The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many businesses, both large and small. Companies worldwide have had to adapt to severely changed circumstances and customer behaviours and find new possibilities in moments of crisis. This situation called for lots of innovation, creativity, flexibility and the development of new business models.
This blog post reviews common business strategies companies have used to endure and thrive during the pandemic.
The pandemic has brought on the closure of all non-essential businesses, such as cinemas, theatres, restaurants or stores. With “stay at home” or lockdown measures being adopted worldwide, fewer people could shop or entertain themselves the way they used to. Practically overnight, consumer habits have changed, and e-commerce has become the primary method of purchase globally.
Even though online shopping was here to stay long before COVID-19 entered our everyday vocabulary, it quickly pushed online even the companies that had never considered this option.
According to UNCTAD, global e-commerce sales saw a dramatic rise to $26.7 trillion in 2020, making up 19% of all retail sales (up from 16% in 2019). Australia has also seen a spike in online transactions during the same period, from 6.3 to 9.4%.
However, not only selling goods on the web has helped small businesses thrive. Delivering their services online has offered the possibility for survival to many small companies offering online consultancy, virtual classes, real-state visits and all sorts of virtual events.
This switch has not been easy, as they had to adapt to new technologies fast, improve their digital knowledge, build their brands, and learn how to be there for their consumers virtually.
The pandemic has shown small companies that they need to have practices in place to handle unexpected crises. To survive, they need to be resilient, flexible and creative.
Many small businesses struggle with stable cash flow, so being flexible means finding new ways to keep running in times of crisis. Reliable debtor finance turned out to be an excellent solution as they could leverage on their unpaid invoices.
For other small businesses being flexible meant changing their business model, upgrading or completely changing their offer.
As consumers prioritised only the essentials, it led to shortages of things like toilet paper and hand sanitiser, inspiring businesses to get creative in new ways. Brewing companies and distilleries started producing hand sanitiser giving people access to what would keep them healthy when traditional stores were out. This creativity and flexibility opened up new opportunities for struggling companies and kept them open during the most challenging times.
If a business can remain flexible throughout a crisis, such as this one, its odds of success and survival are much higher.
Investing in New Technology
Since the pandemic has begun, investment in technological innovation has increased dramatically. Small businesses have had to switch to web-based technology and cloud-based solutions so that their employees could continue working from home, and their services could be easily bought or accessed online.
This has meant the implementation of new software, digital systems and communication methods.
Many recognised the need to automate some menial tasks by using different tools to handle their project management, social media posting, email campaigns etc., saving on their human and financial resources.
Changing the Logistics
Improvements in e-commerce are making it much easier and quicker to shop online. However, purchased products still have to be delivered to customers’ doors – the sooner, the better.
The customers’ expectations regarding the speed of delivery are sky-high, as the top leaders, such as Amazon, are setting the standards. Consumers don’t really want to wait for their order to arrive and don’t show much understanding of lockdowns and border closures disrupting supply chains.
Over the last year, the boom in e-commerce has emerged the need for efficient logistics. Smaller businesses had to quickly adapt to logistical demands to ensure their survival through the pandemic.
For example, many restaurants added a contactless curbside pickup to keep their lights on so that customers could just collect and enjoy the type of cuisine they’re craving for.
Some stores facilitate a speedy and efficient “click-and-collect” service for customers, reducing the demand on the company’s logistics.
As people enjoy the convenience of getting whatever they want on the fly, these practices will likely stick around long after the pandemic is gone.
Instituting New Safety Measures
To adapt and survive, some of the most successful small business owners responded quickly to protect their customers and staff. One of the first steps was installing Plexiglass barriers between staff and customers in high contact areas – besides the masks, they are an extra shield from the virus.
Also, small businesses have done a lot to advance their cleaning routines, often opening earlier and closing later to ensure their staff has enough time for a more thorough cleaning.
Pandemics have taught us that small businesses need to respond and adapt quickly and look for new, often creative solutions when faced with complex problems and difficulties. This is the only way to maintain their competitive advantage and survive the crisis.
About the Author
Sophia Smith is a lifestyle and social media blogger, with an emphasis on small businesses. As a graphic designer, she is an aesthete and photography lover by heart who absolutely loves everything that includes visual communication.
Lately, she writes about digital marketing topics, from content to social. Sophia has contributed to a number of publications including Women Love Tech, Chelsea Krost, Legal Reader, Businessing Mag, Ruby Connection, Monterey Premier, and many others.