As the economy begins to ramp back up, many businesses are discovering that what worked in the past won’t work going forward. Businesses will have to navigate a new norm where making a buck may take a back seat to soothing customer and employee concerns about their health.

New health standards will require a new way of doing business and a new way of thinking. This will be particularly true for high-traffic businesses. A packed house that was once the sign of success may instead be cause for alarm for once-loyal customers.

In Washington State, the steep learning curve for businesses is only beginning. Other parts of the country are already learning some hard lessons. In Atlanta, The Pig & The Pearl was given the green light to open its inside dining, only to find out that no one wanted to dine in a confined space. Even with proper social distancing, customers chose the patio or takeout. The owner doesn’t know when or if dining-in will be fashionable again.

Personal preferences and priorities may never be the same. Customers may turn their backs on their pre-COVID favorites because they don’t feel safe, no matter how good the deals are or how fantastic the food is.

Until an effective vaccine comes along and is widely available, public health and safety will continue to be at the forefront and businesses will need to build public confidence and fundamentally change the way they do business if they want to survive.

According to one business owner: “I don’t care what business you were in. You’re in the health and wellness business for the foreseeable future.”

Here are just a few ways you can pivot your business to bring in dollars and build trust while preparing for the possibility of a second wave and new stay-at-home orders.

Cash is no longer king

Electronic payments that don’t require touching keypads will become increasingly important and prevalent. Apple Pay, PayPal, Venmo and Zelle are all becoming popular ways to pay in a no-touch, socially distanced world. Integrating these payment systems seamlessly into your own operations will help you capture more sales.

I want it now!

Home and same-day delivery will continue to be an important part of new business models. Customers have gotten used to the convenience of home delivery. Nearly 90% of online shoppers say they are willing to pay for same-day or faster delivery. There is a limit to how much they will pay for the privilege, however, so you’ll need to experiment to find the sweet spot. Even when you open your doors, continue to figure out a viable delivery model for your business. It could end up being a lifesaver if a second wave arrives and we’re back to square one.

Shift your thinking

If your workers were telecommuting, either full or part-time, getting them to come back to a crowded workspace may be a herculean task, especially if they have children at home. Think creatively about how you can schedule employees differently, whether it’s telecommuting, staggered shifts, job sharing or increased use of technologies to increase remote collaboration and productivity.

Go virtual

If you don’t have an online storefront for your business already, invest in one. It will create resiliency and allow you to weather a second wave or additional workplace restrictions. The tools are easier than ever to use, whether it’s WooCommerce for WordPress, Etsy, Wix or Amazon, which has a small business division to help smaller retailers use their fulfillment and delivery network. If you need someone to help you, freelancer sites such as Upwork.com or Guru.com have e-commerce specialists.

Get out of gridlock

You will need to figure out a new way to maintain social distancing. Separating tables in a restaurant is pretty straightforward. But how do you provide access to restrooms so customers don’t have to pass one another in a crowded hall? If you have occupancy limitations, how do you let a customer know when they can come in? And before they do come in, where are they staged so their temperature can be taken and symptoms checked? The easier it is for customers to shop and feel safe, the more return business you will get.

Who are you again?

If you don’t know who your customers are and how to contact them, figure it out now and start building those relationships in earnest. Businesses that have been doing this all along were able to pivot and keep the money coming in when the original stay-at-home orders came down the pike. Successful businesses know that an up-to-date customer contact list is gold, especially when the economy is in a state of flux, which it will be for months and even years to come.

Get creative

Every business is different, of course. As you reopen, rebuild and even restart, think differently. If you run a restaurant, consider putting a QR code in a plex stand at each table that patrons can click on to view your menu and the daily specials. If you are in retail, lift a page from Nordstrom’s Trunk Club and add a personal shopper service where customers share their preferences and you source it for them. A restaurant? Talk to city officials to see if you can close off part of a street. Streateries are popping up all over the country, allowing restaurants to use the parking areas and even part of the street to extend their available seating while maintaining proper social distancing.

An ounce of prevention

While we all hope an effective vaccine will be available soon, it’s wise to prepare for the possibility of another wave and more stay-at-home orders. To help you plan for this eventuality, we’ve put together a new planner that walks you through steps you’ll want to take as you reopen to prepare for any future disruptions.

These are just a few of the ways you can address the changes going on in our economy. Next month we’re going to look at how small businesses can pivot their business model when nothing else seems to work. Reinventing yourself is definitely hard work. I’ve done it a time or two myself. But hopefully, next month’s blog will make reinvention just a bit easier for you.

 

Somewhere in the Puget Sound, wondering if I will ever see a real office again,

 

  • Robb
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