How to maintain a sense of community in a digital world

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Digital Business Team Digital Device Technology Digital Business Transformation Hi-tech technological Digital About Digital Marketing

The pandemic and persistent lockdowns over the last two years have been tough for small businesses — there’s no sugar-coating it. We’ve experienced it firsthand. But in the face of extraordinary setbacks, we’ve managed to pull through with the support of our loyal customers.

According to Salesforce’s SMB Trends report, 37 per cent of small businesses believe financial support from the community has been vital to their survival, and we know this to be true.

Based in the Northern Rivers of Maclean, NSW, it’s the community that helped uplift us through the lockdowns; it’s the community that’s flocking back to support us and it’s the community that will be key to our future growth.

Here are the lessons we learned on how to build new connections with customers and keep the community spirit alive in a digital world.

Establishing a strong digital foundation for your operations

Prior to the pandemic, Botero was experiencing the bittersweet challenges of growth. We had diversified our business, simultaneously running our own local roastery and wholesale business, shipping coffee across Australia and providing machinery to cafés in Tasmania. But with more business came more complexity.

Before the nation went into lockdown, our staff were spending too much time on admin tasks with data scattered across multiple spreadsheets. Given our fast growth, relying on old processes and procedures was no longer an option and it would’ve hampered our survival during lockdowns. We had to rebuild our operations on a strong digital foundation, and brought all of our data into Salesforce.

In our experience, having a central source of information increases visibility over customers, makes internal handovers easier, and limits unnecessary back-and-forth communication. It also drives efficiencies for our employees who can now easily allocate sales opportunities through a cloud-based platform. This in turn allows staff to drop into cafés and pick up on conversations where the last person left off, ensuring customer engagement is consistent, personalised, and relevant.

The introspective nature of digitising our processes also made us look to other areas of our business that we could promote further to our community and wholesale partners. For example, we’ve always been a sustainability-focused business, but what we realised is that we hadn’t done a great job at telling our broader community about all the amazing things we do. The idea of self-promotion didn’t come to us naturally, but we found great community support to do so in our local area and across the country.

Serving the community the best experiences, whether they’re online or in store

From our humble beginnings serving coffee from a café storage area in a town of 2000, to becoming one of the most popular roasteries in Australia, our understanding of community has evolved to include customers online and those lining up in-store.

With shopping habits changing, we recognised the importance of bringing the best customer experiences from in-store to online. Even before the pandemic, websites and mobile apps were popular places for buying food and drinks, but these became the only way for customers to support local eateries during lockdown. That’s why our decision to enhance our website was hugely beneficial throughout the pandemic. This, alongside investments in digital marketing, was key to reaching more customers in different online spaces, like social media and search engines, boosting online sales.

As Australia opens back up, locals are coming back to the store to show their loyalty and willingness to spend more to support our business. We didn’t know it then, but when we started transforming, we were setting ourselves up for success through extraordinary times.