COVID-19

As the co-owner of a brick-and-mortar wine shop, I know firsthand how difficult the past few months have been. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced unprecedented challenges, transformed consumer habits and business models, and amplified the demand for many products and services while rendering others nearly obsolete. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are resilient. Despite these challenges, many small businesses are pivoting to address new needs that have emerged as a result of COVID-19.

Here are four ways you can pivot your business to meet the needs of new and loyal customers.

Adapt your business to meet new needs

As a small business advisor, one thing I tell my clients is that there are opportunities for small businesses out there who are willing to be flexible, and able to step outside their comfort zone. Consider companies like Averill’s Sharper Uniforms, a uniform shop that pivoted during the pandemic to also sell COVID-19 protective products like face masks and protective barrier “sneeze guards.”

There are ways to flourish and grow during these challenging months, and you don’t have to go it alone. Consider working with a partner company to develop an e-commerce store, update or design your website, or even get online if you don’t yet have a professional website. Working with a small business advisor can help you navigate running your business during the pandemic, and give you the tips and tools necessary to achieve long-term success.

Start a new business

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and communicate, the way we buy, receive and deliver goods and more. As a result, new business opportunities are emerging to meet market needs, address consumer trends, and serve new/different customers. For some entrepreneurs – based on their unique situation and type of business they’re looking to launch – this means that there could be an opportunity to successfully launch a business in the COVID-19 world.

Look at Daniel Reyes, who started Kenmore Kleaning with a partner in 2007 but was forced to close around five years later due to an oversaturated market. This March, Daniel’s former partner at Kenmore Kleaning lost his job due to COVID-19, so the pair decided to start the business up again. Daniel launched a business to meet new needs in response to the pandemic, and differentiated his company through a professional website.

Think about the resources at your fingertips and your areas of expertise. Then, consider where there’s overlap between your skills, resources, and unmet market needs.

Strengthen your online presence

Now more than ever before, it’s crucial to launch a professional website and build out your company’s social media presence. Updating or building a new website to promote your business will help drive brand exposure, allowing you to showcase your service or product portfolio, and sharing key information about your brand and business. Online platforms are a great way to engage with your customers and drive brand awareness during this particularly challenging time. You can work with a partner company to create or update a website, and share key information like store hours and local listings and any new COVID-19 requirements or regulations.

Developing or updating an online presence is a key aspect of successfully shifting business models and updating your product portfolio, as it enables small business owners to not only stay in touch with current customers, but also attract new audiences. As a small business owner, you should also consider building out your social media presence, and even using channels like blogs or podcasts to drive brand awareness.

Launch an e-commerce store

If your retail store website isn’t e-commerce enabled, it’s time to launch an e-commerce store – especially with the holiday 2020 shopping season just around the corner. An e-commerce-enabled website will help you to complement existing services offered in your brick-and-mortar store, expand your target audience to reach those who strictly shop online, and more effectively reach existing customers by offering them a different way to purchase your product and making your store available 24/7.

Two small business co-owners we had the privilege of working with are Deb and Jesse Riley, co-owners of Lavish Salon & Spa. When they were able to re-open, demand returned slowly, and social distancing and amplified cleaning requirements reduced volume and income. To address this issue and maintain sales, Deb and Jesse launched an entirely new e-commerce store, yourlavishproducts.com, that complements their existing in-person services and mirrors the look and feel of their salon in Santa Cruz, CA. This has enabled them to run a sustainable business during the time of COVID-19 closures, and connect with their local community.

What’s next for small business owners?

We haven’t arrived at a “new normal” yet, and we probably won’t for quite some time. This remains a constantly-changing, unprecedented time in the consumer and business landscape. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we buy, sell, and deliver goods and services. There are ways to pivot your business model and produce products and services to meet new needs. Working with a trusted business advisor can help you reach new and existing customers as we navigate into the next normal.

Maria Melo is a senior business advisor at Yahoo Small Business. Maria Melo has been working with new and established e-commerce merchants for over 20 years to help them grow their businesses. Maria has also spent over 14 years working with her family in their brick and mortar retail store and is part owner of her own retail wine shop with her brother and sister.

COVID-19 stock photo by Deliris/Shutterstock