Is your business one of the millions around the world affected by supply chain issues? During an age where it feels like everything is available at our fingertips, it can be jarring to realise that the supply chain is still very much a thing­—especially when it’s impacting your business. From certain types of alcohol to coffee and computer chip parts, it seems like no sector is immune.

What’s going on?

There’s not one specific problem facing supply chains around the world. Instead, it’s a perfect storm of issues.

When people stayed home during the pandemic, they started shopping more, increasing demand for goods. But with fewer planes flying right now, more goods are being transported by ship—and getting space on a container is much more expensive than before, leading to the higher costs you may have been seeing.

And when goods do arrive somewhere, they are likely to encounter bottlenecks. Many ports and post offices have fewer workers right now, as people get sick with covid, are quarantining as a close contact, or places are simply struggling to get enough staff to work. In Australia, there are also worker strikes occurring at ports, which slows down the process. Experts think that these supply chain problems will continue through 2022 and probably won’t start to alleviate until 2023.

So what do you do if you’re a small business owner and your business is being affected?

Set the expectations. It’s tough being the bearer of bad news, but it’s important to let customers know so they can adjust expectations accordingly. If products won’t be available for some time, add a few weeks as a buffer and let customers know how long it will take. If you have a website where people are ordering from, don’t forget to include that information right on the item page before people choose it.

It sounds obvious, but there is nothing that damages customer experience like getting excited about an item, adding it to the shopping cart, and then realising it won’t be available anytime soon. You might even want to put a note on your homepage explaining why some items are taking so long.

Take orders now. If there’s a lot of uncertainty in your industry, you might want to hold off on selling certain items and instead taking expressions of interest. You can set up an email list to notify potential customers when an item is back in stock instead of taking payment now and possibly dealing with a lengthier-than-expected timeline—and angry customers­—later. Doing this can also help you gauge if it’s worth even

 Explore your options. Are there any local vendors who might be able to fill in the gap in the meantime? Can you set up your website to suggest similar products when items are backlogged or even hike up prices for a bit and try and rush any orders? You may even join forces with other local shops to see if you can help each other in the interim.

Create content around it. As they say, everything is content these days, so make the most out of the situation. Increase engagement by using this as an opportunity to email your list or post on social and clue people into what’s going on.

You can get creative, too! If you own a bike shop, for example, and there’s a particular part that’s out of stock for some time, can you create a short video to show DIY options that can tide customers over in the meantime?

Finally, this is a great time to reinforce your value proposition to your customers. What makes your business unique and a different experience than trying to buy something off eBay? You know why it’s different—make sure your customers do, too.