Small businesses have been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, as cities across the country enacted strict lockdown measures that restricted all business other than those deemed essential. To stay afloat, many companies have had to adapt by upgrading their systems — both technological and physical — in order to operate. And for businesses who simply had to shutter their doors while waiting for lockdowns to lift, small business loans have become vital to keep companies from folding altogether.
Technological Upgrades for Small Businesses
With most retail stores and restaurants unable to open their doors during strict COVID-19 lockdowns, businesses have had to adapt by offering their goods and services online. If you own a small retail store, offering customers the ability to shop online is vital. To do this, create an e-commerce site to list and sell your inventory online. Many areas allow for curbside pick-up, which means you can avoid dealing with the hassle of shipping.
For restaurants, offering to-go meals has been crucial. If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s important to have your entire menu online with ordering options. By upgrading your website and adding mobile app ordering functions, you can vastly increase the likelihood of attracting customers who want to support local restaurants during the pandemic.
Other types of small businesses have been using technology to stay afloat in creative ways, such as harnessing live video streams to stay connected to customers. For example, yoga studios have been bringing their classes online through applications such as Zoom and Facebook, and dog groomers have been offering online tutorials for customers who need to keep their pooches trimmed during the lockdown.
Consider boosting your online marketing strategies during this time in order to stay connected to your community and your customers. You can do this yourself or hire noteworthy freelance digital marketing experts such as Uno Deuce Multimedia or social media marketing experts to help. If you’re filming videos to stay connected to customers, you may want to learn some video production techniques before you start. By fostering some creativity, technology can help your small business thrive. Developing an e-commerce site or upgrading your menu and online ordering options can be tricky tasks, so consider outsourcing for help.
Physical Upgrades to Your Business
If you work in an industry that is still allowed to operate during the pandemic, it’s likely that you’ll need to adopt some physical upgrades to keep your staff and customers healthy.
If you own a retail shop, consider installing a plexiglass shield to keep your cashiers safe. This can be a DIY project; here are a few examples to get you started. Provide personal protective equipment for staff, and disinfect surfaces regularly throughout the day.
All businesses should help encourage physical distancing. One easy way to do this is by marking off six-foot indicators for customers standing in line. You can do this simply by placing tape on the ground, or with stickers to remind customers to distance from one another.
Another physical upgrade to consider is turning to cash-free payment options. Buy a new credit card reader or touch-free payment system to help reduce the potential transmission of the coronavirus and keep both your staff and customers safe.
Seek Financial Assistance
Despite making upgrades and adapting to lockdown, many businesses will struggle during this time. If this is the case for your business, consider seeking funding from government and non-government options. Government funding is available through the Small Business Association (SBA) Express Bridge Loans and the Main Street Business Lending Program. Some of these loans are designed specifically to help businesses affected by COVID-19.
If your small business has had to close the doors because of COVID-19, be sure to explore ways to keep doing business despite the pandemic. You can begin selling online, offering curbside pickup and contact-free shopping. You can also emphasize using social media to stay connected to customers, and even do some live video streams to offer virtual tutorials or classes. Physical upgrades such as plexiglass shields and physical distancing markers will also be vital as your business begins to allow customers back inside.
Chelsea Lamb has spent the last eight years honing her tech skills and is the resident tech specialist at Business Pop. Her goal is to demystify some of the technical aspects of business ownership.