Companies worldwide are suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses, in particular, have been especially hard hit by lockdown measures and restrictions placed on non-essential activities.
Businesses are grappling with a whole new set of challenges, such as learning new safety protocols, dwindling consumer spending power, accessing government relief funds, and distributing products and services in a world complicated by lockdowns and curfews.
Can Your Business Survive the New Normal?
In a world punctuated by so much uncertainty, the key to survival may lie in changing your business strategy. Take an honest, objective look at your company and reassess your business model, if needed.
Study the spending patterns of your customers to see what they are prioritizing right now. If there has been a significant increase in demand for certain products and services, explore the possibility of pivoting to focus on these particular areas.
Your goal is to become as efficient as possible and streamline production while getting the highest returns for your efforts.
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5 Business Survival Tips for the New Normal
Accelerate your digital transformation
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the strategic adoption of digital technologies to improve existing business processes and productivity. It means harnessing technology to control costs, manage business risk, and deliver better customer and employee experiences.
Going digital will ultimately benefit your company in the long run.
Millions of people are shopping online—many of them for items they would normally have bought in brick-and-mortar stores.
In order to attract this growing market of potential customers, build an online store by creating one on Shopify or other eCommerce platforms. Make sure that your website is mobile friendly and that the checkout process is secure and easy to complete.
You can also provide a frictionless online shopping experience and boost your digital presence by coming up with creative marketing strategies. If possible, set up your online store to allow customers to pick a schedule for the curbside pick-up of items. You can encourage more locals to buy your products by offering free delivery within your store’s radius.
You can also utilize your existing customer email/mailing list to reach out to your clients. You could inform them of your current business hours, new procedures, and any promos to entice them to continue patronizing your store.
Companies that are willing to distribute their products and services via online sales channels are most likely to weather these difficult times (and beyond).
Fully utilize your store space
Although COVID-19 might have reduced foot traffic to your establishment, you can come up with ways to utilize your space and generate new sources of revenue.
See if you can partner with Amazon to become an Amazon Hub. Doing so will transform your establishment into the neighborhood pick-up point for people who’re shopping for items on Amazon.
If you have enough space, you can install Amazon lockers for self-service pickup.
Alternatively, you can open your own kiosk to convert your space into a convenient place for people to accept deliveries. This can increase foot traffic to your store and provide you with an opportunity to earn some extra cash.
What’s more, if your shop is located near a restaurant that needs to add more space for outdoor dining, you can offer your area for customer seating.
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Offer flexible payment options
The fear of contagion is prompting people to avoid making cash payments and resort to digital payments.
One way of adapting to the new normal is to offer your customers several payment options that minimize physical contact.
Choose an e-wallet payment system to encourage contactless payment methods. These could be through contactless credit and debit cards, as well as mobile wallets.
During this period of uncertainty, it would be in your best interest to create flexible payment plans to keep income flowing in. This will appeal to your customers who want to retain your business but whose finances may have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
You can offer customers the option to continue purchasing your products or services through a set number of regular payments over a period of time. By offering more flexible payment options, your company can still generate revenue and rely on a steady cash flow.
Check contracts and renegotiate fees
Cost efficiency is now critical to survival. Companies that are finding cheaper and faster ways to operate will find it easier to stay afloat. To keep your business out of the red, consider renegotiating some fixed fees, like rent or mortgage payments.
Check if you have a “force majeure” clause in your rental lease and other contracts. If this clause is present, you might be able to get out of the lease or contract without penalty because of unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the control of the parties.
See if you can also renegotiate the terms of your contract to make it more affordable.
It is also worth checking if business interruption insurance is included in your insurance policy. If it is, then you can make a claim in order to replace income that was lost when you were forced to stop your business.
Implement cost-saving strategies and eliminate expenses without affecting the quality of your products and without disrupting operations. Take an inventory of all the tools and software that you use and cancel non-essential monthly services.
Leverage AI and automation
Drastic changes brought about by COVID-19 are compelling companies to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies.
You can gain a competitive edge by studying how you can automate some of your business processes. By leveraging automated systems, you can also help customer service agents save time and energy, freeing them from having to do repetitive and mundane tasks.
You can start by using a Facebook chatbot. Also known as a bot, a chatbot uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate human conversation.
You can program the chatbot to respond to particular questions and provide solutions to common problems. If it is unable to properly answer the questions, it automatically connects the client to a human customer service agent.
Using a chatbot can even increase your conversions and sales by streamlining the purchasing process.
When someone expresses interest in a specific product during a Facebook chat, the chatbot can redirect the prospect to a webpage with the product already in the shopping cart so that the customer can purchase it immediately.
By utilizing these automated processes, staff will have more time to provide better customer service by focusing on the more complicated cases.
Another growing trend in eCommerce is the use of automation in handling billing statements of customers. This entails using software to track payments from customers, especially when you manage subscriptions and other fees that are collected on a recurring basis. You can set up these steps without having to manually monitor all of your clients.
When a billing charge fails, a notification can be automatically sent to the customer so they can seek out alternative ways of settling the bill.
Automated software can even prevent some failed charges from taking place in the first place. The software can be used to scan the credit card information of customers and check those that are due to expire in 30 days. A notification can then be sent to these customers in order to remind them to update their cards.
Billing charges that don’t clear on time can have a drastic impact on your bottom line, which is why automation can help keep things on track.
During these turbulent times, it pays to be more flexible and become more responsive to the needs of your customers. Now is the time to rethink previous business models and business strategies if you want your company to effectively navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
The key to success in the new normal is strategic planning combined with timely execution.
Resilient businesses should learn how to rapidly and strategically implement changes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Those that do will be able to minimize the negative impact brought about by these unprecedented times.
Businesses that can rapidly pivot and can get the word out in creative ways will set themselves up to not just survive, but actually thrive in the new normal.