As the spread of COVID-19 continues in the coming weeks causing more customers to stay home, many small businesses across the world may face a crisis of their own: reduced inventory due to disruption in supply chains, staffing limitations with employees being sick or working remotely, and, ultimately, reduced sales and significant losses in revenue. According to FEMA, the United State’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40-60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster, and 90 percent of smaller companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days.

For small businesses feeling threatened by how this unique and unprecedented situation will impact their operations, here are six ways WhatsApp can be a lifeline to both customers and remote employees.

  1. Provide regular inventory updates — Certain industries such as restaurants, markets or bakeries may face reduced inventory, so it’s important to keep your customers updated in real time about what’s currently available. Try providing updates to your top customers via a group chat and keep an updated catalog in the WhatsApp Business app so others can easily see what you offer and what’s in stock.
  2. Share current business hours — It’s important to keep customers apprised of any changes to your hours of operation. Use the business profile in the WhatsApp Business app to display days and times your business is open, and set up an away message that lets customers know when you’re busy or not available.
  3. Make pick-ups/deliveries more efficient — As foot-traffic and in-store visits slow, push to do more of your business via store pick-up or delivery. Turn on the live location feature in WhatsApp when you’re approaching a delivery spot and have your customers use it on approach to make the exchange quick and simple.
  4. Set up video consultations — For service businesses such as lawyers or insurance agents, traditional one-on-one in-person visits can easily be moved to a WhatsApp video call. It’ll bring the meeting room into the customer’s living room and is free of charge.
  5. Take customers inside your store — Accustomed to customers being delighted each time they visit your store? Give them a virtual tour with a status update that brings them inside your store from the comfort of their own home.
  6. Stay connected to your employees — With some business’ choosing to have employees work from home, groups on WhatsApp are a helpful way to share ideas, get instant updates and feedback, collaborate on a project and answer questions in real time. And a WhatsApp group voice call with up to four participants can make a quick team sync as easy as one in person.

As traditional business operations are disrupted for the foreseeable future, the tool that keeps people connected to their friends and family can now be their lifeline to customers too. And make this unique and potentially trying time just a bit more manageable.

Amrit Pal is the product manager for small business at WhatsApp.

Covid-19 stock photo by Kira_Yan/Shutterstock