A guide for small and medium businesses
What should you do with your business during COVID-19?
Haven’t you changed business tactics yet? You’re risking starting from scratch after the pandemic is over.
Some world regions are on fire now. But some are recovering. People are getting accustomed to the new reality and they still want to eat, communicate, do their business, do sports and have fun.
I don’t want to seem too harsh. Still, I’m going to put my idea forward very straight. I’m the sales and marketing manager in the web development and design company. We’re ADCI Solutions and we serve mostly US, European, Australian clients. We’re doing well because the Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t happen in all the world regions simultaneously.
Who is this article for?
- Business owners whose business hasn’t seen changes in ages.
- Those who think that we will be back to the behavior patterns that we are all used to.
- Small business owners who are about to give up.
If the small and medium businesses could afford to neglect online presence before, now a website becomes the only place to get in touch.
Our reality today is shaped by the virus spread: we see the crisis in areas affected by COVID-19 and the gradual rehabilitation in the areas where the pandemic is stated to be conquered.
My goal is to understand what’s going on now and what the best survival tactics are.
Outcome 1: pay attention to the recovering regions. They are ready to rise from the ashes. Pay attention to the regions that are going through the pandemic peak — they need quick solutions to maintain an acceptable quality of life.
What is our new normal now?
The new niche has emerged very quickly — serving people locked in their houses. They still need to work (those who can do it online), they still want to stay fit, entertained, eat tasty and healthy and even send and get gifts. Amazingly, people still want to buy new clothes even if they can’t go outside.
What does it mean for business? You still have a market to sell to. But do you have a website at least? If you do, when was the last time you have conducted a website audit?
We didn’t put the life on pause to reset it after the Big Quarantine. The life, the death, the love still happen there inside apartment walls. It happens online.
There are two types of businesses now.
Type 1 has stopped all the promotion activity, these guys cut costs, fire people, lower wages, and broadcast hysterical webinars on how we all gonna die and shut our businesses down.
Type 2 automates processes to be more effective, conquers new markets and competitors who can’t keep up the pace, and increases traffic to websites. The second group jumps on the bandwagon.
COVID-19 will be over, some of your competitors will go off the market, the customer behavior patterns will change — they’ve already changed dramatically — so it’s the time to adapt right now.
Your customers are online. Are you ready to meet them there?
Outcome 2: your customers have shifted to the Internet. They order food from a website that works faster than others, they watch series on a website that can cope with high load, they buy sweatpants from a website that has advanced recommendations features. Nobody tolerates poor web experience anymore.
Let’s refer to recent statistics.
Users prefer online communication
According to the YouScan investigation, 60% of users prefer communicating with brands online. 78% of users already use social media for that purpose.
Why not give people what they want?
The European websites traffic made a huge leap up
Comscore, a proven leader in measuring digital and TV audiences and advertising at scale, provides weekly reports on how the digital behavior patterns change these days.
The usage of local news websites has doubled on average since December 2019. The usage of messengers has doubled, too. It seems like the right moment to explore Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram. I have received a WhatsApp message from the restaurant I had visited with a notification that all the menu is available for delivery now.
As the social distance came into our lives, people are not allowed to hospitals with minor illnesses anymore. That led to healthcare websites and apps usage growth.
Lockdowns have happened in many countries and people are not allowed outside; gyms and fitness centers are on the break. Consequently, we see traffic growth on fitness websites.
Another industry that experiences growth now is e-learning/online learning.
Retail is killing it
Comscore notices: “Earlier this week, we looked at an aggregate of total digital visits to Amazon, Walmart and Target’s sites and saw a steady upward climb. This week, we’ve added Costco and Best Buy to the mix as well. In looking at all five retailers — March 16–22 was the highest week of retail visits in 2020 so far. We saw 3% growth since the prior week (March 9–15) and 11% growth since Feb. 17–23.”
Many online shops work without changes and offer contactless delivery. What a time to be alive!
What products are trending now
I’ll show you one more direction to think about. These are the statistics from the G2 rating. This is the platform for product reviews, and recently they have seen the growth of traffic for the following products and services. Do you see something that you do for a living?
Outcome 3: offline income isn’t stable anymore. Rely on the money you can earn from web products and applications and the processes that serve these apps.
How do businesses adapt?
Okay, we understand that users went online. How could you as a small business owner do the same? Or how can you stay in touch with your customers during quarantine?
I’ll show you a couple of examples.
How to remind customers about your offline business
According to Comscore, “visits to airline sites/apps have dropped 38% March 16–22 to 82 million visits (the fewest visits of any week so far in 2020).”
