The 2020 pandemic affected everyone in some capacity, in every part of the world and now businesses are focusing on ways to reconnect with their customers. During 2020, businesses of all sizes struggled at least to some extent, but COVID-19 safety measures hit small businesses particularly hard. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 53% of small business owners don’t expect to return to pre-COVID-19 operations until the summer of 2021.
- Only about 25% of small businesses in large metro areas have returned to normal operations (albeit with COVID-19 safety measures still largely in place).
- Barely one-quarter of small businesses have a minimum of three months of cash available (which is generally recommended as a buffer).
- Nearly 2% of small businesses closed their doors due to COVID-19-related profit losses.
Of course, the pandemic has not affected all companies the same way. Restaurants, schools, arts venues, and travel and tourism companies are among the top industries that have been impacted significantly. While some businesses in these industries have managed to operate in survival mode, others have had to close their doors permanently.
Brighter days ahead: How many small businesses are rebounding
Even within industries hit hardest by the pandemic, many small businesses and entrepreneurs are starting to rebound. According to a poll from MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the majority of small businesses (86%) have fully or partially reopened. While this is encouraging news, many SMBs are still figuring out how to safeguard their top asset — their loyal customer base and customer relationships. To get business back on track, SMBs must shift their focus from survival to meeting customer needs with personalised communication and follow-up. Even companies that maintained customer connections through social media and other online platforms should start thinking about how to re-engage with new offerings, loyalty programs, and other incentives.
In addition to renewed customer engagement, networking is another way SMBs can start to rebound. For instance, these Black-owned businesses in Atlanta created a collaborative network to help each other thrive and grow their companies despite ongoing economic challenges. By creatively sourcing funding, real estate, and other local resources, these entrepreneurs are finding whole new approaches to business that support the community as well.
What’s more, other SMBs have either created or ramped up their eCommerce operations since many transactions can no longer occur face-to-face. eCommerce can support more than just online sales, it can enable training, onboarding, and other key business services. While it’s great to actively connect with customers through social media and messaging apps, enabling your market to conduct business with you in real time is essential.
Meeting customer expectations in post-pandemic world
Higher customer expectations may be one of the biggest changes brought on by the pandemic. Forced into a socially distanced, contactless buying experience, consumers have come to expect that any experience will be frictionless, efficient, and connected. Meeting these high customer standards going forward will likely require at least some degree of automated business intelligence to drive greater personalisation, improve decision-making and customer service, and sharpen communication across the “four Cs”:
- Content: Such as email marketing or social media posts
- Commerce: Including physical retail, eCommerce, or a mix
- Community: Such as informative how-to webinars
- Convenience: Including customer coupons and benefits from loyalty programs
Of course, none of this is necessarily easy or fast, but building more flexibility and automation into your business operations will also help your company stay agile even after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Learn more about marketing automation and how it can help your business by clicking here. Plus, there are many innovative companies who are finding creative ways to overcome pandemic setbacks — many of which may help your business to thrive as well.
How has your business responded to the pandemic? Please share your experience in this quick survey.