Even months into the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty about when (if ever) life will “go back to normal,” and many businesses have had to resolve to change their way of operating if they’re going to continue succeeding in a locked-down world.
For many of those businesses, operating in a locked-down world means going digital with as many of their services and operations as they can, all in an effort to reduce face-to-face interaction among their team members and their clientele.
But it hasn’t all been bad news for small businesses. If anything, the pandemic made a lot of people realize the concerted effort they need to make if they are going to help the small-business owners in their community survive. Big-box companies like Target or Walmart can take the hit of reduced business for a few months; a mom-and-pop operation can not.
Small Businesses Adapt
Instead of shutting themselves down for months or even weeks, most businesses found ways of adapting. They either worked to improve their web presence, started offering their services via web-streaming platforms or began offering no-contact options like pick-up and delivery.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge was just staying in the public eye — if people weren’t going out in public, then their customers were not walking past their door or seeing their sign every day. There were less impulsive stop-ins and purchases.
This caused many businesses to face the fact that they needed to stay relevant by meeting their customers where they were now spending most of their time, social media.
All of a sudden, those who had created a social media presence found that it didn’t matter if customers were not able to stop in and browse on impulse, as they were suddenly able to have nearly the same experience online. Some businesses even found that they didn’t need a brick-and-mortar location as much as they thought they did because they do just fine by focusing on their digital real estate.
Online Shopping Options
While upping their social media presence was great for building awareness, they still needed customers to have a way of making a purchase. And so, businesses started to offer e-commerce options, installing add-ons from platforms like Shopify to allow them to sell their product directly from their website. In fact, Shopify — which charges its members a small monthly fee but allows businesses to keep the entirety of the sale they make — saw its use increase by 60% when the pandemic hit.
To recreate the feeling of window shopping, businesses started posting photos of their products to social media, giving people an idea of what they had available and what new stock just came in. If retail shops were not able to offer shipping, in many cases they were able to offer curbside pick-up.
In the restaurant industry, the pandemic was an opportunity to focus on perfecting their take-out and delivery options. Even as some states start opening back up, the importance of maintaining six feet of social distance means most places cannot do the same volume of business they were able to do before the pandemic, so revenue from dine-in guests has suffered.
The Restaurant Industry
Restaurants responded by making it easier to place orders directly from their website. And if customers don’t know exactly what they want, they can check out the latest photos posted to social media to inform followers about daily specials or new menu additions.
One particular challenge that restaurants have faced has been delivery service apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats, which can take anywhere from 10% to 30% of an order in fees, thus cutting into a restaurant’s profit. Yes, restaurants opt into these services, so one solution would be not to offer service through these delivery apps; however, this would mean sacrificing convenience for customers, something restaurant owners might not be too keen to do, especially when it’s already hard enough to get a customer’s patronage. Thus, many restaurants have, whenever they can, encouraged customers to pick up their orders or to request delivery service straight through the restaurant instead of through a third-party app.
What About The Service Industry?
While emphasizing delivery and pickup as a viable option for some businesses, it doesn’t work for others — primarily businesses that offer some kind of service instead of a product. If their venues were forced to close, these businesses found it very difficult to serve their clients…unless, of course, they could do it online.
Fitness facilities, tutoring services, child development centers, and even entertainment organizations started finding ways they could stream their presentations via Zoom or similar platforms. For example, a person pays a drop-in rate for a fitness class, then they receive a Zoom link so they can follow along with the instructor from a remote location. Similarly, libraries started holding storytime for children via live streams on Facebook, and real estate agents started giving house tours via Facetime.
Although it’s not clear how long shutdowns will continue, businesses continue to find new and creative ways of serving their customers and adapting to a new type of normal. And when restrictions are lifted, they will be fortunate enough to have one more way to serve their customers.
Looking for ways that your business can operate virtually? Reach out to Ann’s Social Media & Marketing today by calling 443-679-4916 or emailing [email protected]
This content was originally published here.