3 Changes That Are Here to Stay for Small Businesses

Some small businesses are realizing that a few of the pivots they made due to the pandemic are not as temporary as they thought. Instead, the “new normal” they created is now just business as usual.

In a study by automation platform company Zapier, 44 percent of the small businesses surveyed said they thought the changes they made due to COVID-19 will be permanent.

Here are 3 examples of the pivots made at small businesses during the pandemic that could have staying power.

The Brick-and-Mortar Store

After focusing on online sales for months and months, some small businesses are questioning whether they’ll even go back to a physical location.

“As many small business owners shift their attention online, it’s interesting to see what the future holds for brick and mortar stores,”  writes Machielle Thomas in a blog for Bluehost, a website and marketing solutions provider.

“Is this a small hiccup in the grand scheme of things or an unprecedented change with a lasting impact?”

In a survey by Bluehost, most of the 500 small business owners reported they expected their online sales to play a larger role in sales than their traditional in-store interactions in 2021, with 75 percent of them predicting increased online sales in the new year.

 Close to half said they would remain online only – 48 percent said they saw no need for a physical store going forward. Only 20 percent had plans to reopen a physical location in the next year, according to the survey.

Virtual Events

A lot of organizations are discovering some unexpected benefits of holding virtual events, such as reaching new and expanded audiences, and some have plans to continue doing so even after the pandemic restrictions for onsite events are lifted.

For example, despite disappointment and huge revenue loss after onsite holiday performances like The Nutcracker and Messiah were scrapped due to the pandemic, several performing arts organizations told NPR recently that the online versions of the shows brought some unexpected advantages.

They pointed to higher than expected interest and attendance at virtual events, as well as the opportunity they offer to continue to deliver their seasonal joy to young audiences and their families.

Convenience is another reason virtual events are a big hit, whether you’re trying to draw customers, patrons, students or staff. And that opens more opportunities for expanded reach, including would-be customers who may not have come to an onsite event.

Tammie Walker, director of the School of Music at the University of Iowa, says virtual events, although not thought ideal for anyone, do offer the benefit of enduring value. There is no substitution for face-to-face interactions, she says, and that’s the case even outside the arts community.

“But one of the biggest advantages of the virtual things we’re doing is that they’re going to live on forever, for future generations and international audiences to enjoy,” Walker says in a story by Jenna Post in The Daily Iowan.

Virtual Meetings

Same goes for virtual meetings – their value has only been enhanced during the pandemic and they will remain the norm for many more businesses now, large and small.

“There is no doubt virtual meetings are now here to stay,” writes Kirstin Ferguson in a blog post for Forbes. “The longer the use of online meetings are a normal part of life, the less likely it is that we will return to pre-COVID ways of frequent, long meetings in person. And that is a very good thing.”

After months and months of holding virtual meetings, businesses have had the chance to see the range of benefits, including increased participation and meeting productivity.

Also, the virtual meeting will be a keeper for some organizations that hold after-work networking gatherings. Oftentimes, the onsite versions focused on a city location and time element that didn’t suit everyone who wanted to attend.

“Such events often precluded people with caregiving responsibilities, people with a busy diary, people with disabilities and people who did not live nearby,” writes Ferguson. “The move to have these gatherings online has meant many more people can now participate in events, breakout room discussions and networking opportunities.”