by Annie Pilon
November 05, 2020
by Annie Pilon
November 05, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more necessary than ever for businesses to embrace technology. Tons of companies have found success or stayed afloat thanks to their ability to pivot to online business models.
In fact, a recent study found that 35 percent of personal businesses have started offering services online during the pandemic. This has been a necessity for some due to restrictions on non-essential in-person businesses. For others, it has simply added extra revenue streams or offered more options for customers who may not feel comfortable visiting.
Locomotion Fitness is one company that recently pivoted to an online model due to COVID-19. The company completely changed its business model in 48 hours. Since the company couldn't safely offer in-person fitness classes, it shifted to provide Zoom classes. This allowed the company to keep its existing customers happy and stick with a subscription model — just in a new way.
Owner Jay Cohen said, "We had a much longer timeline planned, then it felt like everything shifted overnight and we made the call to shut up shop to keep our members safe."
Another example is Mobile Escape, a Canadian escape room company. All the business's in-person events were canceled and school closures impacted its target customers. To stay afloat, Mobile Escape created Escape Mail, a subscription-based monthly puzzle that customers can solve at home. With families looking for fun activities to do while quarantining, Escape Mail became a big hit. And the company plans on keeping it going for at least a year.
Tons of other industries have seen major shifts since the pandemic started and even beforehand. Specifically, many realtors now offer virtual walkthroughs and online bidding. Healthcare providers are increasingly offering virtual consultations. And even law firms are offering video chats and online tools to work with clients from anywhere.
Basically, these companies saw their main source of business suddenly dry up. So they found ways to provide something that was still relevant to their offerings and their target customers. And they used technology to deliver those beneficial products and services in a new way. For some, this can be as simple as opening an ecommerce store. Others may benefit from mobile apps. For example, Walmart has experienced 460 percent growth during the pandemic. And service providers may pivot to include online courses, live sessions, or digital products.
But it's not only beneficial for small businesses to embrace technology during a pandemic. Moving to an online model provides plenty of benefits during normal times as well. For example, companies can often decrease overhead expenses by operating virtually. You may be able to cut out rent and utilities on retail or office space. And working remotely may allow you to hire help from anywhere. You don't need to just stick with talent in your immediate geographic area.
Online platforms also provide businesses with quantifiable information about their customers. When you do business in person, you don't always collect data about each transaction. But doing so online means you can measure things like buying trends and customer loyalty. Then you can use this information to improve your offerings going forward.
Finally, today's customers simply expect their favorite businesses to be online. This doesn't mean every company needs to operate completely digitally post-COVID. But having a consistent online presence can help you get in front of more customers. In fact, 87 percent of customers now begin their product searches on digital channels. That number has risen steadily over the years and is now higher than ever. So if you want customers to notice your business early in the buying process, an online presence is a must.
Of course, pivoting to an online business model takes careful planning and work. You have to set up a website and various social accounts with a consistent brand presence. Then you need to offer resources and value to customers using digital media. You also need to manage your online reputation through reviews and social proof.
There are plenty of different tech tools and platforms that can help you in these various areas. These include ecommerce platforms, website builders, social media schedulers, email services, and analytics tools. All of these tools can make your business run more efficiently and reach more customers online. But managing them may seem overwhelming to those who are new to running online businesses.
This article was written by Annie Pilon from Small Business Trends and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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