What’s going to happen to your business during the pandemic — will you even survive? This is not an alarmist question. Many businesses are struggling now. Retail stores, restaurants, gyms, salons, travel, and construction are all suffering. Some restaurants will stay in business and reopen in a few months, some will even thrive with delivery and pickup services. Some will shut down permanently. Meanwhile, most of their workers will in many cases be unemployed. Some will be able to head back to work when it’s all over, some will come up with another plan — maybe something they like better. Some will face real hardship.
This is business disruption. We talk about disruption a lot, often as though it’s a good thing. People happily describe themselves and their businesses as disruptors. Automation replacing human workers, remote work replacing physical workdays in the office, subscriptions and services replacing physical goods… these have all disrupted business as usual for their industries. COVID-19 has disrupted business as usual to the tune of 7 million new unemployment insurance filings.
But there are also businesses that are thriving. We’ve been getting out Q1 analytics reports, and a lot of our clients are seeing big surges in website traffic. Neil Patel reports that industries like food, healthcare, media, and pharmaceuticals are all seeing rising traffic. In many cases, that rising traffic equals rising sales as well — Blue Apron, Instacart, and other food delivery services are cleaning up. Nielsen reports that U.S. shoppers are shopping more than usual for CPG and groceries in general, with online sales of non-consumable goods on the rise as well. They advise giving customers the best possible experience so they’ll continue to shop. Sprout Social sees a rise in cooking, baking, and at-home fitness.
We can’t predict what will happen in the long run. During the 1918 pandemic, many businesses saw their sales drop by 40% or more, but the economy bounced back fairly quickly. Tragically, there were so many deaths that unemployment wasn’t an issue and wages increased as reopening businesses had to compete for the remaining workers. The world has changed, and this pandemic isn’t the same as that one.
But here are some suggestions for keeping your online presence valuable.
Your business can probably do something useful for people during the pandemic. We’re seeing curbside drop off and pick up at veterinarians’ offices, online exercise classes, and bakeries selling hard-to-find groceries like eggs.
We’re writing articles for our clients on how their clients and patients can cope with the changes we’re all facing in our lives.
We’re also seeing websites that don’t reflect the current reality — and even websites that are broken and not being maintained.
Your online presence is always the first way most of your clients and customers find you. Now, it may be the only way. Make sure that your website shows the ways you’re ready to help. It can also provide useful information, sell goods through e-commerce, and keep your community connected.
Be open to change
When the internet changed the way people bought music — or quit buying it — there were plenty of people who fought against it in an effort to stick with what had been working for them before. Ditto for the car when it pushed the horse and carriage out — plenty of people fought against that. Sometimes fighting doesn’t help.
If you have to cut expenses to stay afloat, do it. If turning your business into a side hustle and taking on a coronavirus-related job for a few months makes the most sense financially, do it.
But also look forward. If your industry is one of those facing disruption, this is the time to figure out how your company can respond to the disruption in a way that will work out for you. Is this the time to switch to Telehealth or other remote services? Automakers are making ventilators and mechatronics companies are making medical masks. Can you do something to fill the temporary needs, or can you foresee ways to be helpful in the future?
Make good use of your time
Some of us aren’t able to be as productive as usual, and that’s understandable. This is a good time to hang out with your family and bake. But Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine from the Plague. If you’re spending time worrying, you could spend it in more productive ways.
- Do all that website upkeep that you don’t usually have time for. Contact us for help. We always work remotely, so we are completing work with the same level of efficiency as usual.
- Do some big-picture thinking and planning. As Accountingweb austerely puts it, “If you were planning on developing the online side of your business, put energy into that task.”
- Clean up those items that show up over and over on your to-do list and never get crossed off. Most of us have some of those tasks. When things get back to normal, you’ll be glad to have that backlog cleared.
Things will get back to normal. We don’t know yet just what normal will be when we get through this. But we can figure that preparing for it will be a more valuable use of our time than some of the things we’re doing now.
Let’s embrace the disruption as much as we can.