The introduction of the new Omicron variant means authorities across the nation are reinstating those protocols we all know so well at this point: limiting capacity, social distancing, remote working and schooling, thoroughly washing hands, and wearing masks.
While it might seem like the same old song and dance, the fact is that this variant has been spreading much faster than those that came before, and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is still collecting data to find out about reinfection rates, breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals, and whether it could cause more severe illness or death than previous variants. At this point, and until we know more, getting ahead of it is the safest option.
This means that once again, merchants will need to adapt their business strategy in order to accommodate the old-is-new guidelines. In previous posts, we have offered suggestions on pandemic-proofing certain merchant types such as salons, gyms, veterinary clinics, and those in the nonprofit sector. Here, I’d like to provide ten tips that can be incorporated into any business model, and hopefully provide some guidance based on our collective experience thus far into the pandemic.
How can your small business survive the COVID-19 pandemic?
10) Comply with the CDC guidelines. The CDC has made it super easy for every concerned citizen to stay up to date on emerging information by setting up a website. They have also provided specific guidelines for businesses and employers as we proceed through the pandemic.
9) Communicate with your employees. This is particularly crucial if you find that you need to reduce hours due to capacity restrictions or if (god forbid) you have infection among your staff. As the day-to-day of doing business changes, make sure to inform your employees so they can prepare for the unexpected.
8) Be ready to seek financial help. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is offering Small Business Tax Credit Programs, including the Employee Retention Credit and the Paid Leave Credit. Similarly, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can provide small businesses with the resources needed to maintain their payroll, hire back previously laid-off employees, and cover any applicable overhead.
7) Begin (or expand!) the online component of your business. While many small businesses have been able to maintain their cash flow by having employees work from home, others rely on in-person interaction to stay afloat. Incorporating services such as online ordering for curbside pickup or delivery for goods or providing zoom sessions for customer consultations are ways you can increase your online business while complying with CDC regulations. The bonus is that these are some of the services you could continue to provide even after restrictions are lifted, and we can return to business as usual.
6) Revisit your business model. To build on that last point, if you find that you can run your business successfully by going mainly or entirely digital, consider reducing your overhead by analyzing whether you even need to lease a physical office or storefront space, and if so, could you downsize? Even when businesses were opening up again, in-store shopping was lagging behind pre-pandemic numbers, with many consumers preferring to shop online: for example, this past Black Friday’s in-store shopping was a significant 28% down from 2019 levels. (As tired as we are of the pandemic, I believe many of us are sufficiently traumatized.) Storefront rent could be an area where you may be able to scale back.
5) Keep your clients & customers engaged. Showing your customers that you haven’t forgotten their needs is an excellent way to maintain long-term clientele. A great way to do this is with an innovative customer loyalty program, which benefits both the customer and the business in the long run.
4) Increase your network and be proactive. McKinsey suggests data ecosystems as an excellent networking strategy. Operating through rewards programs between a network of retailers, members spend their money among a variety of merchants, earn points, and redeem them at whichever participating party they’d like. This can also aid in drawing new customers, as being affiliated with a business the customer already knows, likes, and supports will make them more likely to extend their patronage to a new retailer.
3) Consider what your customers need right now. Things are changing at an alarming rate. Develop strategies to tap into what your customers need at this point in time. Consider temporarily reducing the cost of selected products and services or offering discount codes and promotions. Host free online events to keep them invested in your business. Get creative with showing your appreciation to your customers for their continued support through these bizarre times.
2) Appreciate your employees. Everyone is tired at this point. We’ve all done what we can this year, and many of us were looking forward to finally celebrating at an office holiday party only to have that suddenly taken away. While a company-wide email voicing your appreciation is nice, going the extra mile is better. Use the funds marked for the supper/bowling/in-office wingding and put them towards gift cards for restaurants, groceries, or specialty stores. Or even towards a surprise Christmas Bonus on your staff’s final paycheck of the year. Your staff is the backbone of your business, and they show up, perform, and keep things running even during these extraordinary circumstances. Don’t just tell them you thank them; show them.
1) Be flexible. Know that things will not always go as planned in this ever-changing situation. Insisting on the same old business strategies may not be the best way to benefit your business. These are times to think outside of the box, possibly introduce new practices and identify new ways to save money. Think you’re paying too much for processing fees? Sekure merchant solutions can help your business thrive. Give our payment experts 15 minutes - they’ll uncover the high rates and hidden fees that are chewing away at your bottom line. Click here to get your free merchant statement analysis today!
We have all faced a variety of challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it doesn’t look as though it’s over just yet. The good news is that over the past 18 months, we’ve been learning to adapt, and we will continue to do so as new information, improved technology, and increased awareness emerge. We’re all in this together. If you have more tips on how small businesses can survive Covid-19 restrictions, please share them in the comment section below.