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The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses of all shapes and sizes in all industries to make some pretty significant adaptations. Many bricks and mortar stores have had to close. This has been an enormous challenge for business owners, and many have taken the decision to cease trading at least temporarily, if not forever.
Many businesses, however, are using the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to look at how they can adapt so that they can evolve and continue to trade throughout the outbreak. Here, we look at some actionable and achievable steps that you can take to future-proof your business and keep on going throughout the coronavirus pandemic while keeping your staff and clients safe.
Take advantage of online opportunities
Having an online presence is essential at this time. High streets and malls are quieter than ever. Many people are opting to stay at home to protect themselves from the virus, or are showing symptoms and cannot leave the house. Because of this, your online presences is the main way that you can promote your goods and services and reach out to clients and customers. You should have up to date social media profiles and an attractive, user-friendly business website.
It can be tempting to go all out and launch yourself on all the main social media platforms if you aren’t already on them, but be careful. If you spend hours crafting careful posts and spending money on ads for them to fall flat, you have wasted valuable time and resources. Instead, think about which networks your target audience is going to be most active on. For example, you can find a younger demographic on TikTok and Snapchat, while older customers may stick to Facebook. If you are working on a more corporate level, LinkedIn is the one to target.
You also need to make sure you optimize your website for SEO (search engine optimization) to increase its visibility. While this can take a while to kick in, it is great for the long-term interests of your business. Choose keywords carefully, optimize your images, and make sure you can view your website from a mobile. If you are not sure, seek the advice of a professional SEO expert. It is an investment that will be worth it not only now but in the future as well.
As well as increasing your visibility online, the pandemic is an excellent opportunity to look at how you can adapt your business moving forwards.
Gyms, for example, are offering online classes on Zoom. Museums are offering virtual tours and workshops. Think about the things that you can do to expand your business so that customers can still access your goods, services, or expertise.
Offer delivery options
Of course, traditional delivery services are nothing new or innovative. That being said, a lot of enterprises have become inventive in how customers who are self-isolating at home and thus unable to visit shops or restaurants can access their products. Smaller companies might tailor their items to suit them for takeaway or delivery, from selling meals and food packages to food kits with recipes for customers to follow at home.
The concept is not only for the culinary industry. Some cinemas, for example, are offering at-home film packages with DVDs and snack boxes. Children’s craft centers are putting together craft kits for children to have a go at in their own home. It is all about looking at how you can adapt and give your customers a chance to do what they would do in-store at home.
To get your company ready for delivery does not just involve organizing the logistical elements.
Make sure that the experience for prospective customers is as painless as possible by going through the steps they can take themselves. Ask yourself whether your company is easy to find whether your delivery option is easy to find, and are your goods suitable for delivery and for customers to use or make at home. You are good to go when you are pleased with the system.
Connect with your local community
Staying connected to and helping the local community in whatever way you can during this time of uncertainty is important. It can also provide a great support network for you and your company as well as helping people who are in need.
Do what you can on both a personal and business level to support fellow business owners by shopping locally and promoting them on your social media channels where possible. If you are able to, look at the businesses who are working with local authorities to adapt their current services into making high-demand products. For example, some chemical or alcohol manufacturers are producing sanitizer, and clothes manufacturers are making face masks.
How will you make sure that your employees are safe?
While above we have looked at retail businesses and pleasing your customers, it is essential to make sure that your staff is safe and the risk of them contracting the virus at work is minimized as far as possible. For the purpose of this point, we are going to assume a corporate, office-based environment rather than a retail or customer-facing role.
The most obvious way of protecting your staff from the virus is to let them work from home, if possible. It is a strategy more, and more companies were working on prior to the start of the pandemic, but more places than ever recognize that is an effective and productive way of allowing work to continue relatively normally.
Technology is your friend here. You need to ensure that any employees working from home remotely have access to the technology and software that they need. It would be unwise and unfair to expect them to use their own personal devices to work. Their computers may not be up to date enough, and it may not be secure.
You may also need to consider signing up for cloud storage if this is something that you do not already have. This is a secure way of storing documents in a way that anyone who needs them can access them from wherever they are in the world.
You may be wondering how you can manage a team and communicate with your team if they are not on the premises, but don’t worry – technology has that covered as well! In terms of management, there are plenty of workflow management tools available on the market to help you organize and delegate tasks to your team. Some of the popular ones include Microsoft Teams, Asana and Trello. For meetings, you can use video conferencing software, which allows all of your team – and clients and vendors, if necessary, to sign in and join in the meeting from wherever they are in the world.
If working remotely is not something that is feasible, then you need to take measures to protect them in the workplace. You may, for example, introduce later starts, so that they do not have to join in with the hoards of commuters on public transport, or staggered starts, so you do not have lots of employees trying to use the same entrance at the same time.
Look at how your office is set up. Ideally, there should be a two-meter/six-foot distance in between workers, so look at how you arrange the desks to ensure this. If that is not possible, consider installing perspex screens in between to reduce potential transmission. Sanitizers should be placed in and around the workplace, and regular handwashing should be encouraged.
High-risk areas include bathrooms and communal kitchen areas. Limiting how many people can access these spaces at one time and ensuring that they are cleaned in between will help to meet regulations.
You will also need to increase hygiene and basic cleaning in the space, which may mean all hands on deck. Particular attention should be paid to busy ‘touchpoints; – handrails and bannisters, light switches and door handle being some of the main ones. Disinfect these as often as possible.
We don’t do know when or even if normality will ever resume. It could be weeks, months or even years, so now is the time to start thinking about the different ways in which you can adapt your business to keep you, your staff and your clients safe while trading and working as usual. Not only will these ideas help you through the pandemic, but you may find that they give you a much more versatile working model in the future – and that can only ever be a good thing.