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COVID and the consumer: How has your role changed? | Conquer Local Roundtable | Episode 03

The relationship and expectations between consumers and the businesses that serve them has changed.

We sat down with some of Vendasta's C-Suite and sales team to chat about how agencies can respond to these changes on behalf of their clients, empower them to meet the new demands of the season, and provide the expertise and tools they need to pivot and thrive.

(Transcript below)

Gib Olander: I know it's not a sexy answer and it's not new technology, but it's something that I can't imagine a business not having control over, is their Google My Business.

Rylan Morris: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of the Conquer Local Roundtable. My name is Rylan Morris, I'm the Director of Product Marketing here at Vendasta. And I'm joined today with a corporate cast of characters, Vendasta's executive and leadership team, to discuss everything in the world of SMB SaaS and beyond. More specifically today, we're going to be talking about the ever-changing relationship between local businesses, their customers and the local experts that are helping SMBs through every step of the way. And for those of you that are new to the show, welcome, be sure to check out our last two episodes on our YouTube channel, just youtube.com/vendasta.

And you can join the conversation over online at our community that's academy.conquerlocal.com/community.

So yeah, let's jump right into it. First question here: obviously, 2020 has been a year filled with changes in the world of local business. My first question to the group here is, how do you think these past few months have impacted or changed the relationship between local businesses and their customers? And maybe as customers of local businesses, maybe you guys have some examples that you can kind of pull from yourself too, maybe some examples to share with the group here.

Dale Hopkins: One of the things that I was thinking about that everybody's having to deal with now is how do you deal with the masks situation? Because you don't want to shame your customers. That's definite no-no, and some businesses are struggling with that. And that how do you make your customers feel safe, your employees feel safe, but you also don't alienate yourself from your customers? And so I think people, when they're booking appointments, they're making sure people actually talk about this before you show up at their business. And so you understand what that's going to be like. And I've seen a bunch of places like hair salons, where they're having to put up signs on the outside. They're having to put up stuff in their meeting invites to let you know what that experience is going to be like, so you don't show up and either feel totally out of place because maybe you over-prepped or totally out of place because now you're totally under-prepped. That's something I've seen.

Gib Olander: I'd love to tag onto that, Dale. I think that's really smart. I look at it as that it's created a more of a conversation between customers and business than it's ever happened before. And the ability to communicate with your customers, whether that is to help them understand when and how to schedule or to do a video conference, because they're not able to be there or even updating just your hours of operation or where you can park or where curbside is, or the process of doing curbside pickup. Are they going to come to your truck? Do you have to go to the car? Where do you park? That is all so new that the communication is becoming one-to-one from major brands to even small businesses. So, I think that's been the real trend that I've seen is that there's been a dialogue started between customers and companies that is deeper and more thorough than we've ever seen before. And the obligation on the business to communicate is higher. So, finding tools and technologies that help them do that is really driving a change today.

Jacqueline Cook: Might I Just add onto that too, Gib. I think there's so much of the conversation that isn't even happening either that businesses are having, that they don't know that they're having. And that is because as a consumer, so much of my purchase decisions, so much more of it now is being made before I actually go to the point of purchase. If it's a physical store, or the restaurant. I'm making so many more decisions now before I go into the grocery store or in to the salon or whatever, because when I'm in there, it's in and out. It's quick transaction gone and done. So this idea of browsing no longer exists or just kind of discovering no longer exist.

I do so much more of my research. And I might not even be looking at the business in terms of what I'm about to purchase, I might be looking at other influences like clothing or other cues even before I enter that point of purchase. So I think businesses might need to recognize that there's other factors that are influencing the purchase that they might not be aware of besides the physical conversations that they're having.

Gib Olander: Jackie, that's so right, and the world is changing so fast that like, I mean, in the States, we've got new laws and what phase your state is in changes the way and who you can shop with. Again, that communication is higher than ever before, as shoppers, we have to research before we can go, because we don't know whether we can go into the store or not. Right?

Jacqueline Cook: Yeah, totally.

Dale Hopkins: Well, and I think we'd also point out that the relationship between customers and businesses is also interesting because people's lives have fundamentally changed. And so there's new relationship opportunities. So essentially, people are at that phase where you historically marketing companies try to hit you when you get married, when you get divorced or when you have babies, because your life changed and there's new relationship opportunities. Well, COVID is now one of those opportunities.

