Corona is a crisis for local retailers, while platforms like Amazon are reaping big profits. This is also why we support the #supportyourlocals campaign with free hosting for portals that digitally connect local businesses. One example of this is the Rheinkreishelden. We spoke with initiator Alexander Rottels about the project.
How did you come up with the idea of the Rheinkreishelden? And how specifically do you support companies from the region in strengthening their local online marketing?
Basically, two points were pivotal for us. Firstly, we wanted to show solidarity with the local economy and help with our expertise in local and regional online marketing. Secondly, we noticed that due to the various delivery and pick-up services and the resulting advertising - in social media and through flyers - the landscape was quite jumbled. This meant it was hard for customers to find their way through all these different sources of information and offers.
These two points gave us the idea to develop a platform on which all companies in the local Rhine area could present themselves. Customers would then have a comprehensive yet simple overview of what was still being offered during the corona crisis.
Help for RAIDBOXES customers during the pandemic
We have to stick together in the crisis! That's why we support our customers from industries that are particularly hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic: Culture, gastronomy, hotel industry or events. Learn more about our program.
Alternatives to Amazon & Co.
What can each and every one of us do to ensure that local traders do not have to close their shops? In a private environment but also as a team in a company?
There are different ways we can focus more on local trade and buy locally. As a company or family, we can use the various delivery and collection services of the restaurateurs, who, despite the temporary easing, are still suffering immense financial losses. Moreover, ratings and recommendations also help bring customers in.
Especially since the corona crisis, more and more people are using Google search or social media channels to find up-to-date information about local retailers. Good and numerous ratings can really influence whether or not people decide to buy from a particular place. Recommendations or advertising from customers help companies to stay relevant and boost dipping sales. This can be done, for example, with a "Support small businesses" sticker on an Instagram Story.
Your own online shop
Does every shop and every pub need its own online shop now? For whom is such a shop suitable?
It's certainly advisable for all brick and mortar companies, i.e. where customer contact doesn't take place on the internet but on business and sales premises, to consider having an online shop. Firstly, as part of an omnichannel strategy. These are becoming more and more popular and are increasingly being used by small and medium-sized companies. Secondly, as part of their own digitization strategy to automate manual activities, e.g. taking orders by phone or email.
But sometimes a small form is enough, which you can set up quickly with Contact Form 7 in your WordPress site. Or the "social shops" in Facebook or Instagram. The great advantage of a web shop is that companies offer their customers the opportunity to shop outside of regular opening hours - in order to generate sales at any time. Especially in times of hard lockdowns, a web shop can then become vital for survival.
Successful omnichannel marketing
What other ways can you recommend to have a presence online?
A website is, of course, still one of the easiest ways to have a presence online. But entries in online business directories, rating portals, and social media are also important for success. This gives your customers and any interested parties as many different ways as possible to find your company. It's essential the same and correct information is available everywhere, however. If customers find themselves in front of closed doors because of incorrect information about opening times, it will only tarnish your reputation.
Often I hear the argument "Amazon is so convenient" or "the service there is so much better" What might local retailers also need to do better to compete?
It is important to reach all target groups. The classic "stroll" is and remains attractive. In addition, the advantages of buying in local retail must be clearly highlighted. But the advantages of online shopping for customers must also be taken up and packaged in a strategy. I think that the future lies in the operation of several sales channels, the so-called omni-channel marketing.
The right network
What financial and other support did you receive to implement the Rheinkreishelden?
First of all, we submitted the idea to the mayor of the city of Neuss who offered us his support and established contacts with the business development agencies in Neuss and the Rhine area. Other parties were involved including Neuss Marketing, the Neuss savings bank, and various trade and business associations.
During the operation of the platform your team from RAIDBOXES supported us with thehosting, the marketing agency Z Plus M in the area of social media, the lawyers Markus Jansen, Joachim Schwarz and Jens Schulte-Bromby(jusra.de) from Neuss with all legal matters.
Funding for WordPress projects
A website with WordPress or WooCommerce can be funded with up to 16,500 euros - through the go-digital programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). You can find more information in our blog post about go-digital.
WordPress plugin for regional directories
What WordPress Plugins or Themes can you recommend if anyone wants to set up a similar initiative for other regions? Or have you developed a lot yourselves?
The platform is based on the Plugin GeoDirectory, which we have developed independently and adapted to our needs. For this purpose we have built a custom Theme . It is not the very best solution to build a directory of this kind, because like with any Plugin or Theme you will quickly reach your limits. But in the short time it was the best and fastest variant. Basically we can also recommend this method. We offer to make our platform available for other projects of this kind.
A few words about you and your company known to the city? How do you deal with Corona yourselves?
I founded the company stadtbekannt in 2016. Our vision was to create a white label platform that helps multipliers such as advertising agencies, web agencies, web hosts, etc. to expand their portfolio with products such as presence and reputation management. In order to be able to offer their customers really important and helpful services in the field of online marketing. At the same time, our mission is to help consumers ease their pain - caused by rows and rows of incorrect contact details and opening hours. And where they are faced with mostly closed doors. I think everyone knows this situation, especially in a foreign city.
We don't only sell the well-known software as a white label, we also distribute it ourselves. A further mission of ours is to help companies in six countries with a tedious and time-consuming but essential task: managing entries in online business directories, rating portals, and on social media. Allowing companies to concentrate on their core competencies instead.
Since we work with many SMEs in the local and regional area, we had to deal with the Corona crisis early on. Nevertheless, we have also seen this as an opportunity from the very beginning, as the companies have noticed how important a good presence on the Internet is. And that through this they can really become known in the city. We hope to have made a small contribution with the Rheinkreishelden.de platform to make this difficult time a little easier for everyone.
Our team consists of experienced remote workers so the crisis fortunately hasn't had a big impact on our work processes. But of course, we all miss the personal encounters with colleagues and customers.