COVID-19 business and trading restrictions are forcing many Australian retailers to close their doors, and with the middle man gone, traditional relationships between B2B wholesalers and consumers are now being rewritten. Events like COVID-19 are teaching the B2B retail industry that in times of uncertainty and change, it can adapt and shift to keep sales up with new targets in the form of consumers themselves. And now more than ever, it’s critical consumers have a means to locate and support the future of these artisan product businesses who offer their favourite products while the doors of cafes, restaurants and stores are shut.

Amidst the economic fallout of COVID-19, we’re increasingly learning that unexpected events can easily turn the retail world upside down and severely threaten business survival. In today’s digital age, technology and online spaces are helping the retail landscape pivot to fit new demands and expectations, and we’re seeing that today as retailers face some of their most significant challenges yet. Platforms like Unleashed Software’s good products Marketplace are helping link consumers and businesses in newfound ways, and ensure customers can still continue to access and purchase their favourite products directly from these businesses.

These platforms do more than just help consumers locate accessible, quality products. They also significantly level the playing field between smaller local businesses and large online retailers like Target and Amazon, who are often branded ‘essential services’ while smaller businesses selling the same products either need to cease trading, or lose customer attention to the retail giants at the big end of town. The good products Marketplace aims to empower small and medium-sized Aussie businesses to continue trading and keep championing consumer choice in their product categories so that we aren’t just left with the generic big guys. From food and beverage, to sporting goods, to house and garden tools and health supplies, our B2B customers across Australia and other parts of the world are signing up to this unique online database to reach consumers and get the support they need to stay afloat.

Companies thriving in the e-commerce landscape in times like this will boost sales and business, and see rapidly scaling numbers of online orders, goods and product deliveries as consumers climb on board. Having perhaps never managed this volume of individual sales, quality digital inventory management can help B2B companies manage, track and trace all products and items not just in the warehouse, but along all points of the supply chain, to ensure all customer orders are catered to, and high-quality.

For consumers, marketplaces like this means they can continue to shop locally. We know that Aussies are keen to support local businesses, and as retail stores close down, most consumers are unaware that they can purchase directly from wholesalers and B2B retailers themselves. People living overseas can also support local Australian businesses by purchasing via the marketplace for local friends or family members. For example, via the marketplace, overseas consumers can purchase a bottle of wine from an Australian vineyard for a friend, and rest assured that while they support a local artisan business, they’re also investing in a reliable, trusted service that will deliver a quality product straight to the recipient. In this climate, consumers are also treating themselves to far less, so should be encouraged to purchase higher quality products, and source quality over quantity through the right sites and channels.

We’re keen to reach consumers looking to support and shop local, and let them know that during this time, there are many ways that they still can. Local businesses are assembling online to provide their goods and services, and they need your help. It’s important consumers know that even when their favourite restaurants and bars close down, and even under lockdown, they can still connect with each other and access quality products from the very businesses that bolstered up those restaurants and bars in the first place. Finding support and solidarity in various ways, including online platforms like the good products Marketplace, and calling on more consumers to purchase their products locally might be the key to getting through this rocky and uncertain time.

In an environment where retailers face new challenges at every turn, local artisan product businesses and consumers can come together and support each other online. The business effects of COVID-19 are teaching us a lot: that technology can keep retailers going and consumers happy, that local businesses need to be prioritised and empowered, and namely, that business rules and operations can shift and change to fit new contexts. Many of today’s businesses might not have ever thought they’d target consumers directly or deliver straight to their doorsteps, but online marketplaces are helping make this happen, and demonstrating the resiliency and versatility of local Aussie retail for years to come.

Lisa Miles-Heal is chief operating officer at Unleashed Software.