And so these businesses, like, "Hey, I wasn't interested in a whole bunch of bunker full of cans of food. Well, I'm all of a sudden in that market, and now if that's what you sell, we're in a new relationship." Look at RVs, that, it's a category that's blowing up because everyone's like, "I want to go on vacation, but I don't want to stay in somebody else's bed." Well, that's a new relationship too. So it's not even just the old ones. It's like, "Hey, who are your new customers?" Because you sell stuff that different people want.

Jacqueline Cook: Yeah.

Rylan Morris: So, rewinding it a little bit to what you were saying there earlier, Jackie, just around even that relationship and doing the research before you're buying, this is not anything new, especially on the sales side of things. People have been doing the research online over the past few years, we know this very clearly at Vendasta, before they go into a car dealership and buy, before they go into a grocery store, as you mentioned. Right. I wonder maybe, Neal, you can touch on this a little bit. Has that sales maybe relationship changed at all between a salesperson and their customer for a local business?

Neal Romanchych: I think the way that we communicate with them has definitely changed. And I think it's changed for a couple of reasons and I think definitely for the better. I think it's put a real push on utilizing this type of technology, some sort of screen sharing technology and understanding that it's more problematic now for us to actually show up and have a face-to-face sales call, and that we can be far more effective through these types of technologies. I think the response is very radically, and I'm listening to you guys talk about the research you do on shopping and before you go buy something, you look it up and whatnot. And I find there's massive opportunities because the experience with certain places is very good and the experience with others is still terrible.

So there's a massive opportunity there to take those businesses to custom, to having people walk in and walk through their retail show room or whatnot, and make their point of purchase decision while they're there. Now, they're looking to see who's got what, and they want to either get a curbside delivered or delivered to their house, or worst case scenario, pop in and pop out and buy it. It's funny, I just went through this last weekend where I needed to buy a few things for our new place in Saskatoon, and it was exactly that. I found certain retailers were awful and I just abandoned those right off the bat and other ones that had a decent experience and I could swing by and get curbside delivery. That was great. But there's a huge opportunity there for sure.

Jacqueline Cook: I don't know about you guys, see, I'll just step in, sorry, Neal, that I found in my consumer buying journey, I'll go almost to the point of purchase. So for example, let's say you're buying new things for your place. I'll pick out exactly what I'm about to buy on the website. And then that becomes my hit list and then I'm in and out. So even if I don't have the patience to wait for delivery, I'm still going through that ecommerce journey until the very last step. I'm still deciding everything I want because I have to, I don't have the time to dawdle or I don't have the risk tolerance to be in the store for very much longer. So I think businesses have to recognize that there's so much of that shopping that exists on the website or on their Instagram account or their Facebook or wherever customers are looking for those things, even if it's not dropping off the bottom of the funnel. And it's really important to pay attention to.

Neal Romanchych: I'm curious why you wouldn't use a curbside scenario, where you've gone all that way, you've picked out exactly what you want, you just click on it, buy it, and then you show up and they throw it in your car.

Jacqueline Cook: Sometimes I have problems with times and tardiness. And so sometimes I can't commit to a window. It's like, I don't know when my kid's going to wake up. And so I'll often - I do this for grocery delivery a lot. I'll get everything queued up, but I don't know if I can make that window that I've committed to. So it'll just become my shopping list or I'll just be gone. So in a perfect world, if I had all my different scenario, I absolutely would, but it's just those odd times where I need to do the thing, which is the upfront research even if I'm not converting.

Gib Olander: One of the things I've found that's long been near and dear to Vendasta's heart is that reviews are more important than ever, right? I mean, we don't want to spend a lot of time in the store because of a variety of different reasons or even which store, and oftentimes we're making new buying decisions from places that we've never been. And I find myself relying on reviews more than ever, and looking for businesses that have engaged with reviews, because I know they're in business, that they're active, that they usually give me some piece of information about how that old review isn't relevant now because the world has changed. And it really does impact my buying decision so much.

Neal Romanchych: Oh, I totally agree. It's the first thing I look at, I won't buy anything unless there's been a few good reviews on it. And if there's a bad review on it, that's a nonstarter right there.

Jacqueline Cook: I kind of like it, the odd bad review, to be honest.

Dale Hopkins: Have you also found that, ever since COVID, and you start looking at online reviews, you realize how many idiots there are in the world, because you read people's reviews and it's like, "Yeah, I bought that cooler and all it took, I drove over and it broke. I can't believe it." And you're like, "I can't believe that's a one star review, who drives over coolers?"

