The novel coronavirus pandemic has had an unexpected effect on the economy. What many thought would need two weeks to get under control has turned into months of unpredictability for both businesses and consumers. Shopping experiences and business operation standards have had to shift dramatically in a few months.
Forced shut-downs and quarantines nationwide have run numerous industries into the ground, resulting in countless lay-offs. As a result, the discretionary spending of many Americans has been slashed and so has the income of many businesses, especially small businesses.
While large corporations have numerous resources, financial and otherwise, to stay afloat during a crisis, small business owners are required to work harder and smarter to adapt to the current reality. Below you will find information about the greatest threats and challenges that small businesses are facing and how they can be overcome.
Impact of Social Distancing on Customer Experience
Although non-essential businesses have been allowed to reopen, they have had to adjust to the new guidelines and concerns regarding social distancing. During the time that customers could not visit their favorite businesses, they moved their search and shopping habits online. Thus, the digital sphere has become a huge opportunity for small and local businesses.
Even now that many companies have reopened to the public, social distancing guidelines limit the number of patrons that can visit at a time. As a result, small businesses must expand their channels through which they reach and engage with customers and clients.
Driving online sales, increasing online presence, and adding digital products, services, and communication avenues is how both large and small companies have successfully reversed their plunging revenues in the past several months.
How Fear of Infection Has Affected Daily Business Operations
While customers can now visit their favorite stores and local restaurants again, many fear the possibility of infection, even if safety standards are upheld. COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the emotions and behaviors of customers and all businesses have had to modify how they perform nearly all daily tasks in order to reduce the possibility of infection.
Business owners have had to put new measures in place such as mandatory appointments when walk-ins were once welcome. Additionally, budgets, spending, and financial plans have had to be reevaluated as well as the supply chain. With not only cities but entire countries on lockdown, small businesses have had to realize the importance of fallback suppliers and alternative options in case one supplier becomes unavailable due to the changing circumstances.
How Small Business Can Survive and Thrive Amid the Pandemic
The only way that small businesses can survive the pandemic, and continue growing, is to adapt. One way that successful business owners stay in business year after year is by paying attention to trends, needs, and available resources.
Paying attention to digital trends in consumer behavior has created opportunities for forward-thinking businesses who embraced the art of digital marketing. Whether that’s maintaining an active & engaging blog, to actively posting and communicating with their audiences on social – many businesses have adapted their communication plans to adjust to this reality.
As Marcin Ladowski, Chief Operations Officer of CarBrain.com puts it:
“We as humans have an extraordinary ability to adapt to what’s happening around us. After a brief period of confusing and indecisiveness about the circumstances of the virus, businesses have found new ways to reach their customers.
What used to be associated with millennial culture is now a worldwide trend. More and more corporations, big and small, have become increasingly more active in platforms like:
- Social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
- Video broadcasting sites (such as YouTube & Twitch)
- Video conferencing & other mediums of remote communication
Businesses that have responded to these macro-economic changes in consumer behavior have seen upwards trends in their brand awareness numbers. People are spending significantly more time on social media, and the internet in general.”
This pandemic has caused car manufacturers to halt certain production lines and hotels and bars to shut down. However, manufacturers have altered their production lines to build ventilators and produce necessary face masks and hand sanitizers. Hotels shifted to offering rooms to hospital staff and patients, whereas certain restaurants expanded their services to provide grocery essentials.
For small businesses to stay in the game, it is pertinent that they keep up with demand, pay attention to needs, and adjust their products or infrastructure to better serve their local communities so that they can continue being a part of customers’ lives.
How COVID-19 Might Impact Small Business Operation Moving Forward
Even though the recent changes to business operations were made to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is unlikely that things will go back to the way they used to be. Moving forward, it is clear that modern society, even with its medical advancements, is still vulnerable to pandemics. As a result, all companies must be prepared to handle the possibility of one reoccurring in the future.
This means that business operations, safety standards, health protocols, and policies must be altered permanently to mitigate future issues. Consequently, small businesses must welcome change and be willing to grow and think creatively about how they can serve their community and meet the needs of customers.
Additionally, COVID-19 has demonstrated that companies that are not already utilizing modern technology need to get on board and fast. Technology has streamlined so many processes and allowed both clients and businesses to reach each other faster than ever before, and these are things that customers expect. Small business owners must accept this new reality and modify their business if they are not yet aligned with modern trends.