How has COVID changed small business practices

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How has COVID changed small business practices

We are almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and it has fundamentally changed the way we all do business. The unexpected virus made us reevaluate and alter our business plans, procedures and practices and look for some new marketing tips. It also brought out the resilience of many small businesses. We learned to adapt and even embrace change. Many of these changes that we thought would only be short-term have become our new realities. The impact on our businesses, customers, partners and employees will be lasting.

Let’s explore some of the ways business has changed.

Many business owners worried about decreased productivity if employees worked from home; however, many employers have seen an increase in productivity as well as the learning of new skills. This is leading to a permanent shift as to where business is conducted. Businesses are looking at different ways to optimize office space. In the short term, 70 percent of corporate-center executives plan to reconfigure office space, as do 54 percent of business-unit leaders. Over the midterm, 30 percent of corporate centers want to terminate existing leases early, compared with 14 percent of business units. Finally, as they look to the longer term, 55 percent of corporate centers plan to shift toward fewer and lower-cost locations. Business heads showed more willingness to stay put. This will have profound implications for office space in the future.

Image from: McKinsey & Company

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw many states completely close places of business. Since then, we’ve seen varying levels of re-opening and closings, but through all of this, we’ve seen many small businesses creating their own set of pandemic rules. Some restaurants discovered their customers appreciate their decision to only offer take-out even though their state has re-opened restaurant dining. Customers reward these businesses with take-out, curbside pick-up and delivery orders rivaling the sales before the pandemic.

Many small stores have changed how they do business as well. At Penzeys Spices, all orders are taken from either their website or from customer emails. Customers place their order and a Penzeys staff person will call the customer back to see when they want to pick-up the order. The order is filled, the customer’s credit card is charged and the package with the customer’s name is placed in a container outside the store. With this new ordering method, neither the clerk nor the customer risks being exposed to COVID.

This will also lead to a change in how we shop. People are much more comfortable shopping online. They can have their packages delivered or pick them up curbside. Some stores are even offering delivery through Grubhub and Uber Eats. Retailers that have experienced closures have found that their customers are very loyal and they’ll follow them to whichever platform they use to offer their merchandise, which can provide the business with new marketing tips and new advertising opportunities. 

This also has implications for the future of retail space. Many stores will still choose to have a storefront, but the space may be smaller. Most retailers have realized the importance of optimizing their website for orders and payments. How retailers interact with their customers will continue to evolve as well. Retailers may want to live stream events to get people excited about a product offering or upcoming sale. You, too, can create live streams through YouTube Studio software.

The creativity of small business owners is on the rise. Many have found ways to do business when things looked impossible. Laws have also changed in many jurisdictions to help businesses stay open. 

We know it’s difficult running a business during this pandemic. If you’d like help determining the best path for your business, we’re here to help. Outlook Business Solutions offers an array of marketing tips and sales services from strategy planning to copywriting and public relations. We’re here to help you grow your business and inspire your customers.