COVID-19 continues to transform society as we know it. Due to the health risks it poses to the public, governments and health agencies have implemented lockdowns, made mass gatherings illegal or punishable, enforced the wearing of face masks as an essential piece of protection, and have called for the closure of public establishments, among many other safety measures.
While this may have kept many safe against the virus, this new normal has brought various challenges, especially to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). But even though the health crisis continues to threaten the different sectors’ stability, there are still some bright spots to take note of.
To navigate the current environment, forward-thinking entrepreneurs found ways to tweak their businesses according to the new demands resulting from the pandemic. This guide will show you how businesses are responding to the virus outbreak, from widening their scopes of service to implementing a work-from-home arrangement.
1- Businesses are Repurposing and Remodeling Their Products and Services
COVID-19 has greatly hindered economic activity. Lockdowns have prevented specific industries from continuing their operations, and travel has been limited to only the essential ones. Customer needs have changed drastically, and businesses who do not have the resources or are finding it challenging to continue are shutting down by the second.
This shift towards the new normal has severely impacted companies across all industries, but the good news is, entrepreneurs have been able to adjust to this severe climate. In fact, the pandemic has resulted in a surge of entrepreneurial activity in the past few months, notable thanks to small sellers who opted to offer their products and services online.
To respond to the problems of the citizens that are inefficiently addressed by the government, bright minds answered the call by providing creative solutions. Private transportation services are now delivering goods, clothing brands are selling reusable face masks or tailoring medical-grade PPEs, and restaurants offer take-home packs of their dishes.
Through simple remodeling and repurposing, many brands were able to resume operations and mitigate their losses. While this pandemic has indeed caused a series of unfortunate events, it has also given entrepreneurs the chance to reassess and innovate their systems.
2- Companies are Accelerating Digital Transformation
The pandemic has boosted digital transformation across all industries. With businesses currently facing various operational challenges, integrating the latest tech allowed them to overcome these gaps with ease. In a way, the social distancing measures forced companies to utilize new tech to remain engaged with both customers and employees.
To ensure team productivity, many have invested in task management programs to track projects and deadlines. Meanwhile, some have utilized digital payment applications to encourage contactless transactions for convenience and to ensure the customers’—and their own employees’—safety.
As innovations continue to be introduced, it’s expected that technology will significantly affect people’s professional and personal lives. Automation may make low-skill jobs obsolete, but it will also pave the way for more work opportunities. Digital transformation will prepare everyone for a post-COVID-19 world.
3- Doubling Down on Marketing and Customer Service
Pandemic or not, attaining and retaining customers is one of the many small business challenges entrepreneurs face. With the closure of malls and commercial establishments, the lack of a physical store understandably significantly impacted the number of sale opportunities for a few businesses.
To curb this dilemma, many have turned to digital marketing to bolster their customer acquisition efforts. Over the past few months, several businesses started to build their online presence.
Brands that were once wholly physical put up websites, started their social media pages, and even acquired the help of a digital marketing agency, which may be necessary if marketing and selling online is not your expertise or something new for your business.
The use of digital channels has allowed them to thrive during these times, in line with a comprehensive lead generation strategy that gives them the conversion opportunities they need.
However, simply being online isn’t enough. With more brands relying on digital channels, oversaturation is bound to happen, making it difficult to stand out from the competition. This is why building brand loyalty and having a good online reputation is more important than ever.
Consistently attracting new customers is a good thing, but nothing grows and sustains a business better than customer retention.
Considering that acquiring a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining an old one, brands have doubled down on customer service to keep clients satisfied. Providing round-the-clock support helps them build a better relationship with their audience and improves their image in the market.
4- Greater Emphasis on Sanitation
In areas where COVID-19 cases are low, local governments have approved the re-opening of commercial establishments. This is good news for entrepreneurs in the food and retail industry since this means opportunities for profit. But with the virus still out there, resuming operations without any precautionary measures can lead to several consequences.
Nowadays, establishments have put a greater emphasis on sanitation. Groceries have the right to refuse people not wearing face masks to enter, some shops only let a few people in at once, and hand sanitizers are practically everywhere. By encouraging consumers to do their part, they can ensure business survival while contributing to the fight against the virus.
5- Integrating Advocacies
The modern consumer takes many things into account before they do business with a brand. Apart from reviewing product quality, service price points, and past clients’ experience, they also care deeply about a company’s advocacies. Now that the world is facing the worst health crisis in recent years, they’re interested to know how you’re helping to make things better.
Fortunately enough, many businesses have been aware of this factor even before the pandemic happened, not with all the social issues that plagued the world. To use this interest to their advantage, entrepreneurs have adopted a charity model to improve their image and increase customer interaction.
During the pandemic, some businesses have started fund drives or are donating a portion of their income to medical professionals or the jobless.
6- Remote Work Has Become The New Standard
Resuming operations in the office isn’t just dangerous; it is also impractical. Unlike industries, such as manufacturing, which fully require employees to be in the facility for work, businesses who can run operations remotely have fully embraced a work-from-home setup. While it poses its own set of challenges, it can still be beneficial in several ways.
First off, remote work can significantly improve productivity. Now that your employees don’t have to worry about waking up early to prepare breakfast and commute to work, the extra time they’ve gained can give them more flexibility with their schedules and a stronger sense of control over their days. It also puts them in the right state of mind for work.
Second, adopting a work-from-home setup will trim down your overhead costs. Leasing office space means that you’ll have to pay for monthly rent, electricity, and other utility bills. The extra money you’ve saved can be used to fund other areas of your business and will give you more breathing room when faced with a tough financial situation.
7- Workforce Planning
Given the economic challenges COVID-19 brings, the priorities of customers have changed significantly. Generally, people are now more frugal due to the worsening economy, which can greatly affect a business’s sales rate. Since consumer demand isn’t in line with production volume, business owners need to reassess their budgets.
To minimize their losses, many entrepreneurs had no choice but to sell equipment, let go of their office, or pull back on big projects. While some were lucky enough to stay afloat with these minor changes, many have been forced to make the tough decision to retrench staff—more than 70% of startups had to terminate full-time employees due to the pandemic.
Ensuring business continuity at a high level requires excellent resource management. And since entrepreneurs need to be more careful with their funds, there has been a stronger emphasis on workforce planning. To cut down costs and fulfill responsibilities simultaneously, many have gone beyond traditional staffing methods.
As of today, many businesses have partnered with outsourcing agencies to fulfill a particular process or have hired the services of freelancers to handle less daunting or immediate tasks.
Embrace The New Normal
2020 has been a tough year for everyone—with the pandemic and all the unfortunate events that have transpired from across the globe, it’s no secret that these occurrences can greatly affect one’s emotional well-being. But amid all the chaos, it’s good to know that many bright minds are finding ways to turn the situation around.
Never forget that challenge breeds progress. Businesses may be facing many different obstacles during this period, and it’s unfortunate to know that some have failed along the way, but one good thing to take away is that the pandemic has allowed businesses to think creatively.
This surge in activity has paved the way for entrepreneurial advancements, which is a good sign that the world will eventually recover. Being aware of how businesses are adjusting and adapting to the new normal will ensure that your venture becomes successful.
Guest post courtesy of Keely Closa