As nearly three billion people across the globe go on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with experts predicting that as many as 20% of Western retail locations will remain closed after the outbreak subsides, organizations are scrambling to reassess and adapt their business strategies to stay afloat.
Much of the focus of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), along with more traditional brick and mortar retailers, is on digital transformation, the use of novel and rapidly changing technologies to solve problems within organizations and industries.
For companies struggling to move their businesses online and digitalize their operations, here are some suggestions to start.
Enable Remote Work, Fast
As societies around the world begin to test the waters with the re-opening of businesses and public places for their populations, it remains uncertain whether the loosening of restrictions will last in the long-term before the world receives a tested vaccine for COVID-19.
This uncertainty is leading to conversations in the industry about more long-term remote work strategies. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently announced that remote work would be available indefinitely to all of the company’s 4,000 employees.
A recent poll revealed that 57% of United States SMBs said they’ll continue remote work long-term after the outbreak.
Even some Chinese firms, which have historically been hesitant to adopt remote work policies, have admitted seeing worker production increase during at-home quarantine.
Companies who haven’t already should implement remote work technology now — whether by contacting their IT services, or by doing it themselves.
It isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Back in March, Italian IT consultant Simone Merlini told Reuters that he’d spent all night preparing for an entire team at a small business to work online the next day.
For entrepreneurs doing this alone, individuals can bring their teams online quickly by utilizing free features for communication, in addition to collaboration tools from companies like Microsoft, Zoom, and Google.
Getting over the initial shock of moving your workforce remote is the biggest hurdle. Once your team has met regularly throughout the week on online communications platforms, a sense of normalcy will begin to return to the workplace.
Create Products or Procurement Channels That Are Strictly Digital
COVID-19 is forcing some traditional businesses online for the first time ever. Businesses that once relied on foot traffic to storefronts or restaurants are now leaping into the world wide web to attract a new customer base, and reconnect with old regulars.
And some are doing it at breakneck speed.
For example, London-based specialty foods seller First Choice, which sells its gourmet goods to fine restaurants and hotels, was able to move online in just 24 hours with the help of an outside marketing firm and WooCommerce, an open-source e-commerce that enables online selling.
As more of the world’s consumers move online to make purchases due to lockdowns, e-commerce platforms are offering retailers discounts and other help to bring businesses online.
Shopify, one of the largest e-commerce platforms, has extended its free trial to 90 days and Magento Commerce, the e-commerce platform that powers over 100,000 stores, is offering three free months to retailers. In 2019 over $155 billion worth of goods were sold through Magento-based systems.
Businesses in other traditional industries are also leveraging low-cost, high-performance technologies to speed up their digital transformations and better help them reach customers online.
Doctors and nutritionists are taking advantage of telemedicine platforms to make “house calls” with patients, trainers are using video conferencing platforms to turn living rooms into guided fitness studio sessions, and teachers are planning, executing and grading lessons online.
Digital Transformation: A Defining Factor
During times of uncertainty, it may be hard to step back and recognize that throughout history, business has evolved. Just as new innovations give way to different models and products, so too do outside stressors on markets.
When faced with an unexpected catastrophe such as the COVID-19 pandemic, markets will change, businesses will adapt, and we will move on.
I believe that digital transformation will be a defining factor in enterprise success in a post-COVID-19 economy, and hope these tips will help businesses start these journeys.
Sergio Granada is the CTO of Talos Digital
Disclosure: This story is brought to you through an ESPACIO portfolio company.