In the beginning months of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the world – and business operations – in ways we never expected. In this uncertain time, everything feels risky. People are losing their jobs, vulnerable businesses are shuttering their doors permanently, and no one has answers. In short, it seems like the worst time possible to take risks.
However, though COVID-19 is changing the business world, not all of these changes are necessarily bad. In times of uncertainty there are always lessons to be learned. If you are a business-owner, or are considering opening a business, pay close attention to these emerging topics and trends.
1. Safety and Comfort Are Top Customer Priorities
Most companies mindlessly say that the safety and security of their guests is the first priority in running their business. This makes sense; why would you shop somewhere if you felt uncomfortable or at risk by being there? However, the COVID-19 pandemic is testing businesses in the grimmest way possible. In a time where lives are legitimately at risk, businesses are up against the wall with all eyes on them.
Luckily, these organizations are showing initiative.
Many national big-box store chains, grocery stores, and drug stores are now requiring face coverings to enter and shop. This is a bold, smart move to make. These businesses are proving how important it is that their shoppers feel comfortable upon entering their establishment. The controversy surrounding this topic runs deep, but at the end of the day businesses can’t run the risk of being sued due to endangerment. On top of the mask policies, organizations are placing importance on sanitizing and cleansing every surface
While most establishments are now open, there are a few which are still wary of welcoming guests inside. AMC Theaters have yet to open, despite pushing back their opening date on multiple occasions. This proves that every business must do what’s best for their unique situation.
Small businesses can learn from these more well-known corporations by following their lead in putting safety first – and also learning from their mistakes. We can be sure that these new safety and cleanliness procedures aren’t going away anytime soon.
2. Ecommerce is Here to Stay
We’ve all shopped on Amazon and through ecommerce websites before – they are a common, useful service. This is why events such as Cyber Monday and Amazon’s Prime Day provide such enormous value. Online shopping is not only cost effective, but eliminates the hassle of traveling to a store and searching for a product.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, we have seen an enormous spike in orders from online businesses. This could have been foreseen, but what are the lasting effects of a world in which people are more eager to shop online than in person? We’ve already seen a massive shift in the film industry, where films are released through streaming platforms instead of in movie theaters.
If small businesses want to survive in our current environment, they need to make all attempts at digitizing their products and services. This is a step that will not only benefit them during the pandemic, but long after as well.
3. A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way
One of the heartening side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is how people are banding together to support vulnerable businesses. This doesn’t just apply to consumers, either. Like the linked article above references, business owners are finding creative ways to support each other through incentive programs and endorsements.
The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing just how vulnerable certain businesses are. We took for granted our local indie record store or vegan cafe, but now they face very real danger. These establishments are losing reliable customers, even considering the stimulus checks distributed to ease the blow.
Hopefully, a trend emerges in the future where businesses in the same community form stronger bonds and find ways to collaborate with each other.
4. Scale Down Your Operation Wherever Possible
One of the most heartbreaking side effects of the pandemic is the staggering amount of job loss. New businesses are extremely vulnerable, especially if they haven’t saved up a substantial amount of capital in the case of an emergency.
While massive layoffs are a huge issue that our country will have to deal with later, there is an upside. Under pressure, most companies are discovering new, efficient, cost-effective ways to operate. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts will close 450 locations by the end of the year. Companies who relied on a handful of employees or who had low product costs find it easier to stay afloat, unlike companies with greater expenses.
Only time will tell what trends businesses may start to follow, but don’t be surprised if they don’t return to their typical operating procedures.
5. Sometimes You Have to Make Hard Decisions
Being a business-owner can bring you to both the highest and lowest places of your life – that’s part of the deal. Because of COVID-19, business-owners are having to make difficult decisions that normally they wouldn’t choose to make.
For example, businesses are having to shutter their doors because they can’t ensure guest safety. They’ve also had to lay off hard-working employees whom they can no longer afford to pay.
It can be easy to see your employees as more like family than what they are – employees. At the end of the day, you have to run a profitable business. Times like these really test your mettle as an entrepreneur, and force you to make the toughest choices.
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Our world is changing, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Flexibility is essential to survive in the competitive world of business. More than ever, we need to support our favorite businesses and think outside of the box. Nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic has happened in recent history, so we would all do well to pay close attention to what’s happening around us.