Jacqueline Cook: That's why I like the bad reviews. There's always crazy. There are always crazies. And I want to see what the response of the business is, or I want to bet that it's real a little bit, so the odd negative review shows me that it's real. But if it's a crazy leaving the review, I'm like, "Okay, well then this is legit."

Dale Hopkins: Yeah. They're not filtering their reviews.

Neal Romanchych: There was a review for, I think it was Pizza Hut, where the guy said, "I ordered this pizza and it came and it was completely blank. There was no sauce. There was no cheese, there was no nothing." And then Pizza Hut reaches out, says, "We're so sorry. We'd like to reach out to you privately and fix this situation and blah, blah, blah." And then he posted again, he goes, "I'm sorry, I was so high. I had no idea I opened pizza up upside down." (Laughter) There's your crazy review, right?

Gib Olander: No! (Laughing)

Neal Romanchych: He used another explicit, but it was like, "Yeah, I'm sorry. I was so high. I had no idea it was upside down."

Dale Hopkins: No sauce, no cheese.

Jacqueline Cook: They say, "Try to make it right." Right?

Michael Watkins: I think too, coming back to some of this stuff, Rylan, you were talking about with the relationship between businesses and customers, the dialogue has changed too. Right? So the type of conversation we've all been through a crash course on understanding service delivery in a different way. When you come up against the prospects at the cash register, when thinking about that transaction differently. And to Neal's point, absolutely, there's so much more conversation happening and a deeper conversation with reviews and ratings that really didn't seem to happen as much before. So not only are more people using it, but they're going deeper and being more contextual. I know curbside pickup is something that I think is going to be a big question moving forward of, who keeps it? Because it's a different way of service delivery. And for many people, it's a really nice surprise. And it's a convenience that wasn't offered before. Ecommerce that wasn't not offered before that now is offered before because the necessity is being embraced by many people. And that there's some really good different ways of working between consumers and businesses.

George Leith: I think we're also going to see in the coming months as this starts to take hold. We have this idea of a digital customer experience. That's really what this is at the end of the day. So businesses have to embrace having this digital customer experience. So now we put it back in the hands of, how are we going to serve our customers in this new digital world? And by letting the customer give us the feedback of what's working and what's not, I don't think there's been a lot of that. I think there's people just saying, "I'm going to throw a bunch of shit at the wall and hopefully digitally, this thing's going to work."

And now we're starting to get that feedback from customers saying, "Yeah, we don't really like that experience. Maybe try it this way". And we're getting that feedback loop starting to happen. And there's some iterations happening where businesses are saying, "Well, I tried digital. My customers are saying it's 70% of the way there. And now I want to make these changes." And by focusing more on that experience of the customer, that's the piece that we're not hearing yet because it's so new. So as the customer starts to weigh in and by putting online reviews and saying, "Yeah, your curbside pickup didn't work for me," or, "It worked great." Then we'll start to see the evolution of that experience in the months and even in the years to come.

Jacqueline Cook: That's a really good point, George. I wonder if businesses are taking the time to ask that question. So it's one step further. It's not necessarily soliciting a review or feedback on the service or product they deliver. It's how was your experience in an effort to make that experience better? Are we taking time to actually refine it and iterate and make sure that we can always get better tomorrow. We can always get better. Are we taking time to listen?

George Leith: And I have found that that's the piece where people are still reacting from a point of fear and anxiety in their business where they're like, 'We need to do something. We read a blog that said we should do some digital stuff. Let's get an eCommerce website." And it's not with the lens of, is that what the customer wanted? Because you could be a barber and produce this beautiful ecommerce website to buy a hair pomade, but really what I want from my barber is to be able to book an appointment. That's not my first thing, can I just book an appointment online? So, I think that there's a lot of trial and error happening right now. And there is that anxiety and fear that is driving it, so there is a catalyst, but it's not taking a customer's feedback into that loop. We're starting to see some of that feedback now. I think the evolution will look different as we move forward.

Gib Olander: George, I love that point about how they've gotten to get to ecommerce and even what that means with ecommerce experience. I think it's an incredible opportunity for partners and trusted friends and family members and people that they've worked with that have some digital experience to really help these SMBs go through this evolution time. It's a hard time to learn this new software and to learn these new things. There are people out there though that are really good at handling these things and getting technology in their hands and finding trusted advisors, I think is what it's really all about for these SMBs to evolve during this time, they shouldn't have to take it on all themselves.

