The businesses that were able to survive through and learn from the start of the pandemic are in a great position for success moving forward. These 5 business adaptations arose from the pandemic and are likely to remain an integral part of business success indefinitely.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented the most significant challenge that most business owners had seen in their lifetime. While the challenge was too much for some businesses to continue operations, those that were able to weather the storm and reinvent their business practices are well-positioned to capitalize on the rebounding economy. The following breakdown looks at 5 ways that businesses adapted to COVID-19 and how these adaptations will serve the business in 2021 and beyond.
1. Creation of Continuity Plans
When it comes to planning for personal financial health, people budget to have at least six months of expenses saved up in cash in the event of an emergency. Yet, when it comes to running their business, these same people were woefully ill-prepared to handle the COVID-19 crisis. As the pandemic was developing in March 2020, a Gartner, Inc. business continuity survey revealed that just 12% of respondents felt that their business had an adequate risk management plan in place. This led to mass layoffs, revenue shortfalls, and selling of businesses and business assets for pennies on the dollar.
As the economy begins to emerge from the pandemic, businesses are much better equipped to handle the next crisis, with 87% of small and medium business owners feeling confident that their crisis management plan is in a better place than at the start of 2020. Part of the beefed up continuity plans that have emerged include how to seamlessly transition to remote work, processes for fulfilling customer needs through a variety of mediums, and ongoing business valuation efforts should the need to sell a business arise.
2. Digital Marketing
The pandemic put some serious stress on most businesses' marketing budgets. When you consider that it costs a leading company like Netflix about $44 to acquire a single new customer, the strain that this created for many businesses becomes apparent.
Thus, businesses are turning to digital marketing solutions to help control costs while reaching the broadest audience possible. Paid search and SEO have become particularly popular because, after a relatively modest initial set-up cost, web searches essentially help generate free traffic. Businesses have also doubled down on their social media marketing efforts and have begun to host more digital events, such as Zoom webinars and product demonstrations.
3. Multi-Channel Distribution
With customers forced to boycott physical stores during the pandemic, many businesses were left with no way to get their products into the hands of consumers. As a result, the pandemic created a delivery-or-die culture in which businesses were required to bring their products directly to consumers in order to compete.
Unfortunately, many businesses had a poor delivery infrastructure in place and were forced to pay through the roof for couriers, eating as much as 20% of delivery costs in order to make the final price tag palatable for customers.
With months to iron out the situation and work with professional third party logistics companies to help handle complicated last mile delivery scenarios, businesses are able to offer their products through a number of channels, including in-store purchase, online order pickup, and delivery. For service-based businesses, companies are increasing their number of outdoor offerings and having service providers travel to customers' homes, when feasible.
4. Enlightened Schedules
The expedited shift to remote work is arguably the most pronounced change to business wrought by the pandemic. However, supplementary to the increase in remote work is the fading away of the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule.
While the pros and cons of remote work is a topic of heavy debate among professionals, a Pew Research study found that 49% of professionals reported feeling like they had greater say in creating their own schedule as a result of the pandemic, an important consideration for working parents and multi-income households.
Although this has created some challenges for businesses in keeping their firms fully staffed during peak hours, the migration away from the traditional 9-to-5 has helped businesses adapt to peak performance styles and retain top talent, with Inc.com reporting that 66% of millennials being likely to consider leaving a job that does not support schedule flexibility. This makes the enlightened schedule a pandemic trend that is here to stay.
5. Innovative Compensation Plans
Restricted revenues led many companies to cancel bonuses, freeze cost of living raises, and reduce the hours of some employees during the pandemic. And even though the economy is expected to grow by as much as 6.5% amid subsiding lockdowns in 2021, it will still take some time for businesses to make up lost ground from the revenue they missed out on in 2020.
Therefore, businesses that are continuing to struggle to pay employees their former salaries are turning toward innovative benefits packages to help their positions appeal to professionals, with offerings such as counseling sessions, free childcare, and gym memberships a few of the examples of contemporary lifestyle benefits. Although companies may have used this as a means of bridging the gap to when revenues return to normal, there is evidence that such modern benefits packages could be here to stay.