While it’s true that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for small and large businesses alike, there are also some opportunities resulting from this “new normal.”
Behaviors have changed during the Coronavirus outbreak, and some of these could end up being favorable for small businesses. There are a few core trends, in particular, that may be opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of by a savvy entrepreneur.
The Shift Towards Digital is Picking Up Speed
With so many people spending more time indoors (even as lockdowns lift), it should come as no surprise that the shift towards digital business is picking up speed. Now, more than ever before, companies operating in the digital space are getting more and more successful. In large part, because the options to do almost anything else were severely limited during stay-at-home phases, and we’re still not back to pre-pandemic norms.
This means that if you’re a small business owner, you don’t need to worry about finding an ideal location and renting physical office space. Once you have your goods and services accounted for, all you need is a computer, a mobile device, and an Internet connection.
Likewise, a lot of companies are enjoying success right now, integrating e-commerce channels into their business that didn’t exist in the past. If you have a product that can be shipped (or even hand-delivered), you can integrate a digital storefront into your existing website and allow people to place orders that way.
Not only is it a great way to remain operational as COVID-19 drags on, but it’s also an opportunity to “future-proof” your operations in case mass shutdowns occur again in the future.
The Flexibility of Location Independence
Teleconferencing software like Skype and Zoom is certainly nothing new. The technology has existed in some form or another dating back to the 1990s. However, COVID-19 has ushered in a new era where businesses leverage these technologies to create a whole new period of location independence in terms of how they offer their goods and services.
One of the best examples of this is taking place in gyms. Fitness classes are regularly moving online so that people can still work out and stay fit right from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes. Healthcare professionals are offering therapy and similar services over technologies like Teladoc and Apple’s FaceTime. Professional service firms are holding online consultations and meetings, which saves all parties a tremendous amount of time, effort, and travel.
City Partnerships Give Businesses an Interesting Boost
Another fascinating trend brought about in the wake of COVID-19 has to do with the unique business boosts taking place in cities across America. Case in point: restaurants.
As states begin to reopen, restaurants are among the businesses facing stringent reopening guidelines. As an example, many restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity or less. Likewise, there are less-than-normal numbers of patrons who are enthusiastic about going into a physical restaurant to enjoy a “care-free night out on the town,” with virus fears and anxieties so high.
As a result, cities have partnered with restaurants to close streets for specific periods at night and on weekends so that those businesses can set up tables outdoors. Not only does this allow them to serve far more people than they could with their actual indoor option, but it’s a great way to promote social distancing and other safety measures while boosting small businesses.
The Era of Remote Work is Upon Us
Remote work has been getting more and more popular over the last several years; however, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly acted as an accelerant. With so many Americans under strict stay-at-home orders at one point and with all non-essential businesses closed, more people were working remotely than ever before. Not only did employees realize that they enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that came with it, but their employers are also quickly realizing that most of them are just as productive at home, if not more so.
Some employers have started to wonder if, even when things go “back to normal,” they should bother calling everyone back into the office again, or allow the remote work to continue. If employees are allowed to work from home a more significant percentage of the time (or entirely, in some cases), small businesses can potentially save an enormous amount of money on utilities alone. They likely won’t need to invest in large office spaces if far fewer people are using it, representing additional cost savings and money that can be funneled into other areas of the business.
Additionally, some studies indicate that people are more productive when working from home, thus increasing not only the quality of the work but the revenue those employees can generate as well.
The Future of Payments
Last but not least, we arrive at another trend that COVID-19 has highlighted over the last several months: the popularity of cashless and contactless payments.
Paying with cash is less prevalent in the time of coronavirus due to concerns around germs changing hands. Many businesses have even gone “cashless” and will only accept card payments.
“Contactless” payments take this one step further. Along with the various smartphone options (like Apple Pay and Google Pay), many debit and credit cards now include a contactless option where consumers simply wave or tap their card on the reader to pay.
The benefits of contactless payments for small businesses are as enormous as they are immediate. For starters, younger generations tend to prefer this to traditional payments, meaning that offering it as an option could be your ticket to attracting an entirely new audience.
Likewise, contactless transactions are faster than their traditional counterparts. So, not only are you giving people additional options in terms of how they pay for your goods and services, but you’re also creating an environment where you can execute more transactions in a faster, more secure way as well. It truly is a win-win situation, regardless of how you choose to look at it.
In the end, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do business, likely for good. But for every struggle that the coronavirus brought with it, it’s also clear that it unlocked a world of new opportunities for businesses, too. That’s why, as more and more states are opening up and things are slowly returning “to normal,” a lot of small businesses are asking themselves how they can continue applying some of these new strategies for the long-term.
If your business is facing challenges keeping up with the changing demands of your customers due to COVID-19, please contact us. Your Tarlow advisor can help you seize this chance to pivot and embrace new opportunities to grow.