COVID-19, there’s no doubt about it. The pandemic forced these SMBs to shut their doors, and in some cases resulting in a revenue drop to zero, leaving them with a very uncertain future. Although the government has taken action, including emergency loans and rent subsidies, like CEBA or the CECRA for small businesses who are operating at half capacity, more will need to be done as they move into Phase 2. The reality is, and many SMB owners know this, that many people who receive funding from the government will still have to apply for additional funding.

Brick-and-mortar stores are at a disadvantage because many have never needed and often do not have a budget for digital marketing. However, when the pandemic hit, every single business needed to act as if they were an e-commerce store, which resulted in the 126% increase in online sales across Canada in April. COVID-19 has rapidly changed the game for e-commerce sites and unfortunately left brick-and-mortar stores to play catch up by getting creative, and fast.

For the past decade, I’ve run a company called Merchant Growth that has been supporting thousands of SMBs, many of which are brick-and-mortar first companies, through lending them millions of dollars to help them grow. As we slowly enter into new phases of the pandemic, we are still learning the importance of e-commerce capabilities, especially for brick-and-mortar stores, and the role they need to take if they want to keep up with online platforms. E-commerce is challenging brick-and-mortar stores and shifting the way retailers need to think in 2020. COVID-19 has demonstrated how important it is to have an e-commerce strategy, to support the overall health of the business. We’ve seen initiatives like shopHERE, who have helped brick-and-mortar businesses get online and go digital. Throughout the pandemic, we have also prioritized creating an e-commerce lending program to support businesses in pivoting to enter the digital market.

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