Whew! The year 2020 has sure been a doozy. I think we're all ready to say goodbye to it on December 31st. In fact, we'll be giving it a good shove and slamming the door behind it!
This year has been tough in so many ways, and just one of the ways is how it affected small businesses. The COVID restrictions forced countless businesses to rethink how they would make money, stay afloat, and utter the word that became very overused this year: pivot.
It has been hard to avoid negativity in 2020, especially when so many of those small businesses who were struggling didn’t make it. But on the flip side, the determination, the grit, and the creativity we saw this year was inspiring. Forced to reframe their business model, companies found new ways to stay in business, while bringing the community together at the same time (together, but distant of course).
In the spirit of positivity, and in thinking about the coming new year, this post calls out several positive things that came out of 2020 for businesses. And the funny thing is, some of these things may have not only been needed, but also changed the way we do business–for good.
1. Improved Websites that Better Serve What People are Seeking
When physical stores had to drastically reduce capacity, or fully close entirely, it made business owners take a good look at their website for the first time in, well, maybe quite a while. Websites can often be neglected after their initial launch. A lot of time and energy goes into building a website and once it’s up and going, it can be easy to forget about.
But when the pandemic forced retail and restaurants to close, suddenly their website became vital to their survival. Not only could retailers use their website to sell their goods, but restaurants could add online ordering features to make to-go orders seamless for customers.
Website Content Updates Score Many Wins
For many, this meant a complete overhaul of their website. For others it was a few simple improvements. Either way, it was obvious that people were looking online for products and services, and the opportunity was there to provide those things directly from the website. In addition, with restrictions constantly changing, businesses needed to quickly update their hours, and messages about COVID rules for their store on their website. If their webmaster wasn’t their BFF before, they certainly became much closer this year!
Some businesses took a good, long look at the content on their website and found it was outdated and overdue for a refresh. From updating new products to new food menu items, the attention lavished on websites this year will really help companies serve their audiences better, and could improve their search ranking.
2. Shift to eCommerce Model
If a company had been putting off adding eCommerce functionality to their website before 2020, they probably found themselves scrambling to add it and continue their business that way once the COVID restrictions hit. But once eCommerce is in place, many businesses are probably wondering why they didn’t do it sooner. When executed properly, eCommerce can run seamlessly in the background for you while you fulfill those orders.
Another benefit of adding eCommerce is that it may have forced companies to look at updating some outdated practices they were still employing. Automating tasks, inventory tracking, and costs, helps things to run smoothly, and eCommerce on a website may very well replace other less efficient tools.
Still looking to add eCommerce to your website? This blog post provides valuable tips before you start.
3. Pain Points Came to the Forefront; Forcing Improvement
Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. That may have been the case for many businesses that, when faced with the extreme stress of modifying their business model, inadvertently exposed inefficiencies and pain points within their operations. Whether it was converting a dining room to accommodate social distancing and only 25% capacity, or a company whose employees were all working from home for the first time ever, new challenges were bound to pop up. And while it was tough to work through those, good things likely emerged that the company will benefit from in the long-term.
Inefficient processes or disfunction among the team may have come to light. This, although likely adding to the feeling of being overwhelmed, was a chance to improve. During this time, poor performers may have been identified and it was a chance to either work with them to improve, or weed them out.
Examining your business with a different lens is always helpful to making necessary improvements that allow you to grow.
4. Spotlight on Supporting Local and Small
One wonderful thing that came out of this year was the focus on supporting small and local businesses. We at Precision Pages certainly appreciated that focus. It’s something that many people did previously, but the pandemic really made people aware of how tough their locally owned businesses had it, and understood there was the chance they would not survive. This created such a heart-warming call-to-action within communities. It became the norm for people to go out of their way to order from, or drive to, a local business, rather than order the same thing on Amazon or the like. Social media was awash with #shoplocal posts and municipalities did what they could to spread the word about what was available in their city, and even provided funding support in some cases.
With small businesses making up the unique fabric of our communities and the foundation of our country, this shift was great to see and one we hope is here to stay!
5. More Transparent and Personal Communications
In a year filled with Zoom calls that often included children, pets, roommates, and technology blunders, people became much more understanding in general. They also were more willing to share their personal lives. When happy hours among coworkers switched to virtual, some would introduce their family members, or share something about their house. Seeing our local newscasters broadcasting from their living rooms with their dogs interrupting them just made everyone more human, more flawed, and also, more accessible.
Brands picked up on this vibe and their communications followed suit. Now was the time for open, honest, and transparent communications to their customers. If their process had changed due to COVID restrictions, or their orders were delayed, gone were the canned, trite messages and emails, and in their place was the candid truth, along with an ask for grace and understanding.
Advertisements were paused, replaced with genuine messages surrounding health and well-being. This was a nice change of pace. While advertisements will never go away, what may remain is the more conversational tone that many brands took in 2020. And in a social distanced and quarantined world, human connection is the thing most needed.
As we look forward to the year turning over in a couple of weeks, Precision Pages is looking at how we have been changed by this year, and which changes we want to keep in place, for good. We want to better serve our customers and perhaps get back to basics in some ways. One thing is certain: none of us will ever be the same after 2020. How we handle the changes and grow our business is up to us, but we can choose to view the new ways of the world as an opportunity.