Small Businesses Show How They’re Coping in this ‘New Normal’

No company in the U.S. has escaped the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic but for small businesses the impact has been great.

An estimated 79 percent of small businesses have felt a moderate-to-large negative effect from the pandemic, according to an August report from the U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey.

In that struggle to hold on, small business owners are looking for the best ways to adapt operations amid uncertainty and cope with their “new normal.”

And while the level of impact and response may vary by location and industry, the objective is shared: how do I sustain and keep moving forward?

Here are a few ways small business owners are adapting to and coping with their “new normal.”

Counting on Customer Loyalty

Some small businesses are making their way because of a loyal customer base and the customers who are stepping up to support the small businesses in their communities.

The rallying cry has become a coping mechanism – not only helping them stay afloat, but providing a positive boost as they look ahead.

Small business owners indicate concern about the short- and long-term impacts from the pandemic. Almost half (46 percent) are hoping fora concerted effort by consumers to support small businesses during the difficult period, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of GoDaddy.

Three in four consumers in the poll said they would go out of their way to patronize a small business, according to the survey, which interviewed 1,000 small business owners and 2,000 consumers.

Also, 78 percent of consumers in the poll said they planned on shopping with small businesses in their community when on-site operations resumed.

Increasing Technology to Meet Demand

The pandemic has certainly shined a bright light on the significant role of reliable technology in everyone’s lives – and livelihoods.

Small businesses are relying on technology more than ever in their efforts to sustain their businesses, market their products and services, and reach customers, suppliers and vendors.

“Tech has been a critical lifeline for small businesses and consumers alike during the COVID-19 crisis,” writes Tom Quaadman, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, in a post on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

About 76 percent of owners contacted in a survey by the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council say that cloud services have been critical to the survival and operation of their business during COVID-19.

The need will continue, with many small business owners expecting to add technology services and tools down the line.

As technology continues to enable small businesses to pivot to digital tools and platforms, some of the best-case evidence of success is seen in the way restaurants have effectively designed contactless experiences, notes a McKinsey & Co. report.

“The restaurants that have fared better since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis have often turned to their digital capabilities and investments in technology to reset their channel mixes to increase takeout and delivery, build loyalty by enabling customers to order through their first-party apps, and increase the flexibility of their supply chains,” the report says.

Attention to Websites

Small businesses are paying more attention to their websites as a result of the pandemic, as they work to improve ecommerce functionality, marketing efforts and customer communications.

Some have been upgrading their sites and others created new sites since the pandemic.

“With the closing of physical stores, many businesses have relied on their online stores, with one in five small business owners saying their online sales have been vital during this difficult time,” says a New York Post article that cited the OnePoll consumer and small business survey.

For 1 in 10 small business owners, the pandemic marked the first time they sold online.

Of those polled, 23 percent of small business owners said strengthening existing online presence with ecommerce is important to survive past the pandemic, as services like curbside pickup become the norm.

Signs of Optimism

Even amid the difficulties, small business owners have indicated some optimism.

Some of that positive feedback and optimism comes from the small businesses that adapted to digital technology, says a survey by LRWGreenberg, a research & strategy consultancy in California.

The U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey also pointed to signs of encouragement in its report.

“Nationally, respondents initially indicated pervasive difficulties with business operations and finances, including temporary closings, employment, revenues and cash on hand,” the Aug. 20 Business Pulse Survey reported. “However, these difficulties became less prevalent over the nine weeks of the survey.”