Here’s this week’s coronavirus resources for your small business.
Rewarding Small Businesses
Mainstreet Mondays is I Am Mainstreet America’s new platform for discovering, supporting, and rewarding small businesses. They partner with brands creating challenges for small businesses rewarding them for sharing their stories. Visitors can come back each week to discover a new small business and support them by participating in a digital cash mob event tied to each story, using the Mainstreet Mob platform.
For the inaugural Color Your City Challenge they’ve partnered with Fiverr to support 24 minority-owned small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 and have adapted their business models to support their communities. $60k in total prize value is up for grabs!
If you want to learn more, check out this blog from Fiverr.
Helping People and Businesses Find Their Online ‘Main Street’
Facebook just announced new ways for people to support and discover small businesses. It released a “Support Small Business” sticker on Instagram and a #SupportSmallBusiness hashtag on the Facebook app. Creators on Facebook can also use a new “in support of” tag to promote small businesses to their fans.
When people use the Support Small Business sticker on Instagram, their story will be added to a shared Instagram story, so their followers can see it along with other businesses that people they follow are supporting. If they mention a business directly, the business can repost the content to their stories or message the people who tagged them.
To help people more quickly find local essential products and services Facebook launched Businesses Nearby where consumers can learn what’s happening with their neighborhood shops, message them, or order food and buy goods from them through third-party apps. This will also help businesses see more virtual foot traffic as they move online to stay open.
Keeping Businesses Informed
Businesses can now access COVID-19-related information, business tools and best practices in the Facebook and Instagram apps. This real-time, in-app information helps businesses more quickly take steps to move their business forward. Facebook says these new programs complement their existing Business Resource Hub and can be found in the shortcuts on the Facebook app and through businesses’ profiles on Instagram.
Helping Businesses Stay Connected With Customers
Some ways small businesses have applied these programs:
Businesses are using creative ways to engage their customers as they pivot to online-only service—from gyms offering workouts on Facebook Live to stores sharing product information in their WhatsApp catalog, and restaurants using Messenger to reach customers with delivery options.
To improve how businesses stay connected with their customers, Facebook plans to launch a dedicated Business Inbox in the Messenger app and an updated chat plugin for businesses’ websites. The inbox will allow businesses to answer customer messages from their Page directly in the Messenger app. With the latest chat plugin, people can start chat with businesses on their websites without needing a Facebook account.
Following the launch of Temporary Service Changes, a tool that made it easier for businesses to share critical information on their Facebook Page, businesses also now have a way to tag COVID-19-related posts from the Page composer to keep people updated.
Relief Fund for Mom-Owned Businesses
Nonprofit business incubator Moms As Entrepreneurs (MAE) launched a national Covid-19 relief fund for businesses solely owned by mothers called the Moms As Entrepreneurs Give Life. Give Community. Fund. The fund is designed to help support those who have been shut out of government loans or other funding during the Covid-19 pandemic. Grants of $500-$1,000 will be given to mom-owned businesses in all industries, and applications will be accepted beginning May 18.
“Experts estimate that up to 90% of businesses owned by women and people of color have been, or will likely be, shut out of the federal Paycheck Protection Program. We understand the disparities that moms, especially moms of color, are dealing with as they continue to maintain their businesses during Covid-19,” says Dr. Tammira Lucas, cofounder of Moms as Entrepreneurs. “Many relief programs do not support businesses that do not have payroll expenses or support businesses that may not have relationships with commercial banks. We knew we had to help.”
To qualify for grant money, businesses must:
- Be solely owned by a mother
- Have not received any other funding relating to Covid-19 relief
- Have had business sales decline by 40% or more due to the pandemic
- Commit to supporting another mom-owned business with 10% of their grant funding. This support can be in the form of purchasing supplies or services from another mom-owned business or donating this portion back to the Fund.
Tools & Resources
Free PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator
This handy, easy-to-use tool from Fuse Financial Partners is one of the most accurate available. And it includes a free training video.
The PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator helps small business owners make sure they’re correctly using their PPP funds and staying compliant so their loans can be totally forgiven.
Helping Businesses and Local Communities Succeed
Pitney Bowes, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has introduced several programs to help small business and local communities through these challenging times.
- The Way Forward for Small Business: A content hub and program to support small businesses on their paths to recovery, featuring helpful, informative content including videos, articles and fact sheets, on topics such as government assistance, workplace operations and safety, and information on how to effectively market, sell and stay productive in a remote working environment.
- Partnering with GoDaddy: Pitney Bowes has partnered with GoDaddy, supporting its Open We Stand campaign. New clients who sign up to shipping platform SendPro Online through Open We Stand receive a 30-day free trial, a $25 postage credit and 10lb scale, enabling them to effectively manage their shipping and mailing remotely.
- Helping Students Succeed: Pitney Bowes has supported communities across the country ensuring students and schools have the supplies they need while learning remotely.
- Nonprofit Organization Support: The Pitney Bowes Foundation is supporting numerous nonprofits organizations which are addressing essential and critical community needs, including efforts to supply PPE to hospitals, programs to address food insecurity, and literacy and education.
Free Route Planning Tool
A new route planning tool is available for free of charge to U.S. SMBs to help optimize the delivery of goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HERE WeGo Deliver allows businesses to plan and dispatch an employee-based delivery service without software development and implementation costs. All this made possible by the employees at HERE, a leading location data and technology platform, who created HERE WeGo Deliver to give back.
“Manually organizing and sequencing multiple delivery stops, and drivers, is time consuming, and the margin for human error is significant,” says Christoph Herzig, head of Fleet Applications at HERE Technologies. “HERE WeGo Deliver makes it simple for both the business owner and driver by easy uploading, optimizing, viewing and dispatching of routes through a web-based dashboard.”
Managers simply upload all the destinations and number of drivers to the online planning dashboard, and HERE WeGo Deliver optimizes each route and delivery sequence. Drivers receive their delivery route by email, which automatically opens and populates the delivery route end points in the HERE WeGo mobile app to provide voice-enabled navigation. HERE WeGo is available to download for free on Android and iOS mobile devices.
HERE WeGo Deliver is available for free to any SMB until 2021. To get started using the delivery solution, go here.
Check out the COVID-19 resource center from Merchant Maverick. It covers the latest in loan relief news, how-to articles, and other tips to successfully help businesses navigate their way through, and beyond, the pandemic.
Learn more: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources.
Polls & Surveys
Current State Of The Small Business Economy
The latest report from Alignable.com, the largest online referral network for small businesses across North America, shows 85% of small businesses report they’ve been negatively impacted by the coronavirus, with 75% in the U.S. and Canada saying the effects have been “very significant.”
That said, as many states and provinces across North America are slowly starting or planning to reopen for business, Alignable has created a report on the current state of small business economies, including a disaster recovery roadmap to guide small business communities.
- 54% of small business owners polled say their communities are already starting to work together on reopening the local economy and planning the recovery.
- 53% believe they’ll be able to relaunch within a month after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.
- 25% predict they’ll be back to pre-COVID-19 levels of revenue and employment in a month’s time; 36% believe they’ll reach that milestone in three months.
- 38% are worried customers will be too afraid to come back to their businesses.
- 36% are concerned about being shut down again by the state or federal government if there’s another major outbreak.
- 23% believe the recovery requires a well-coordinated effort among state governments, local officials, small businesses, and consumers.
- 19% say a vaccine is needed for a full recovery.
“Our report and recovery roadmap were designed to give many small business owners a head start in their recovery, because they face unprecedented challenges,” says Eric Groves, Alignable’s CEO and cofounder. “But with the right plans in place, that wonderful can-do attitude entrepreneurs are known for, and ongoing support from our network and others, many small business owners will eventually recover and create their new normal.”
