Social distancing measures are being woven into the fabric of daily business practice. These 7 creative ideas will help your small business adapt to a COVID-19 world.
The way your small business used to operate has changed forever. The immediate disruptive power of this global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation and ended many forms of direct-contact business. COVID-19 has brought on the third wave of digital reform.
What this means is that businesses need to change their business practices, adopt or reinvest in e-commerce, and embrace a safety-first approach to retaining real-world trade.
Here are 7 ingenious ways small businesses have adapted to social distancing during COVID-19. Use these ideas to initiate digital change in your business so that you are protected against future disruption.
#1: Create In-Demand COVID-19 Products
It’s not too late to add COVID-19 products to your business website for a boost in sales. If you’re creative about your product selection, it can even reinforce your current business model and drive sales to other areas of your site.
- Distilleries have switched from alcohol to sanitizer creation
- Companies like Disney have started producing branded masks (public advertising)
- 3D printing startups are creating personal protective equipment
A good COVID-19 pivot includes choosing an in-demand product, then giving it a unique differentiator that will fuel sales. This will take your small business through the pandemic, and carry the products and services that aren’t selling as well right now.
#2: Add Donations and Merchandise to Your Website
The novel coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and future lockdowns are plausible. It’s time to add two specific elements to your business model that will keep you afloat at critical moments, should social distancing measures shut the economy down again.
The first element involves adding donation functionality to your website. Many business owners made it through the first lockdown this way. They asked the community to donate towards a salary for employees that were unable to work. It made a big difference!
The second element is to create merchandise sales for your brand. Many restaurants and coffee shops sold t-shirts, mugs and keychains to keep their virtual doors open. Brainstorm an easy-to-create product that fits with your brand identity. Link this with a cause-based message to sell them successfully online.
- A hairdresser could strike a deal with hair product suppliers for home-dye kits
- A coffee shop can sell mugs with local slogans and their branding
- A pizza place might sell pizza cutters with their logo on the handle
- A virtual assistant can brand and sell calendars, organizers and notebooks
Team up with other companies in your niche for more product variety. Find an ingenious way to get community support through merchandise sales and donations.
#3: Shift to Virtual Events and Conferences
You’ve seen the mass movement of teachers, instructors and coaches to the internet. Now, you need to shift your events to the virtual space. Since this global pandemic started virtual events are up by 1000%. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of opportunity.
- Design and launch classes from your website, like The Clay Studio
- Host live events that welcome people from anywhere in the world
- Network like never before by attending free online conferences
- Investigate launching workshops, webinars, meetups and live sessions
Social distancing has created a need for people to come together in virtual spaces. Whether it’s to meet other people, chat about common interests, or learn something new – it’s the new normal. Your small business should immediately move your events online!
#4: Move to a Wholesale or Direct to Public Model
When retail outlets shut down, and people were told to stay at home – the wholesale industry had to get creative. Many wholesalers pivoted to a ‘farm-to-door’ model, to keep sales going and to avoid crops being wasted.
Selling wholesale directly to the public is a great model that works – even under the most stringent social distancing rules.
- Use your business website to sell wholesale to the public
- Focus on community bulk sales and fast or same-day deliveries
- Pivot to direct to the public deliveries from wholesalers (small farms, restaurants, retailers)
- FoodMaven, a distributor that supplies restaurants, now directly serves customers. It’s called community supported agriculture (CSR) and it’s taken off since the outbreak
In times of national emergency, you have to be flexible. Be willing to change your business model to keep sales alive. Shifting to a direct to public or CSR model cuts down on costs and opens up new possibilities for your brand. Break out your business plan and make some much-needed changes.
#5: Create a Virtual Storefront for 24/7 Sales
To create sustainable business during a pandemic, consider shifting from operating in the real world, to operating in the virtual space. Ask yourself what that might look like for your company. Virtual sales are possible 24/7, unlike real-world establishments.
When social distancing measures are in full effect, you can switch gears to focus on your online sales. Then as measures ease, you have the option to slowly open your real-world business again. There’s also a hybrid model where you do both, depending on your needs.
- Invest in an online storefront that is easy to update during times of uncertainty
- Give senior and immune-compromised customers early delivery time slots or curbside pickup times.
- Decide to open for evening deliveries only if you’re a restaurant
- Run great COVID-19 specials to attract people to your site, then limit when they can take advantage of the sale (7-9pm this Monday only, for example)
Build anticipation for your promotions to attract traffic, by announcing them a week in advance. Update your site daily with upcoming promotions to keep people returning.
#6: Offer Curbside Pickup and Delivery
If you’ve been resisting curbside pickup and delivery, here’s the moment to write it into your business plan. This is how trading in the real-world is going to happen for some time yet. Small stores will want to get this going as quickly as possible, and let customers know about it online.
- Allow orders to come in via your website, calls or by mobile ordering
- Publish your curbside collection and delivery process directly on your website
- Encourage customers to take advantage of these options by promoting them
These contact-less sales are essential if you’re going to reopen well, and get your sales moving again. You can also offer your customers free shipping if they would prefer to order online for delivery. During this national crisis you’ll survive if you embrace the curbside pickup model.
#7: Support Customers Impacted by COVID-19
Show your customers negatively impacted by COVID-19 that you care, and create goodwill in your community. Restaurants are allowing first-responders to eat for free to thank them for their service. What can your small business do to show solidarity with your community during COVID-19?
- A stationary store could offer sponsored stationery packs to kids in need
- HR companies might offer a free CV revamp service to people who have lost their jobs
- A company called Summersalt opened an SMS hotline to emotionally support their customers
Everyone is trading in a world turned upside down by this virus. You can make a difference by using your business to uplift your customers, employees and community. If you do it right, you’ll help people and make enough sales to stay open and continue growing.
Digital transformation is the gateway to employing all of these business-saving techniques. It begins with your business website, and creating engaging content that informs your customers what you’re doing about the coronavirus crisis. Don’t do nothing and stay silent. Instead, embrace the chance to change and learn.
Use your company website as a tool to adapt to social distancing to keep your dream alive!