The worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19 is forcing everyone to reevaluate and reorient the way they live their lives and do business.
Small businesses have been some of the hardest hit as a result of mandatory lockdown orders, stalled reopenings, and fluctuating virus numbers.
Despite the rip-roaring rise of online commerce, the truth is that 90 percent of all U.S. commerce takes place in the real world. People still largely work, play, and live their lives in the physical world.
But not anymore.
Many workplaces have moved into the digital realm with Zoom calls and digital meetings.
So too have consumer entertainment tastes. Netflix, Hulu, Disney, Barre Classes, and other streaming and online-only services are taking the places of movie theaters, gyms, and shopping malls.
This seismic shift has left many businesses scrambling to move online, whether to keep employees productive and on the payroll or to carve out entirely new digital niches.
According to a new Verizon business survey, 43% of small businesses plan on expanding their businesses through digital means in response to COVID-19. Nearly one-third of surveyed companies have already added ways to deliver products and services digitally.
Fortunately, with the technology available today, businesses aren’t just able to survive the switch to virtual, they can even thrive.
5 Key Technologies Helping Small Businesses To Thrive Despite COVID-19
The pandemic has thrown a wrench into an economy that was chugging along cheerfully before the arrival of COVID-19. Indeed, the virus has wrought historically unprecedented damage to many sectors of the economy. However, thanks to modern technologies such as cloud services and remoting workspaces, businesses now have the tools to take the pandemic head-on.
The following are 5 ways technology is helping small businesses thrive during a global health pandemic.
- Cloud services
- Remote workspaces
- Contactless delivery services
- Social Media
- E-Commerce & Payment Processing
Cloud services, or applications, products, and services that can be pushed from or accessed via the internet, have changed the game when it comes to employee productivity.
Gone are the days of the corporate office floor with rows and rows of desks and computers.
Instead, productivity tools can now be pushed to virtually any device, including watches, phones, tablets, laptops, and personal computers with internet connectivity.
Since information is stored on the cloud, it can be accessed by authorized users anywhere in the world, including from the safety of your own home.
Better yet, cloud computing, storage, and other cloud-based services don’t require the kind of extensive IT infrastructure once employed in an office. Many businesses are turning to Managed IT Services.
Cloud services make seamless remote working possible.
However, it wasn’t until the pandemic that large swaths of the working population put remote work to the test. All preliminary indications seem to show that remote working is a huge success and a key reason many businesses have been able to keep their doors open during the pandemic.
Teleconferencing apps, virtual project management tools, cloud applications, and remote access protocols have allowed some businesses to continue working as usual, albeit from many different locations at once rather than a centralized office space.
Of course, the ability to remote work is highly concentrated in white-collar professions for whom a computer, keyboard, and a steady internet connection is all an employee needs to continue generating value. However, elements of a remote working paradigm can be transplanted either totally or partially into other industry sectors.
Contactless delivery services
While the pandemic continues with no end in sight, millions of workers are still plugging away, punching in, and turning the gears of the American economy.
Part of what has made commerce possible outside of white-collar rolls are the apps and digital delivery services that many have now rely on for nearly everything. There’s an app designed to facilitate transport to customers for everything, from food and groceries to essential goods and services.
When the pandemic hit, every business big and small had to figure out how to get their products into the hands of consumers. Contactless delivery through third-party apps like Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates, Favor, and many others has allowed many small businesses to get their products to consumers seamlessly and safely despite social distancing orders and the shutdown of public venues.
Organizations that have managed the switch to delivering products directly to consumers have shown the most resilience in the face of COVID-19.
In an era of increased social isolation, social media is as essential as ever before. Social media has replaced the traditional public square as space for people to gather, but it is also increasingly becoming a place for business and commerce to occur.
With public spaces closed, companies are increasingly seeing social media campaigns as being among their top digital PR tactics during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Social media is one of the most effective ways to drive online traffic to a business’s website or digital storefront. In an era of social distancing, the ability to engage consumers effectively online can make or break a business.
Social media companies themselves have capitalized on the funneling of firms and consumer eyeballs onto their platforms by launching new tools designed to help enterprises reach new audiences. For example, Facebook in May rolled out its Shops feature designed to help small businesses sell their products online.
E-commerce and payment processing
Before the new millennium, cash was king. People traded goods and services through the medium of the almighty dollar bill.
Today, hardly anyone ever carries cash on their person. Instead, most day-to-day transactions happen digitally through a network of e-commerce and payment processing apps and networks.
E-payment services such as Paypal, Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, along with credit cards and payment processing services such as Square, have completely revolutionized the way we move money.
Instead of dollars bills, it’s all now just a bunch of bits on a computer server.
Naturally, during a global viral pandemic in which handling cash is seen as a health hazard, utilization of digital payment processing and e-commerce transactions have only continued to boom. This is excellent news for small businesses if they can figure out a way to translate foot traffic into online traffic and point of sale payments into online transactions.
As businesses close or reduce their physical presence on streets and storefronts, the only way to survive and thrive is to embrace e-commerce completely. Fortunately for small businesses, building an e-commerce business from scratch has never been easier. With the appropriate IT infrastructure, any small business can quickly pivot towards an online revenue generation model with only minimal retooling.
Stephen Wright is the founder and CEO of Wright Technologies. He is responsible for the overall success of the company, clients, employees, and vendor partners who support the business. Stephen graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in business management and established Wright Business Technologies in 1992. He later earned his MBA, also from Texas Tech University.