Using the Power of Digital to Thrive in the Post-Pandemic World

There’s great news for small businesses as we start to see encouraging signs that people are ready once again to browse, shop, and dine within the business districts of neighborhoods, small towns, and big cities across America.

While the pandemic has taken a toll on almost every sector of the economy, small businesses have suffered the most. According to a study published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, the drop in small business activity between February and April last year was the largest ever recorded in the United States.

But amid all this adversity, small business owners responded with remarkable resilience and creativity, adapting their business models, their products, and their services to find new ways to serve their customers. One of the most striking changes was the massive shift to online and mobile platforms. According to the U.S. State of Small Business from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable, before the pandemic, about a third of American small businesses had never sold products digitally. Now, nearly seven out of eight are selling goods and services online (Facebook and Small Business Roundtable).

As life—and shopping—start to get back to normal, one of the most important questions for many small businesses is how they can build on the new digital capabilities they acquired during the pandemic.

There’s no one better than Daymond John to advise small businesses in this next chapter. As the founder and CEO of FUBU and Star of ABC’s Shark Tank, Daymond is an entrepreneur, author, investor, and motivational speaker, and he knows a thing or two about making adjustments to help businesses grow. He recently joined me for a Facebook Live discussion about how companies should think about digital sales and marketing in our increasingly mobile-first, digital-first world.

Based on our conversation, here are four key things small businesses should keep in mind:

1. Use digital to create conversations and build community: People can shop anywhere. Digital communications allow you to start conversations with your customers that can transform your business into a community rather than just a place to shop. But the best thing about digital is when your customers start having conversations with each other. When you get your customers talking to each other about what they found or what they like, or even better, the special things you offer that other people maybe don’t know about—that’s when your business truly starts to be meaningful in people’s lives.

2. Social media as a listening system: Successful entrepreneurs use social media to find out what customers like and don’t like, and how to improve the way they serve them. The connection you make with customers where they can tell that you hear what they have to say is incredibly powerful, particularly when they are unhappy. Research shows that when a customer feels like you have listened to their complaint, it increases advocacy significantly. Turning an unhappy customer into an ambassador for your business is one of the real keys to success.

3. Learn, try, and learn some more: If you are one of the millions of small business owners who made the leap to digital for the first time during the pandemic, it’s important to keep educating yourself about what’s going on and what platforms resonate with your customers. It’s also important to keep trying new things. If you are communicating with your customers by email and have an e-commerce site now, that’s great. But it may also mean it’s time to see if digital advertising works for your business by taking advantage of T-Mobile’s offer of $200 in free digital advertising on Facebook or Instagram for small business customers.

4. Use digital to build on what you already do well: Brick and mortar isn’t going away. People are looking forward to going back to their favorite shops and they will still want to pay for experiences. Now, with digital, the register can keep ringing even when your store is closed. You can connect with customers who can’t stop by in person because it’s not convenient or they don’t live nearby. And, most important, you can reach out to your customers and ask “hey, what else can I do to serve you?” It’s not that digital should replace what you already do, but it can be an amazing way to drive growth and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

As small businesses embrace new opportunities, we hope these tips will help them succeed as we slowly and safely transition to a post-pandemic world.

Mike Katz is the executive vice president, T-Mobile Business Group, where he leads all marketing, sales, operations, IoT, and business development for the organization, as well as for T-Mobile’s wholesale and wireline businesses. In other words, if it has anything to do with B2B at T-Mobile, it rolls up through Mike.

Digital stock photo by whiteMocca/Shutterstock