Smaller businesses are the engine of the economy, accounting for nearly 45% of all economic activity in the U.S. But the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing measures recommended to contain the spread of the virus have hit small and medium-sized businesses especially hard. Reduced foot traffic leaves smaller companies looking for new business models to stay competitive in this unprecedented time.

Some small businesses are broadcasting live online and/or providing video on demand (VOD) to stay relevant and keep in touch with customers during the lockdown period. At Dacast, we saw a 53% increase in business streaming usage between February and April that has continued and accelerated through May. We also saw 1,000% overall growth in streaming in the first few weeks after stay-at-home orders took effect.

Live streaming or VOD can help smaller enterprises generate revenue, improve the customer experience and build brand awareness. Here are three ways we’ve seen small businesses use live streaming and VOD to bridge the social distance and keep their companies visible and engaged:

Monetization: Live stream and VOD use in business was already on the rise, but the pandemic accelerated it. Schools and religious organizations turned to video to maintain continuity. Some businesses creatively turned video content into a revenue source; we saw a 2,850% spike in virtual fitness subscriptions that helped keep boutique studios and gyms operating.

Small businesses like yoga studios that successfully monetize online classes put an emphasis on live streaming and VOD quality. People use neighborhood studios for in-person services like yoga or spin classes, but when they access services online, location isn’t a factor, so quality matters. The small businesses that succeed online are investing in a streaming/VOD solution to ensure quality and reliability.

Trainings: Most businesses were already using video for training before the pandemic hit, but stay-at-home orders increased their reliance on the technology. Small businesses use live streaming and VOD for a variety of training purposes, including instructing employees on how to provide a consistent, high-quality customer experience.

As states move into re-opening phases and many stay-at-home orders are lifted, small businesses can use live streaming and VOD to train returning or newly hired employees on procedures the company puts in place in the wake of the pandemic. For example, restaurants may have new social distancing or food handling protocols that they’re implementing before they reopen, and video training can help them prepare their staff.

Video Marketing: The use of video marketing was also accelerated by the public health crisis. Online product and service research and video tutorials were already popular with customers, and many small businesses that were sharing information about products and services in compelling ways through live streaming/VOD have stepped up their game during the pandemic.

With the right video marketing strategy, small businesses can connect with their target audience through high-quality content that expands brand awareness. Those that can put together a well-executed video marketing strategy can generate more video views and provide persuasive calls to action that increase conversions and drive revenue — all without face-to-face interaction.

So, if you’re looking for a way to improve your small business’s visibility during uncertain times, provide training to staff or offer services and/or content directly online, find a quality streaming video/VOD solution is the first step. Free conferencing software like Zoom lacks scalability. Public video-on-demand hubs like YouTube have strong security tools, but the require that user give them the rights to exploit the video content once published on its platform which may come as an unwelcomed shock to most subscribers who are unfamiliar with the policy and want to maintain control of the use of their content.

That said, there are many excellent live streaming/VOD solutions on the market that meet small business’s needs. A methodical selection process to analyze options, identify requirements, consider workflow and compare prices before choosing a streaming/VOD service works best. With the right streaming/VOD solution, your business can bridge the social distance and get back to engaging customers.

Stephan Roulland is the CEO of Dacast, a streaming solutions platform. He is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of video streaming experience founding web streaming portals like Loftv, Divertis and VideoClick along with several web marketing firms.

Live streaming stock photo by Microgen/Shutterstock