How can an airline company keep in touch with customers and attract new ones?
The great attitude was demonstrated by Delta.
First of all, they extended all the benefits and statuses for 2021. For example, if one earned the gold status in 2019 and was going to redeem it in 2020, this opportunity is now prolonged for one more year.
Secondly, Delta will roll over the miles their clients will earn by the end of 2020 to their accounts.
Thirdly, they did a thing that every cafe or restaurant should take into account: if a Delta client has a free drink coupon, its expiration date is prolonged for 6 more months.
Another company S7 Airlines has launched a genuinely amazing campaign: S7 gives 100 miles every day to people who stay at home and prove it with their geolocation. Later these miles can be exchanged for discounts, tickets.
Not only S7 will keep their current clientele but will acquire new leads.
The next great example was noticed in Germany. There, many shops and restaurants are distributing special coupons and vouchers: they can be redeemed when the pandemic is over and public places are open again. Why don’t you announce such a campaign on your website? Launch it, have users registered, send them coupons or special offers.
The whole event industry has been shaken wildly. The most cool-headed event organizers have brought events online. The same goes for education — probably you have kids and already got to know what online schooling is.
Last but not least — deliveries. It seems like all of the existing cafes and restaurants now offer delivery. We can see that even doner kebab booths have launched delivery to survive. It’s worth saying that many businesses managed to organize delivery within a few days and that’s worth respect.
Outcome 4: examine your business — what process can be handled online? Draw your user’s journey map: both online and offline businesses can move, at least, the awareness stage to the Internet. The same goes for promotion and loyalty programs.
There are plenty of means to succeed. Learn how to promote your business online from the examples above. Google how to promote a business on Instagram — one of the most viral social media right now. While I was collecting the content for this article, I came across a very interesting Instagram account “Save Brooklyn Small Businesses”. There account owners promote small businesses from Brooklyn and raise social awareness.
Align your business strategy with the new reality — life goes online now and many things will stay online after all.
Have a toy store? Create an online store! Do you provide legal consultations? Create a landing page for free at least. There are many options like CMSs and site-builders.
How governments and financial institutions support small business
Additionally, I want to review some of the loans and grants you might be eligible for.
It’s announced that Facebook has dedicated over $100 million to help 30,000 small businesses across the globe. Find more information here.
Many banks across the world are said to lower interest rates in response to the outbreak of the crisis and COVID-19.
The USA president Donald Trump released the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, reports CNN.
The US Chambers of Commerce offers grants as of $10,000. They don’t need to be paid back.
According to the Dezan Shira & Associates resource — Russia briefing, the banks Sberbank and VTB are preparing a business loan program with a 0% interest rate. These 6-month loans can be spent on salaries.
It looks like something to consider, don’t you think?
Suggested action plan
Let’s sum up what we suggest you do the following days. You can trust us as we’re helping our clients succeed online for almost 13 years now.
If your business isn’t represented in the Internet
- Put off all your plans, seriously. Create a landing page at least. You can do it with services like Tilda, Google websites, you can do it with free Drupal profiles (it’s ready-made website templates). You will be able to do a simple website yourself.
Outcome 5: the 2020’s motto could be “no website — no business”.
If you have a website
- Make sure your website has contact forms and contact information.
It is a pretty obvious observation but sometimes we see that contact forms don’t work or business owners simply don’t answer incoming emails!
- Conduct a full website audit and find weaknesses: audit content, design and UX, SEO, lead generation process, social media presence.
More people will be visiting your website from now on (according to statistics and our guesses), can your website cope with high load at all?
- Create a roadmap for improvements and pay special attention to contact forms, the possibility to call you right away, and be sure you provide value to your clients.
People want to see something that can make their lives easier, happier. They don’t want to see you bragging about how cool you are.
Outcome 6: it’s not enough to have a website. You’re now competing with all the deliveries, cafes to-go, apparel online stores available for people in your region.
Instead of conclusion
This pandemic will teach people to prioritize and choose. As the physical contacts and communication have exposed us to danger and even death, we will think twice before attending any event offline or visiting a local supermarket. It’s safe to stay online and you should follow your customers there.
Breath in, breath out. And give some love to your website already — it’s your only savior now.
Read other articles on the ADCI Solutions website or get in touch via email email@example.com
Julia Gapunenko — Author
Julia manages all things sales and marketing in ADCI Solutions and takes care of proper client servicing. She’ll get you on board and make sure you’re satisfied with project results.