At this point, Alignable says, it’s difficult to estimate how quickly the recovery will occur and where it will happen first. But, based on previous disasters, the report predicts a full recovery could take at least a few years. Read the full report here.
Small businesses are transitioning to more virtual ways of working and seeking more flexibility and financial resources to survive the coronavirus pandemic, according to a monthly poll just released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. Nearly double the number of small business owners reported an increase in teleworking (20% up from 12% ) and asking for rent flexibility (17% up from 9%) in just one month. Plus, 17% of small business owners say they’ve transitioned their retail presence to be more virtual or digital, up from 10% last month.
Small businesses are adapting their business operations in other ways:
- 27% have shortened their hours
- 26% have asked customers for support or started a crowdfunding campaign
- 19% have adjusted employee salaries or hours
- 19% have applied for a working capital loan, an almost five-fold increase since last month.
There’s bad news, too. More small businesses closed temporarily and 22% of small business say they’re two months or less from closing permanently.
Small businesses are concerned about the country reopening businesses, with 54% saying their biggest concern is a lack of profitability due to fewer customers, 36% worried about protecting the health of their employees, 34% fearing a resurgence of the outbreak forcing another shutdown, 28% are concerned about the challenges of implementing social distancing, and 16% are worried about additional health requirements.
There is some optimism—64% of small businesses expect to increase or maintain their investment plans, and 79% anticipate increasing or retaining the same size staff.
Of the small businesses that have furloughed or laid off employees, 79% say it is at least somewhat likely they will bring back most of their employees once the U.S. small business climate returns to normal.
Many small businesses are also turning to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to make ends meet—47% say PPP funding is critical to keeping their business open.
- 32% of small businesses have applied, or tried to apply for, a PPP loan and another 13% are still planning on applying.
- 70% of businesses with 20 or more employees say the PPP loan is critical to keeping their businesses open, almost double the number of businesses with fewer than five employees that feel the same (39%).
- Businesses with over 20 employees are the most likely to have applied for and received a PPP loan (29%) compared to small (3%) and mid-sized (14%) businesses.
- Of those that that have applied, or plan to apply for PPP funding, the primary intended uses are to pay current employee salaries (38%) or benefits and to pay rent/utilities (21%).
- 9% received a PPP loan and 23% have either applied and not received funding or have unsuccessfully tried to apply.
Small Business Concerns
Most (85%) small business owners say they are still concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their business; 53% are very concerned, especially those in the Northeast, Midwest, and in the service and retail sectors. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of small businesses rate the overall health of the U.S. economy as “very poor” or “somewhat poor”—an increase of 51 percentage points from the Q1 poll.
80% think it will be at least three months to a year before the U.S. small business climate returns to normal. And 50% feel their business is in good health, down seven points from last month.
Despite the challenging circumstances, small businesses are giving back to their communities. Two-thirds of small businesses have contributed to those in need during the pandemic; 31% have donated to food banks or response funds, 22% are paying employees even though they are closed or have shortened hours and 19% have produced or donated personal protective equipment.
“We know how hard the pandemic has hit small businesses,” said Jessica Moser, senior vice president, Small and Specialty Business at MetLife. “We believe that sharing poll findings directly from small business owners provides an authentic platform to voice their concerns as well as what solutions they need most to help them survive, and ultimately thrive.”
The Impact of COVID-19 on CX
According to Zendesk, the coronavirus pandemic has customer experience teams around the world trying to “rapidly adapt amid ticket spikes, customer cancellations, market volatility, and increased uncertainty. Each week, the world is changing, and business simply isn’t business as usual. Most teams responding to customers are transitioning to a work from home environment, putting additional strain on their ability to respond to customers effectively. For many of us, that means learning and adjusting as we go.”
Zendesk has created a Benchmark Snapshot summarizing how recent events have affected thousands of businesses. Two highlights:
- There’s been a 13% increase in companies’ average weekly ticket volume since late February
- Restaurants are seeing the most dramatic increase in support requests, with weekly requests up 230% since late February.
The Benchmark is packed with good information. Read it here.
