The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives. While we somehow cope with social distancing, the impact on the global economy is profoundly changing the business landscape. Coronavirus has also changed what we consume and how we shop and many businesses have been forced into closure, temporary or even permanent. And the greatest percentage of those businesses are small ones.
While it seems that the grip of global lockdown is loosening, there’s no going back to how it was. All businesses need to adapt to this new landscape of uncertainty. While some of the bigger companies are moderately ready for such changes, the question is how will small businesses overcome these challenges?
Age of Technology
Although it seems we’ve been living in the age of technology for quite a while, it turns out that only a global health crisis could make us harvest its pure potential. We’ve all been aware that working from home has many benefits outside pandemic scenarios, but only now it’s rapidly becoming the norm. Strict measures of social distancing have made millions switch to remote work in order to stay afloat. With all the advanced equipment for home offices and a variety of customizable options for video conferencing, this transition was easily possible. This was an opportunity for many businesses to realize that remote work saves money and increases productivity.
While tech solutions were mostly a way to get an upper hand, now they’re the means of survival. It is possible to resume business operations with an entirely remote workforce. But the question is to what extent? That is determined by the very nature of your business.
Touch Me Not
It’s strange to see how one of the most desirable outcomes – receiving something tangible for your money – has turned into the greatest cause for fear. If you deal with a product that consumers touch, that almost automatically means a drop in demand. As it is known that COVID-19 survives and remains infective on surfaces such as cardboard, paper, plastic, steel, cooper, wood, etc., it’s normal that a large number of people won’t go anywhere near the printed advertisement and some won’t even open their mail. Although ordering online is the safest way of purchase, many are still not ready to receive packages, although couriers are equipped with masks and disinfectants and have employed zero-contact delivery policies.
And those who are not afraid of receiving packages wish to get them in the same way as before – quickly. The global economic downturn has diminished all workforces and couriers and postal services are not an exception. This reduced capacity has a great impact on delivery times so many small businesses are losing clients accustomed to instant gratification.
Far From The Eyes Close to The Purchase
The biggest weapon of small businesses has become their weakest spot – customer interaction. As a small business, you’re able to pay much more attention to every customer, and face-to-face communication is what builds an everlasting bond. Today, it’s usually a deal-breaker. That’s why personal services, retail, hospitality, and arts & entertainment are business areas that have become incredibly fragile. Those that don’t require such communication, like real estate, finance, or professional services are experiencing much fewer negative repercussions of the virus.
Of course, most small businesses belong to the first group. What’s more, big companies usually have backup plans and solid financial reserves, while the finances of most small businesses have been fragile even before the pandemic struck. That is evident from the forecast of 35 million small business job losses if the pandemic lasts for just another six months.
Is There Anybody Out There?
The answer varies from country to country, but on a global average, the answer is – yes. Many governments provide support for small businesses, but we don’t have to be proficient in math to know that not everyone can get a fair share. Loan debts are being modified to grants, which eases the burden a bit, but what about those small businesses that need to apply for loans now? The bureaucracy of application has always been a nightmare and now when the number of applicants is hitting the roof the chances are slim that all will get them on time to prevent job losses or closure.
The future of small businesses is gloomy at the least. The economy will eventually adapt, but the clock is ticking fast. And those that do survive will have to change the way they do business from the very roots.