Rylan Morris:
So, on that topic, Gib, of technology and how technology is really arisen to be the forefront for local businesses in 2020. I wonder if we could maybe go do a bit of a roundtable here, go around the horn and just see if there's one tool or one piece of technology that's really been proven as indispensable for local businesses especially over the past six months or so. Is there something that's really kind of risen to the occasion as just the tool that all local businesses need?

Gib Olander: If I were to go first on that run, I would have to say, and this is rough, but a Google My Business listing. I mean, that tool, there's so many times that my search journey starts, whether it's with a map or with a driving direction, or if their hours are open, that piece of technology gives such good two way communication. And it's free to use in a lot of cases. And it's available that if my hours are changing because of COVID or if the way that I'm taking payments has changed or curbside pickup, all of that gets communicated through that. So I know it's not a sexy answer and it's not new technology, but it's something that I can't imagine a business not having control over is their Google My Business listing. But I am a listings guy from way back.

Neal Romanchych: I would agree with you, Gib. I would totally agree with you. You go looking for a business and if they don't have GMB nicely filled out, you can quickly move on. And if they do, it's got all the information.

Dale Hopkins: Right. I'd add onto that. And I think that we're seeing a lot of businesses that do have a GMB, but then the next step in that is, let's say you're a service oriented, you offer services, things like scheduling. So, I need to be able to book online for an appointment if you're a service business. And if you're a product business, I'd better be able to buy online because if I see two Google My Business listings, and one of them has a website that's ready for me to actually buy and one isn't, I know who got my business regardless of where they rank.

Jacqueline Cook: Yeah. I was just going to add to Dale's, I was going to say scheduling, because I think, in this age that we're in so much of risk and fear has to do with managing capacity and flow. And I think scheduling allows for businesses to also make sure that they're keeping their customers safe while also keeping in business and they're filling up and whatnot. So, as a consumer and from a business standpoint, scheduling allows me to make sure that I've got a flow in a safe way for my customers.

Michael Watkins:
I'd love to say something different, but I'm not. That I'm maybe on a different view of it. So Google My Business, what I've noticed with that in particular too, is it's also been very powerful with the storytelling. The storytelling of, "Yes, we're open." The amount of businesses I've spoken to where there's been five star reviews that they've never responded to, they've never thanked their customers. Community and storytelling is a big part when you can't be physically with someone. And there was a lot of missed stories out there, and it's just super important to make sure the stories aren't missed. Especially to Jackie's point when so much of that decision is being done offline precisely. So for me, it's Google My Business still as a suite definitely.

Rylan Morris: So, kind of on that same point too there, around technology and the change in technology for local, we touched on this a little bit earlier. I forget who brought it up, but this idea around maybe educating customers on what's the new normal, how do I interact with businesses now? What's the new way?

Like for example, my uncle, he owns a comic book store in Saskatoon here, and we helped him get online and transact on online. We've helped him with his website. We've built a beautiful new ecommerce store for his customers to hopefully buy products and services from him. But his biggest challenge right now is training his customers. "Hey, you can go online now, you can buy online now, you can go to my website. Remember my website before, if you went to amazingstoriescomics.com before, remember what it looked like before? It looks nothing like that anymore. And it's actually usable now. It's not some old flash animation that had nothing, that didn't even work on a mobile device." So my question to the team here is, is there a chance for local businesses to educate customers on what this new normal looks like? Maybe there's a little bit of a technology gap with local businesses and their customers right now. So again, how do I get my customers to know that they can buy things from me online or book appointments for me online? And it's not that difficult. It's not that hard.

George Leith: I have some very strong opinions held on this. It again is about telling the customer that you have a new and improved experience for them that is with their best interests in mind. So we made this change because we want to serve you as the customer. And it's not about the technology. The technology is the thing that's going to facilitate the new experience. And I think that a lot of people right now are getting caught up in technology and I need this widget and I need this tool where we need to put it back under customer. We've heard from you that you would like to conduct business with us in a different way, how this digital experience, where it has your best interests in mind, and then to give them examples of how they might be able to interact with you.

So again, it's putting it back in the hands of the customer, that it's all about you and being very customer focused on that level of education, and then listening to them, because they might tell you that that's not what they wanted. And then you've got to iterate and change with that and not get caught up in the fact that we don't have flashy anymore on our website, because they actually didn't care about that in the first place. What they cared about was the fact that there was an experience by walking in the store and now we've changed that because the world is changed.