How Entrepreneurs Have Pivoted During the COVID-19 Pandemic
An eye-opening report shows 48% of entrepreneurs and small business owners have experienced a severe decline in demand or have stopped operations altogether in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while 56% have pivoted to a new business model to survive. And 54% say they’re planning to launch a new company or side hustle during the crisis.
These are among the findings of a study from global creative platform 99designs in partnership with research firm Corus.
How are SMBs pivoting?
With more than half of small businesses indicating that they have pivoted to adjust to COVID-19 conditions, this has meant a significant shift to operating and engaging with customers online:
- 66% of businesses who were not online before the outbreak are in the process of creating a website.
- 27% are looking at refreshing their existing website as a result of COVID-19.
- Of those with plans to add ecommerce to their website, 25% have started due to COVID-19, and another 21% are discussing it as a result of the outbreak.
- 39% have either started or are planning on increasing their social media output as a result of COVID-19.
- 41% are exploring new ways to engage with their customers through new online content because of the pandemic.
Resilience, Re-skilling and Side Hustles
The findings also point to resilience and creativity among the small business sector, even in light of current conditions. For example:
- Despite global unemployment statistics, 50% of SMBs who employ workers have managed to maintain headcount over the past month—and 10% have even been hiring.
- 34% of business owners are taking online classes or courses to upskill during this time of disruption.
COVID-19 Impact on Freelancers
Payments company Payoneer surveyed freelancers to and found COVID-19 is having a profound impact on how they conduct business.
- 60% of SMBs have reduced spending due to loss in revenue
- 30% are optimistic that post-COVID the economy will recover at the same growth or quicker within 2-3 months
- In March 2020, Payoneer saw a 33% month-on-month increase in SMBs registering to pay international freelancers
How is COVID-19 Impacting Finances
- 26% of eligible respondents have still not received their stimulus checks
- 52% of those who have been laid off have filed for unemployment benefits but 54% have yet to receive those unemployment benefits.
- Of those who haven’t yet received unemployment benefits, 79% have already had to use funds from a savings account to cover expenses, 86% are worried about running out of money, and 42% have taken on more credit card debt than desired.
- 62% are concerned about their retirement savings, which is down from 72% on April 1.
- The average American has spent $987 on food and supplies since the pandemic started here in the U.S. This is up 56% from the second survey and 194% from the first survey.
- Once lockdown measures are lifted, how fast will they start spending money like they used to?
- 26%: 1-3 months
- 18%: 3-6 months
- 16%: 2 weeks-1 month
- 13%: 6 months-1 year
- 10%: immediately
- 7%: more than one year
App Usage Soars
Every year Okta releases its Businesses@Work report, identifying the most popular and fastest-growing apps. With more Americans working from home than ever before, Okta decided to run a mid-year Businesses@Work (from Home) report to understand how organizations are using new apps and increasing adoption of existing technology to improve productivity and secure their remote workforce during this COVID-19 crisis.
- Friday, March 6, 2020, was the last day of “normal” app usage, before user activity was affected by the pandemic. Beginning Monday, March 9, 2020 there was an upward trend of usage for Citrix ADC, Cisco Webex, RingCentral, Zoom, PaloAlto Networks Global Connect, and Cisco AnyConnect.
- The app verticals with the biggest upticks: Video-conferencing, network security tools, online learning, IT help, and collaboration.
- The fastest-growing app? Zoom. Video conferencing has suddenly become pervasive in our lives: it helps us stay productive, stay in touch with colleagues, friends, family, and attend classes. Zoom experienced an amazing 110% growth in unique workforce users in March over February 2020. (For comparison, Zoom grew only 6% during that same time period in 2019.)
- To protect against the 667% increasein COVID-19 phishing attacks, organizations are using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to boost security. Okta Verify (including Okta Verify with Push notifications) has shown the most growth in the percentage of unique users per day, hovering at around an 80% increase over 28 days prior. SMS, voice, Google Authenticator, Symantec VIP, and YubiKey have all had a roughly similar growth trajectory).
