Changes are coming quickly, somehow occurring for all of us at once, given the fact that our population is never more physically distant. It is a gloomy time.
Small businesses are among the groups most challenged by advent of COVID-19. Doors were locked, and some might not be reopening.
Yet these are some of the planet’s most resilient and creative people.
Whatever becomes the new normal, small business owners as we know it will be at the forefront of shaping life.
Below are some emerging patterns that I hope will hang around to help stoke the masters of naïveté.
1. Printed materials will face greater challenges
People have for decades predicted the downfall of printing. That is not the forecast here. Print remained a vital part of many Playbooks for small business marketing, even as digital and social networks took off.
The physical nature of a brochure that can be picked up and explored creates a visceral experience that has yet to replace digital content.
It is precisely this emotional dimension that will render printed materials even after we recover from the worst of the crisis more scrutinised.
The stack of doctor’s office brochures may start to seem unhygienic.
The hardest hit will be printed materials that are literally handed from one person to another — like business cards or certificates.
Objects viewed from afar, such as posters and signs, will have less effect.
For some forms of print output, Adobe Spark, a product that I help lead at Adobe, is already seeing drops in search demand by as much as 75 per cent.
2. Digital marketing will be the new way of promoting businesses
Brick-and – mortar small business owners are still hesitant to spend their tiny amount of free time using new resources or creating a positive campaign on social media.
Stay-at-home order has created both the time and the need for digital marketing to lean much heavier on.
Some might expect to stay at home to spend their time driving people to a full “Netflix and chill” approach.
In reality, there has been a surge of creative activity , especially around the production of videos, banners and other digital marketing material.
Spark’s demand for social content has risen by as much as 75 per cent in demand.
If grandma can learn to zoom in, small business owners can learn how to post to their story about Instagram.
3. Getting client’s email will be the mist effective form of contact
The abrupt complexity of this situation has made interacting with clients a challenge.
Business owners who had invested in building consumer email lists or direct contact strategies, such as social media groups, were in a much better position to sustain such relationships and control demand when new ways of providing their products or services came up.
Web pages, ecommerce, mailing lists, and loyalty services have been smart prior tactics, which will achieve much greater prominence.
We may also see growing interest in creating custom mobile apps and customizing them to create even tighter bonds.
4. Maintaining distance while working as a team
Staying in touch with customers is critical but they are not the only people you need from afar to communicate with.
Companies who already had ways to manage online work with their staff were in a stronger position to sustain operations than those that relied solely on face-to – face cooperation.
Videoconferencing was one of the clear beneficiaries since people from all walks of life are finding new ways to leverage the technology to stay connected. Yet discussions are time-consuming.
The wisest enterprises will benefit from remote collaborative platforms that allow employees to work asynchronously with one another.
The use of Slack and Microsoft Teams has seen drastic increases.
We have also seen an influx of new users in Spark who take advantage of the ability for businesses to set up their brand online and collaborate on branded digital content with others.
Many of these products can be used for free, and there is every reason to get set up with them now, given the likelihood that this situation may continue for a long time.
5. More sole proprietorship businesses
They can’t do every business remotely. Technology did not allow remote cleaning or massage services from the deck. That causes many people to explore alternative revenue sources.
At the same time we are seeing a tremendous increase in demand for remote experiences. People turn to on-line cooking and fitness classes.
They pick up a guitar, and take lessons online. They watch the concerts and events online.
The combination of talented people at home who need to make money and bored people at home looking to enrich themselves or amuse themselves is a formula for a booming micro-entrepreneurial community.
One person with a demanding skill can find an audience.
It may, or may not, surpass the earning capacity of everything the person has done before, but it will open the eyes of many people to new opportunities.
6. Creating value that will engender a subscription model
As micro-enterpreneurs find their place outside the systems that traditionally helped them get paid, they have a unique opportunity to set their own prices and create their own monetization mechanisms.
This has the ability to significantly destabilize the way we value certain types of work or online experience. It puts in the hands of individual creators, coaches, or experience-makers the power (and the responsibility).
By turning to subscription models and leaning to both live online experiences and asynchronous sources of income, savvy entrepreneurs could see greater income and stability.
This crisis creates a strong incentive to push past any hesitation and build an aspect of how to operate online.
Many small businesses would be required to have two business plans: one that works when social distancing orders are lifted, and one that they can turn on when individuals are told to stay home.
These do not have to be mutually exclusive.
The operating backup mode can act as a way to increase existing business, even though people are allowed to enter the store physically.