Michael Watkins: I think just to add to that too, in any pandemic or situation like this lack of communication is a killer, right? So having to force your business to actually tell the story. You need to tell the story again and again why your customers should be listening to you, because there's a lot of noise going on. And when there's moments like this, people turn to brands they trust, and if you're not telling them why they should trust you, then you're going to miss out and you'll become invisible in amongst everything.

Gib Olander: The tool that I think is the technology that they have at their fingertips for communication and talking to their customers at this time, I think it's all about social. I think if you've taken the time to build an audience, if you've taken time to make connections with your customers, I know personally I've read many stories on Facebook about things that are going on. That there's a business that I know here in the Chicago land area that for years did events fasts, and they built their business around helping to provide booths at events. Well, that business went from millions of dollars a month to zero overnight.

So, what did they do? They were good at construction. So they started to build PPE. So they started to build masks and they started to build dividers and they started to do those types of things. Really, innovative way to think about what's on in the market, but to get that out, they had to communicate it. I'm friends with them on Facebook. And I saw their story come to life. And since then we've tried to push business their way or tried to help make sure that other businesses that are going through this evolution know that they've changed their business model.

So I think investing in social presence and being your authentic self on that social, making sure that there's good content that talks about what's going on in your business, whether it's a new website that somebody can experience and why you went through it is an incredible way to drive engagement and to build those relationships with your customers. So I always think that at times like this, having a great audience built of followers and friends or people that like your stuff create that viral effect of social is really important.

Dale Hopkins: And I think Rylan, at this point for a lot of these people, you've almost started a new business and it's maybe hard to look back on it. But when you first started your business, you weren't about efficiency. You were about a lot of hard work. It was about the owner being out there on the floor and meeting the customers and doing these things. And so I think that right now, we're at a time where we're not about efficiency, we're about a lot of effort at a very low efficiency to figure out what actually does work. And then what's going to happen is you're going to start to figure that out and then you're going to choose the technologies and things that support that. But in the end, this isn't a choose something off the shelf and be done. This is a time to put some sweat equity in and figure out what your customers need and the technology can support you in that. But there's no substitute for that effort.

Rylan Morris: I like that a lot. Thanks guys. Yeah. Let's take it back a little bit to think a little bit about to the types of customers that Vendasta deals with. So for those of that don't know, Vendasta has a reseller model, we work with, we call them trusted local experts all over the place, all over the world. So, we talked a little bit about the relationship between a local business and their customers. But I wonder if there's been any sort of big change in the relationship between the local business and that trusted local expert that they're dealing with on a regular basis. How has that perhaps evolved over the past year?

Michael Watkins: I see that there's a balance of the sense of urgency. I think George was talking about not necessarily rushing in, but having a conversation about what are the experiences. That's definitely coming up the conversations around, what are you hoping to achieve? It sounds cliche and every sales conversation should cover that, but it goes to a deeper level at the moment and it goes to a transitional level as well. So I see that being probably one of the big changes that have happened.

Neal Romanchych: This actually goes much, much deeper because I think a lot of these local businesses now are having to actually rethink their business model. If you're a restaurant, you needed to have your restaurant pack three nights of the week in order to make a goal of that, and now they have to rethink their model. And if you are a retail place, you might need a large piece of retail space to hold all your showroom and all your goods. And now you don't really need that. You need a place to hold inventory and a website that can perform eCommerce. So, I think a lot of them are going back and looking and re-evaluating their actual business model and to see how they can adjust it to make sense. And this is where that trusted advisor can help them navigate these uncharted waters for a lot of these businesses.

Jacqueline Cook: I think so much of it is education as well. It's not just about bringing the tools and technology. It's about bringing how other successful businesses have used those tools and technologies to serve their customers in different ways. So, it's really about the advice, not just product dumping or giving them a bunch of tools off the shelf. Nobody has figured out yet, we're all trying to figure this out. So the more trusted experts can be not just experts, but trusted to be looking beyond what's in front of them is really important as well.