Get Informed—Read it!
Is Income Correlated to the Chances of Catching the Coronavirus?
While less-refined nationwide data suggests there is no correlation between income and the chances of catching the coronavirus, an analysis of more precise data from New York City by Mike Brown of LendEDU found otherwise. Fascinating report—well worth a read.
9 Ways To Manage Costs And Prepare For Future Growth
Successfully managing it the COVID-19 crisis requires CFO and HR leaders of SMBs to make complex decisions quickly, without rushing into an uncoordinated response. Cost containment will determine how well a company performs during and after COVID-19.
Paycor discusses nine ways the financial and HR leaders of SMBs can cut costs, with an eye toward a return to health and profitability in the future. These include (but aren’t limited to):
- Renegotiate debt and rent obligations (everything is negotiable)
- Outsource payroll (outsourced payroll can be 30% less expensive than in house)
- Reduce employee hours (to try to avoid layoffs)
- Invest in great managers (investing in managers won’t cut costs in the short term, but it may ultimately save your business)
Beware These Hacker Trends
Guest post by Ron Culler, Senior Director of Technology and Solutions at ADT Cybersecurity
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the news cycle, cybercriminals are capitalizing on societal shifts to gain access to personal information. From an increased likelihood of data breaches, to the publishing of disguised misinformation and hacking attempts (e.g. the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), individuals should be aware of the tactics hackers are employing during a time of uncertainty.
Here are some hacker trends, as well as corresponding safety tips, to be aware of and employ while information gathering and navigating our new normal.
- Cloned News Platforms: Hackers are tapping into the latest technologies to create cloned news websites that mimic the real thing. Malware is integrated into those sites, hidden within video and audio links of false stories containing “critical information” about COVID-19. For instance, scammers recently copied the Johns Hopkins University online map that tracks the virus’ spread in real time. To protect themselves, consumers should install antivirus programs to monitor devices, hover their cursor over links to ensure they lead to legitimate websites and always think twice before installing programs from random links that are shared online.
- Social Media: As society works remotely and practices social distancing, social media consumption has grown. But consumers need to be careful, as a tweet or Facebook post can contain malicious links seeking to install spyware on corporate devices with confidential information. This misinformation only adds to the stress, leading people to make more impulsive, and potentially more dangerous, decisions. Pinterest recently introduced a “custom search experience” to remove misleading and false coronavirus info on its platform. The National Security Council also tweeted asking people to ignore text message “rumors” of a national quarantine. Social media users should look out for official sources as they consume information, including the accounts of trusted news sites and their reporters.
- Fake Apps: Consumers should also be mindful of fake apps, as coronavirus-related mobile apps launch. Last week, CNET reported on CovidLock, an Android app claiming to help users monitor the spread of the virus. It turned out to be malicious, locking Android users out of their phones and holding them for ransom by hackers. According to cybersecurity company SonicWall, there are no mobile apps that can track COVID-19 infections or point to a vaccine, so it’s critical that consumers exercise caution when absorbing any information related to the virus.
- Video Conferencing Software: Social distancing has led to more companies requiring employees to WFH, along with virtual social gatherings. Cybercriminals are aware of this and taking advantage of the new trend, hacking video conferencing platforms and joining meetings as they take place. According to TechCrunch, perpetrators hacked into a WFH Happy Hour and leveraged the screen-share feature to display horrific images and video content, alarming participants before they were eventually kicked out of the chat. As more people lean on video to remain connected, it’s important that these dial-ins aren’t posted in any public forums where they can be easily discovered.
- Increased likelihood of data breaches: The cruise line and airline industries carry some of the largest economic impacts related to COVID-19, and this makes them more vulnerable to hackers. Millions of people are either canceling or rescheduling their trips, opening up the potential for hackers to intervene when customers are communicating with companies to get their money back. Both customers and travel industry employees should be vigilant for falsified messages during this unprecedented moment in time.