The pandemic has not been easy on small businesses. Not at all. It prompted many businesses to adapt. Now, it is necessary to pivot business again to adjust to customers’ and employees’ “new normal” expectations. This article discusses ways to look for opportunities to pivot your business.
In a Main Street America survey, 53% of 2,049 small business respondents closed at some point during the pandemic. Some came back offering the same products or services, but many had to pivot business models to keep the doors open.
The authors of The invincible Company identified pandemic pivot examples among enterprises:
- LMVH converted its perfume factories to produce sanitizer that was free for the French public
- Spotify, seeing the weakness in its ad-supported free channel business models, created podcast content to retain a larger profit share
- Banzai International, which hosted only 13% of its events online before 2020, acquired a company specializing in virtual events and now counts Google and Hitachi among its customers
While these businesses aren’t small, the authors’ analysis applies. They looked at each of these from the perspective of a “trigger question,” which can be adapted to use now pivoting business post-pandemic:
- How might we use one of our key resources to create a new value proposition?
- Which new revenue streams could we introduce to capture more value from our customers?
- How might we leverage technology activities or resources to transform our value proposition?
Next, we’ll consider the core ideas in these “triggers” as small business opportunities.
Create a New Value Proposition
In the Small Business Pulse Survey from census.gov between June 28 and July 4, 2021, 25.2% of businesses said the coronavirus pandemic overall had a “largely negative effect.” Another 42.1% said it had a “moderate negative effect.” Unsurprisingly, only 2.1% saw a “large positive effect.”
So, what can a small business do to pivot back from the pandemic? Innovate and adapt by creating a new business value proposition.
Take the example of the Terra Running Company in Tennessee. Its focus on customer service via a custom fit process didn’t translate when people weren’t coming into the physical store. At the same time, running events were canceled, so they couldn’t foster connections that way either. Instead, they took their customer interactions online to the business website and offered virtual coaching. The pivot continued to serve loyal customers and kept employees paid too.
A Virginia florist reinvented itself during the pandemic by turning to a “Vase of the Month” club membership. Offering month-to-month, or 3-, 6-, and 12-month subscription options brings in recurring revenues while building customer loyalty.
Or, when people couldn’t travel during the global pandemic, a New York travel agency found its new way to do business. Embark Beyond launched a service to helps clients obtain foreign citizenship and second passports from European Union countries.
Find New Revenue Streams, Distribution Channels
The Amelia Toffee Company in Florida survived the coronavirus by finding new ways to make money. Their wholesale customers disappeared. They invested more in the online shop and used their supplies to develop a cleaning solution to add revenue. The company also built a relationship with the Home Shopping Network. Their enhanced product offerings and distribution changes netted an 11% sales increase in 2020. That’s what we call getting out of an (ahem) sticky situation with a successful pandemic pivot.
Be the Business recommends you take stock and look hard at businesses that continued to do well during the coronavirus outbreak: “It’s possible that your business already has something of value to one of those sectors that you’ve not previously considered.” This might be storage space or warehouse facilities. You could provide in-store space for pop-ups. Or you could start a ghost kitchen that gives caterers, small-scale food producers, or food trucks access to your professional kitchen equipment and facilities.
The MIT Technology Review describes Walmart as a “prime example” of a company that negotiated a “digital pivot.” The company created an omnichannel buying experience so customers can either shop online for delivery or store pickup or shop at the store and pick up items previously ordered online. Moving into ecommerce is certainly a prime way businesses leveraged technology during the global pandemic—that and moving to remote work via cloud migration.
But there continue to be ways technology can support a business pivot post-pandemic. Perhaps, when you pivot business plans coming back from COVID, it is time to look more deeply at investing in:
- Data analytics
- Supply chain digitalization
- Internet of Things
- Artificial Intelligence
- Robotic process automation
After all, one commonality among the companies (big and small) that continues to thrive during the pandemic? Digital maturity. According to Deloitte, “digitally mature organizations are more resilient, better able to navigate rapid change, and perform significantly better financially as compared to businesses without a cohesive digital strategy.”
Be Ready to Pivot Business Again Too
There are, of course, many ways to pivot your business, and we’ve only touched on some. It may not be something you want to do, but it could be essential to your small business’s survival. Even if you aren’t pivoting after the pandemic, it’s important to recognize business pivots are just part of doing what you love.