Everyone is familiar with COVID-19, or Coronavirus, as it is more commonly known. The virus has sparked a global pandemic that has shut down non-essential brick and mortar businesses, and it is currently leading the global economy towards a recession that could mark the demise of many small businesses.
But what about online businesses? There are numerous strategies that brick and mortar small businesses, as well as online businesses, can adopt to stay afloat and prosper during this crisis, if implemented properly. These include optimizing business websites, expanding the business’s online presence, and utilizing different marketing campaigns to keep customer demand up.
It’s an entirely new world, and business owners need to reevaluate their entire business strategy. It has been a gradual progression over the years, but now more than ever, a business’s brick and mortar and online operations must merge.
Before business owners can attempt to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus on their enterprise, they must first understand the different ways in which the virus has impacted small businesses.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Small Businesses
Studies have found that 1 in 4 companies in the US has shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. These shutdowns are mainly to prevent employees from contracting and spreading the virus to others at the business worksites and outlets.
To minimize losses from the shutdown, many business owners have opted to reduce the pay of their employees. In some cases, employees are not being provided with paid leave.
Businesses who cannot afford to keep employees around during the shutdown may be forced to let them go.
This rise in unemployment has caused a net reduction in disposable income for a large percentage of people across the globe. Customers with lower disposable income are more likely to spend on essential goods than on non-essential items.
Thus, businesses have seen a sharp decline in the demand for their non-essential products and services.
These businesses should turn towards more online activities to maintain and grow the market for their goods and services.
When economies reopen, this could be a market similar to post-war with consumers eager and ready to get out and buy after being shut in their houses for months.
Updating Business Websites
Small businesses in the modern era need to have easily accessible and responsive websites that provide customers with up-to-date information about their stores and products.
The widespread shutdown of businesses during the pandemic has made it difficult for customers to know which stores are still operating, so business websites should be updated to provide customers with reliable information about their hours of operation.
If the business features an online store, any delays or changes in delivery times should also be included on the site.
The website should also include information about how the business is handling the pandemic, and the things customers should expect when interacting with the company or purchasing a product from them.
Expanding Social Media Presence
Small businesses could also benefit from increasing their social media presence. Companies with Facebook pages can use these pages to provide customers with up-to-date information about product stocks and operation hours.
At the very least, it is an excellent way of letting people know that the business is still operating during the pandemic.
Social media pages provide business owners with a platform on which they can directly interact with their customers and address any questions they may have.
Many business owners are using their social media pages to highlight the pandemic-related precautions they are taking, such as providing customers with no-contact delivery or having their employees work remotely to avoid catching the virus.
Creating a Facebook Page For Your Business
Facebook is the most popular social media site on the internet and is used by over 2.3 billion users. The immense popularity of the platform has made it essential for businesses to have an online presence on the site if they wish to succeed in the digital age.
There are over 60 million business pages on Facebook, so the best time to create a Facebook page for your business was yesterday.
Creating a Facebook page is easy and can be done with the following steps:
- Sign-up on Facebook for a personal account if you don’t already have one.
- Select Business or Brand in the Create a Page section.
- Enter your business name.
- Select an appropriate category for your business.
- Enter your company information, such as the address, phone number, and operation hours.
- Accept the Pages, Groups, and Event Policies.
- Select a profile picture, a cover photo, and add any additional images related to your products or storefront.
- Click Create Page @Username in the left menu and enter the username you would like your business page to have.
- This username can make it easier for people to find your business on Facebook.
- Fill out your page About section with details about your business operations, products, and contact details.
- Include historical information about the business under the Our Story section and let visitors know about your company’s origins and values.
- Start creating posts.
Once you have made enough posts, you can start inviting people to follow your page and help it grow in popularity.
You can also add tabs to your company’s Facebook page that links to your company website or an online storefront. Customers who may be looking for updated information on your company’s operation hours may find it easier to purchase your products from your online storefront linked to your Facebook page.
Use Pay Per Click Advertising
Many businesses have scaled back on marketing activities during the pandemic. This drop in demand for ads has caused pay per click advertising to become far cheaper than it typically is.
Search engine advertising is a popular form of pay per click advertising. With this method, businesses must bid to have their ads placed on the search engine sponsored links section so that customers are more likely to find the company when they search for a particular product using the search engine.
Every time a customer clicks on one of the company’s sponsored advertisements on the search engine, the business has to pay the search engine a small fee (or pay-per-click, as the name suggests). These page visits boost the likelihood of customers purchasing products, which makes each visit far more valuable to businesses than the pay-per-click cost incurred by each one.
Opt for Email Marketing
Email marketing campaigns can also be a useful tool for reaching customers and letting them know the business is still operating. If your business isn’t running during the shutdown, you could always use email marketing to keep customers engaged with your business by using storytelling.
A well-told story can emotionally resonate with readers and cause them to seek out your business in the future when things are back to normal.
For businesses to carry out email marketing campaigns, they need to possess a list of subscribers or customers that they can target with emails. These businesses often get customers to sign up for their mailing list via their website or on social media.
Asking visitors on your business’s Facebook page to subscribe to your mailing list is an excellent way to build up your list of subscribers and expand your email marketing campaign.
Use Google My Business
Every business should have a page on Google My Business. It’s a free tool that assists companies with managing their Google listings. Being registered on the site allows your business to be discovered on Google searches and Google Maps.
This can be an excellent way for businesses to advertise their existence without having to pay for marketing. It can also boost the odds of your business being discovered during the present situation, given that people are now spending more time online than ever before.
Bing Places for Business is a similar service that is also free but less well-trafficked than Google My Business. It certainly doesn’t hurt to add your business here as well.
Use Video Conferencing
Many businesses have opted to have their employees work from home using remote working software to stop the spread of the virus. This remote working software often includes video conferencing capabilities that allow multiple employees to video chat at once.
Zoom is one of the most popular video communication services and can be used to hold video conferences with up to 100 participants.
Video conferencing allows business owners to communicate with their employees from the safety of a remote location. These meetings can be used to chart out business plans and provide updates on strategies.
This platform can also be used by HR to conduct job interviews. Video interviews are preferable to phone interviews as they allow interviewers to visually gauge the reactions and responses of interviewees to interview questions.
This strategy can help business owners make the most of their downtime during the virus epidemic, and after.
Another up and coming video conferencing service that does not require downloading onto your computer to use is called EyesOn. Nelg Digital has used Zoom and EyesOn and they both have their advantages however we prefer EyesOn. We do not receive compensation from either company.
These strategies are among the best ways to keep your business ahead of the pack during the coronavirus pandemic, and after.
However, it seems likely that the economic effects of the Coronavirus will last long after a vaccine or cure is discovered.
Business owners need to anticipate these coming changes so that they can plan accordingly and evolve. Staying put is a sure recipe for small business failure.
The companies that survive and thrive are going to be the ones that take action, adapt, and innovate. Businesses that hesitate and wait to see what will happen will lose.
Historically, during times of changes and uncertainly is the most significant opportunity for growth and expansion of your business.
Think about it. When’s the best time to get ahead? When there is more competition or less? The same is true of online marketing and advertising. Those who risk consistently staying in front of potential customers, in uncertain times, are rewarded by growing their brand and being remembered online.
Consumer habits have now changed forever, and online is even more critical in communicating with current and potential customers and contributing to your overall business success.