Rylan Morris: Yeah, I guess on that topic too, Jackie, we talked again about what technology changes or what is that one indispensable tool for local business and communicating with their customers. I wonder, other than maybe Vendasta, if there is a piece of technology that trusted experts around the world are finding as indispensable when they are dealing with their customers, their local business customers and helping them getting set up online and maybe even helping them out with their social media and what you'd mentioned there, Neal too, managing their inventory and maybe changing even how their POS system works a little bit too. We were gone past the days of having the opportunity, even really approach a local business and do this right in the store with them. I wonder if there is sort of a shift in technology in what trusted experts are using to facilitate that kind of transaction.

Jacqueline Cook: I think the obvious answer is if you can't be there in person to walk a business through these things, the very next best thing is this, it's screenshare. It's looking each other in the eyes and not losing that human element that relationships and trust are built on. And sometimes that's a learning curve, especially for sales teams that don't sell on screenshare or by video. It takes a little bit of adjustment, you're always fixing your hair and making sure you're okay, but it's just a human on the other side of this. And that's what screenshare allows us to do is keep that human element in all these conversations in relationships.

Dale Hopkins: I think that the other piece too to go with that, is the screenshare is great, but don't forget that there's that whole arrangement of the meeting. You need some way to actually that meeting, because it's not like you can just walk up into the store and have a meeting it's like you actually have to arrange what is the tool we're going to meet with, when are we going to meet, how do we do that? That's another piece and people don't think about that side sometimes.

Michael Watkins: Just to echo that, the booking piece, the efficiency that's gained with good booking systems and being able to just slot straight into a calendar and have both parties not have to worry about travel has created more opportunity for more frequent and more constructive sessions, especially between agencies and anyone for being that trusted expert to the business. One of the difficulties in the past was always getting time with the business, and that's sort of become a lot easier to with these web based booking systems.

Gib Olander: On the other side, I don't know if it's new technology, but email and really smart email campaigns are still proven to be effective, right? It goes to the point that we were talking about earlier that there's this education that you need to do nowadays in order to bring people up to speed. And there's really not many more effective tools and a good marketing automation drip campaign to educate people. And they're still getting read, they're still getting opened and actually more so because many of these businesses don't have as much foot traffic going on. So they're not dealing with customers face to face. They're actually lined up to their inbox and they're starting to learn that their inbox is their operating system. So, it's your chance to get in front of them now, where in the past, maybe they were out on the floor having those conversations. And today they're looking and they're engaging with their customers that way.

And they're looking to learn in a different way. I mean, we're seeing tremendous growth in things where people are being able to self teach and self-learn, and you as a trusted partner should communicate via email but really be thoughtful in your content, right? Spam never works, but great content and a great email campaign is an amazing way to do things.

Rylan Morris: Good stuff guys, yeah. We've thought a little bit about the past six months and the change and that relationship between the customer and the local business they're dealing with and local business and the trusted local expert that they're dealing with, on a technology standpoint, some of the evolutions that have happened there. But I wonder if there's anything that you've gotten on your radar as far as new advancements in technology. Thinking maybe a year from now, what's going to be the next Zoom, what's going to be the next big thing that really pops off? We touched on a few things here around appointment scheduling, email even, really coming back to the idea of just some of the fundamentals in communication. But is there anything out there that you have your eyes set on as something that's really going to be transformative as we ease into this new normal?

Dale Hopkins: I do. I think that, Rylan, all this stuff we're talking about is a marketing podcast, so I might as well use some marketing terms here. This is all top of funnel. So, we're talking about how do you get that meeting, how you book that appointment. But I mean, that's great now once you actually get there, what's the next part? So, I think all the software that we're thinking about right now is all about it's for the people. It's like, how do I get an online store? And for the salespeople is like, how do I get a meeting?

But the question is like, what we're finding when we talk about the real experiences is you get into the store and you discover that, "Oh I can't do curbside pickup." That's lower in the funnel. It's like, "I've already sold you. Now, what do I do?" And so I think that there's going to be a lot of opportunity for the, "Okay, we had a meeting," now, how do you fulfill and how do you deliver? And that's where, I mean, the panic at first is that, is that top, but then we're going to be moving down in the funnel at the software.

Michael Watkins: Yeah, I agree. I think too there's been a big adoption, boom. So, people have adopted more due to necessity. I don't think attribution is going to be solved because there's still a messy path to purchase, which will be messy because there's always more options, but pipeline management and advances in understanding more of your customer base, because more touching into digital and you're capturing more, I think will be a really interesting evolution. And it's really just fueled by more people using digital really quickly, more often as part of every purchase process.

