With COVID-19 becoming a worldwide pandemic, the immediate response was to try and mitigate the effects it would have on the health and well-being of citizens everywhere. At the time of writing, the majority of North America has avoided total lockdown by encouraging social distancing and preventing large groups from congregating.
But with some countries on total lockdown, it’s uncertain how serious things could become. And while isolation is an essential measure, the downside is that there are serious economic implications of this rapid shift in behavior. And nobody is feeling the pinch as much as small businesses.
According to a study by Goldman Sachs, 96% of small business owners say they have been impacted by Covid-19 but only 13% feel that they will be able to meet the needs of their business. But the most shocking statistic of all is that more than half of all small businesses will only be able to operate for 3 months or less. When it’s your livelihood at stake, having less than three months of the financial runway is a crisis.
What this data tells us is that small business owners need help coming up with a contingency plan that allows them to continue operations while reducing social contact. And if you have a website, that may be the single most valuable tool you have to survive these economic conditions. Here’s how it can help:
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Create a Digital Storefront
Small businesses that rely on foot traffic need a way to reach consumers without physical contact. And a website may be the best way to do that. Many reports claim that restaurants are suffering the most, and yet several large chains are still open. How can this be accomplished? If we take a page out of Starbuck’s book, they can close the doors but stay in business by having orders made online and picked up at the drive-through.
By using inexpensive and readily available tools, small businesses can duplicate this strategy by setting up an online storefront. A local Vancouver company Bottom Line Web Design was able to assist local Vancouver businesses with setting up a simple, affordable eCommerce addition to their website that lets customers browse the menu, make an order, pay online, and pick it up. This can all be done while keeping staff employed and maintaining social distancing. Businesses that previously relied on foot traffic might be hurting, but consumers are still purchasing things they need. Businesses that had an established online store aren’t feeling quite as much pressure, and businesses that have yet to set one up could consider this as a stop-gap until circumstances change.
Simplify Working from Home
Most small businesses have adopted some kind of web presence. In most cases, this is a publicly accessible website that anyone can visit. But it’s generally only larger companies that take advantage of a private internal website to be used by staff members. During the outbreak, it’s essential that any staff who are infected, exposed, or vulnerable to the virus try to work from home. Businesses that can allow their staff to work remotely aren’t as susceptible to labor shortages, and can also provide staff a way to support themselves while quarantined. And by setting up an internal company website you can make it much easier for staff to work from home. Internal sites need to be secured, so only staff can get access to the private company information they require to do their job. It also needs to enable effective communication, so staff can work together even while physically isolated. Given that this was an unexpected and dramatic change, building an internal website now might not be cost-effective for small businesses. But using tools like Microsoft Teams, Gsuite, and Slack are affordable and easy to set up alternatives for the short term.
Keep Clients Informed and In-Touch
These changes are drastic for both consumers and business owners. For consumers, it’s unclear what products and services are still available as many businesses have either closed their doors or reduced their services. Your website, social media profiles, and any other web properties can be utilized to keep lines of communication open with consumers and inform them of what you can provide and how they can purchase. There are many more people at home choosing to use Google or Facebook to find what they want instead of doing shopping that would otherwise be done in person, so keeping your website up to date helps you reach out to both your regulars as well as some new clients that might not have otherwise been a patron of your business.
A Long-Term Strategy for a Short-Term Problem
There is no doubt that this pandemic has caused drastic and unexpected lifestyle changes for everyone. And while these extreme measures may be temporary, the importance of building an online presence is not. Over the last 20 years, billions of dollars of economic activity are generated online, and most consumers use Google to find the products or services that they want. Your website might help your small business survive the coronavirus. But if you want to thrive after this is all over, your website can help you with that. Moving your business online might start out as an emergency tactic, but it’s one that will continue to pay dividends long after this is over.
Featured image source: Freepik