For traditional brick and mortar retailers, their has been a steady increase in demand from online consumers for over a decade. Many traditional retailers have already transitioned their business online.
For the thousands of other small and middle market businesses that serve their clients from a brick and mortar storefront or rely on a physical building to produce their product or service, COVID-19 has no doubt accelerated the transition to an online economy. While the right solution may be different depending on what the specific business is, there is no “one size fits all” solution. We put together a panel of experts in various industries to share their strategies for moving their business online.
Industry experts explain how they are taking their businesses online
We selected a group of business owners and executives from SMBs to share their thoughts on a “work from home” economy and how they are taking their business onine to cope with the difficult business environment of 2020.
When the COVID stay-at-home orders began to issue, our law firm of 5 lawyers and 30 employees realized we had to change our fully-onsite work model to a work-from-home model in a period of about three days. We contacted out IT company and they immediately installed Avaya 1x Portal for Office. This piece of software enabled our receptionist to take calls from home via her computer and transfer them to the correct employee at his/her home computer. Additionally, it enabled us to:
1)make and receive calls from our work numbers so that customer and business calls did not have to come from personal phone numbers,
2) monitor which employees were logged in during business hours,
3) direct message and/or call other employees, and;
4) receive and check messages on our work phone numbers.
Additionally, I ordered about 10 webcams and we had all our employees install Zoom so that we could conduct firmwide meetings, team meetings, depositions, mediations, and court proceedings.
I suspect we will evolve from this into a firm that has a more open work-from-home policy due to all of the upgrades and adjustments we have made.
It’s not a secret that every company is going to an economic crisis, many of us are trying to look for solutions that would help us increase our revenue and have people interested in our product or service. However, how can we do that when the world is going through a pandemic and everything is lying down on a path of uncertainty.
Well, there’s always a way out in the middle of a crisis. Using tools like social media helps you understand that no matter the situation you can still get in touch with your clients, and listen to them. thanks to these benefits, our company has grown in confidence, and loyalty.
More people interested in it, reaching out to them, and having a conversation through social media has helped us get in touch with them, and still be active even in the midst of this crisis. Social media nowadays, it’s a powerful tool that helps you have communication with your clients, but especially know some feedback to be better each day.
*During the pandemic, hindsight proved providential that, since our inception, we built a remote working team and culture. While demand has been impacted, the work environment for our team of 25 has been business as usual. *
*A work from home (WFH) environment certainly has its pros like savings on commercial leases, more autonomy and location independence (our team is spread across almost 20 states), there are also cons, including less network security and lack of camaraderie among team members. Weekly team meetings via video chat are helpful, but we also plan quarterly retreats, meet together as a team at trade industry conferences and host an annual meeting at a coworking space in Seattle every January.
*Unfortunately, greater autonomy can also be a negative for some employees that aren’t entrepreneurial or need to be policed. We solve this by hiring responsible adults who perform their jobs well.
In Person Events
Our company does live, in-person educational adventures for all ages. We had to go online with our adventures, and because we started preparing weeks ahead, we were able to do so the day after we closed our doors to our facility. We now run weekly online adventures and are preparing for Online Summer Camp so that parents have an option for keeping their kids and teens engaged when there are no in-person childcare or camps available.
We had to also move all of our staff training programs into an online learning platform (Thinkific.com) so that our incoming summer staff could
learn how to run these online adventures. In doing so, we realized that we could license our programming to other summer camps so that they could run our programs for their own campers. Our first release of a free 2 hour Zombie Escape Room module has over 200 camps already enrolled. So we expect a good reception for our full license when it is released at the end of this week.
This has been absolutely vital to our company in helping to offset the loss of enrollment for offline camp (many parents are waiting to see if camp can go offline before making a purchase). It’s also been a dual win for us because the work we are completing for our own staff is now generating revenue well beyond our own company’s camps. If this goes well, we may actually have a new revenue division that could out-perform our own summer camps and consulting services.
Our brick and mortar store had to close down during the pandemic and we needed to come up with some creative ideas to sell more online. About two weeks into the crisis we started doing live streams through Youtube (50,000 subscribers) and Facebook (10,000 followers). This is something we had never done before. We advertised our live streams beforehand through emails, our website, and social media. We are now getting about 1000+ customers and non-customers watching our show each week. Not only has it helped to stay connected with our customers, it has generated a ton of sales ($12,000 from our last show) for our business. It has been so successful that we are continuing even with the shut down being over in our state.
We have moved to 100% remote selling (telesales) from a mix of face-to-face selling and telesales during this coronavirus pandemic.
Our 100% telesales initiative is our response to the government directives about social distancing during the quarantine period. Telesales is
physically safer for both our clients and us.
Our telesales process involves a sales presentation over the phone, and insurance applications are approved within 15-20 minutes. This process is much quicker than face-to-face or office visit transactions.
Telesales is more convenient for our clients, and it saves us a tremendous amount of time, which allows us to be more productive and generate more
We are committed to our telesales business model even after the pandemic is over.
I’m Saloni Doshi, CEO of EcoEnclose We are an eco-friendly packaging solutions company, and we were already serving clients online before COVID-19.
We are fortunate that our business is still doing well (if not better). Our supply chain has been affected, and we’ve actually sold out of our top
products, but we’re now coming around to having more inventory again so that we can continue to serve our clients.
To adjust to the pandemic, we’ve made sure to keep our customers as up-to-date as possible via our website, social media, and email. We also updated our products to suggest the best alternatives for anything out of stock.
As for our warehouse, early on we switched to staggered shifts and social distancing for the safety of our employees. Other team members like those in customer service worked remotely. We also offer unlimited PTO and require anyone experiencing symptoms to stay at home.
Lastly, to help serve our community, we donated eco-friendly packaging for the Colorado Mask Project. We have also used our Instagram platform of nearly 19,000 followers to promote other small businesses who could really use the extra support and publicity during this tough time. For businesses that are transitioning to eCommerce, we also published our own helpful guide on how to make the switch and start selling online!
I’m the founder of an online business that has recently transitioned our entire team to remote work contracts.
Here’s our experience of business during COVID-19:
This was a relatively simple process because we were already using many of the tools necessary to go fully remote. For members of the team working from the office, the major difference was adapting to Zoom for weekly meetings and using Slack for quick updates. It’s interesting that our email use has declined and our communications are more streamlined as a result.
We teach people how to brew the best coffee at home and, while our customers have been in isolation, we’ve seen interesting patterns emerge.
In March our orders dipped slightly, but since that time we’ve definitely noticed an uptick in demand for coffee supplies and equipment.
We’ve also gained new customers.
Coffee fans have turned to businesses like ours to subscribe to regular deliveries of coffee. They also sought information on how to recreate their favorite cup of joe while cafes have been closed. I believe this trend will continue. Our website visitors also had more time to read so our blog has shown a steady increase in traffic.
Overall, we’ve weathered this crisis extremely well.
We get tens to hundreds of thousands of calls per year, and that has spiked in recent months due to covid-related layoffs and unemployment claims spiking. People are scrambling to find new health coverage immediately and we want to be able to offer around the clock support to help them apply and walk them through their options.
However, historically our customer advocate team was based out of our offices, as these calls (if people chose to apply to health insurance) all require collecting sensitive PII (personally identifiable information). *So we needed a very secure answer for the covid era; we have moved our call center entirely remote, which required a lot of security changes, upgrades, and innovation to make happen for secure handling of PII remotely and protecting consumer health information. *While others are struggling to set up remote call centers, we made it happen in record time and are considering keeping it around for the duration of open enrollment this fall also, maybe even permanently.