Gib Olander: Rylan, I'd talk about two on the list that I've been looking at. One, is that I think you can make a change right now and get up to speed, and then one's a little further out, but the first would be mobile payments. I mean, I think if you haven't updated your POS system and your mobile payment system yet, if you're not able to take Apple Pay or if you haven't upgraded your ability to take credit cards, I think you're going to be behind the times right now. And there's a lot of greatness that comes with merchant services that you can add to it. And then the second is that I'm really interested to see how AR, VR, virtual reality and augmented reality start to come to life in this remote work, in this remote areas. I don't know, I think that's probably further out, but Facebook and Oculus has been doing a ton of work on this for a lot of years and they really focused on the gaming area.

But I think that the change that's happening in the world where we don't want to be physically close, but we want to replicate some of those experiences, virtual reality has a chance to do some of that. And I think that we're all running into a little Zoom fatigue of the way it looks and acts and feels. And it's going to open our reason to invest in other hardware or to create a different experience that's a little unique or change of pace as we all work remotely. So, you're reading some things coming out about remote work environments that are virtual rooms now where they've all got their headsets on and it feels like you're working on a whiteboard in the same room. So, I think that there's some interesting things that will come there. To further out, that's still years away, but those would be some things I'm looking at.

Rylan Morris: Yeah, it's really interesting you bring that up, Gib. I remember, George, actually, maybe you can comment on this. I think he's a little distracted at the moment, which is fine. But I remember him demoing some really cool software with us a while back where, it was almost like Second Life, we all had our own little avatars and we rent a virtual meeting room. I forget exactly what was called, George? But-

George Leith: Oh, VirBELA.

Rylan Morris: VirBELA, yeah. We should pull the trigger on that, it was pretty great. I got to wear a little cowboy hat.

George Leith: Well, the thing I like about it is, it's virtual reality. So we are on a meeting like this and we're like, "Why don't we go up by the ocean and continue our conversation?" And then your avatars all are transported to the ocean and you get-

Rylan Morris: You get to fly over.

George Leith: It's so cool. So, there's a lot. I think the VR is going to be a thing as we move forward, we're living in this environment. The other thing that I have noticed in the last little while is I was on a Zoom call the day, where people have mandated green screens and mandated backgrounds, so that it's matching the brand. So, there's the organizations that are really stepping things up to make this experience even better.

Jacqueline Cook: I think too, ecommerce has just exploded. That's - if you read any tech news or news in general, that's a no brainer, but I think to Michael's point earlier and Dale's, just because adoption doesn't mean perfection, it's like, there's still a long way to go. And I think businesses right now are patching together a whole bunch of different tools in order to try to create a seamless customer journey that doesn't really have great attribution and it's really clunky. And so I think the next wave of this is going to be the integration in a nontechnical way of plug-and-play, knowing that every business has a different customer experience. So it's not going to be a one size fits all.

Jacqueline Cook: So, integration would be one. And then the automation processes on top of that integration, sort of the RPA, if this, then that, because I think businesses, like Dale said, the founders right now are hustling and they're creating what that new business model looks like. But at some point when people take a breath and understand, "Okay, I think we've got it. Now we need to create efficiencies in order to be kind of around in the long run," that's going to be sort of the next wave of work there.

Dale Hopkins: Yeah. It's, you got to prove it works, and then you make it efficient. And I think sometimes you got to be careful. You don't make it efficient before it actually works because, I forget who the quote is, but it's like, "The first focus is not how fast you climb the ladder, it's that you put the ladder on the right building."

Rylan Morris: Love that. Thanks, Dale. Yeah, going back to the initial question here of what is the future look like for technology for local and that relationship between a local business and our customers and the trusted local expert that they're dealing with? Let's maybe assume that this COVID-19 thing, maybe a year from now it's done, right? Maybe the pandemic's over, everyone's coming out of their hiding holes and they're ready to interact with the rest of the world. And again, this might be a bit of a rhetorical question: is there any technology that might be a trend through all of this? That might just be something that is hot now, because remote is really important and working remotely is really important and dealing remotely with local businesses is really important, and it won't be important a year from now, if all that said and done, or is it all here to stay?

Jacqueline Cook: Rylan, to answer that question, I think we have to look as a society at, what's not going back to normal? And as consumers, shopping and businesses or coworkers and the new way of work there are things that we've adopted that we've all discovered like, "It's okay, this is all okay." And it's actually better in some ways. And so I think we just have to look at what technology allows for the new way that we are going to want to work and live. And those are going to be the ones that stick around.

Neal Romanchych: I think there were certain things that came out of this that taught us lessons. Like the fact that people can work effectively remotely kind of enhances the whole work life balance. The fact that people can shop if you like curbside pickup, which I think is the greatest thing going, it's a great way to enhance your experience. I pull up, they throw at my car, I go, it allows me to do things much, much faster. So there's certain pieces that I think might not have come out of the normal progression, but COVID sort of pushed them out the pipe a whole lot faster. And I think that those technologies will stick around.

I'm curious to see if a business model can be created that can mirror Uber for people delivery, but for product delivery where they can deliver. I can buy something from a store and it can be delivered an hour later at a very reasonable rate. And I'm curious to see if some sort of technology like that will emerge, or somebody will come up with a model that can actually work, because right now it doesn't.

Gib Olander: Rylan, I'm getting old, so I hope TikTok goes away. I can't keep up with TikTok, I don't want another social network.

Rylan Morris: No, I love TikTok.

Gib Olander: I've had enough TikTok in my life. So I'm hopeful that that goes away.

Dale Hopkins: I kind of think Rylan, that we've opened a Pandora's box and you can't put it back. There's going to be things that have changed regardless of what changes about like COVID, but customers have experienced new things that they hadn't before. And we don't have an ability for them to unsee the world where I don't have to go into a store. I could just pick something up. We don't have to let them unsee the idea that I can literally book time at a restaurant instead of having to show up at the door. So, there's experiences that people are getting right now that they are not going to be okay putting back no matter how the world changes. So, I mean, we're going to see some of that stay and some of the awkward maybe goes away, but some of the awesome is going to be an expectation.

George Leith: Love that, mic drop.

Jacqueline Cook: Yeah.

Rylan Morris: Yeah, I think that might be a great place to end things off, guys. Thank you so much. I appreciate the chat today. Any last minute thoughts on this whole idea of relationships, the change in relationship between again, local business, the trusted local expert and the customers they serve going forward too, any last minute soundbites we can leave our listeners with?

Dale Hopkins: I'm disappointed with this mic mount now, because I just realized I can't even drop it when George asks me to.

George Leith: My one item is it renews my belief in resilience, the resiliency of us as a society, as business owners. Yeah, there's been casualties and that's not a good thing, but I was on a call today with someone who was talking about Darwinism and the people who really want to win and want to do the work and want to put in the hard work and the rigor are the ones that are going to win out of this. And I think at the end of the day, we all win as consumers and customers because of a better experience. So, it's kind of cool to see the stories of individuals or organizations that turned on a dime and made the change and put in the hard work, and weren't afraid to tackle the crisis and to figure out a way to make it work. And it's not even a cliche. It's human spirit and it's the ability to figure it out. And it's kind of renewed my enthusiasm around that.

Gib Olander: I would end on, I think it's the core things that have always made local businesses great. Which is how are you building community? And can you use social and things to do that? How are you communicating? And maybe you can't do it the same way you used to, but you still need to communicate. And then how do you build those relationships with people and create amazing experiences for them in however they need to shop or learn about your business?

Dale Hopkins: I like to think of this as a time Taleb talks about in his book Antifragile, and it's all about small business is actually the antifragile business. It's a business that's random and these sort of things like COVID, there are the businesses actually do better sometimes when these sort of random variations happen. It's hard sometimes on big established groups when their predictions of the future don't turn out the way they'd hoped, but small business is less about projections and more about reacting. And so introducing crazy stuff like this is often what small business really thrives on. And so you're going to find that as much as it is difficult, there's going to be people that emerge as winners out of this. And that's likely going to be the entrepreneurs that have the true connection with their customer.

Rylan Morris: Great stuff. Good optimism, guys. Looking forward the future here. Thank you so much for joining us today at today's Conquer Local Roundtable. Once again, if you guys are interested in joining the conversation, if you're listening right now and want more of this great content, join us online at academy.conquerlocal.com/community or community.conquerlocal.com. I'm Rylan, we'll see you next time. Thanks a lot, everyone.

About the Author

Courtney is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta who loves spending her days researching and writing about...anything really, she's honestly a pretty big nerd. When she's not blogging up a storm, you can find her collecting too many instruments while only half-learning to play them, watching too much Netflix, or planning a trip to visit all the friends she's left behind everywhere she's lived in the past decade.

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