Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has had a major impact — and disruption — on businesses across the globe. Shutdowns have forced thousands of companies to find creative ways to continue to operate, and most of them have had to turn to e-commerce if at all possible.
Business travel is down 90% since companies are hosting meetings online with software programs like Skype and Zoom. Now that another pandemic surge has brought a new round of restrictions and lockdowns, businesses are facing the choice of going fully digital or going under.
Some firms have already gone partially digital by allowing employees to work from home a few days per week, but that may not be sufficient. Companies that hope to survive the next wave of shutdowns may have to go fully digital.
For operations in certain industries, going digital will be a challenge. For others, it's all but impossible. Firms that can't convert to digital with ease will be compelled to rethink and possibly revamp their entire business model.
Retail companies have the advantage
Businesses in the retail sector are mostly making the transition faster than those in other industries. That's because e-commerce has already been part of our daily lives for years, and it's not difficult to move from a brick-and-mortar storefront to an online shop.
The move is time-consuming and takes planning as well as some investment, but it's not difficult. By contrast, companies that have relied on in-person patronage to prosper aren't having such an easy time with the digital shift.
Personal services are struggling to go digital
Outfits that provide services that entail a physical presence can't go fully digital. For example, wellness centers that offer spa treatments, massage therapy, and infrared saunas can't provide their services online.
You won't get any benefit from stepping into a virtual sauna. The best these operations can do is offer online booking and possibly have their teams work remotely, which is unlikely to help them survive the next round of shutdowns.
What if going digital isn't an option?
Firms that can't go digital aren't left with many options. They may need to alter their services and business model, at least for the time being.
One way a business with in-person services can survive the next shutdown is to reinvent itself as an informational outlet. Business owners who love their industry probably won't like the idea, but it's a matter of survival at this point.
To switch to an informational service, a business would have to position itself as an expert in its industry and share information, guides, help, and tips online. The staff might even try to write with an aim toward producing a book.
For example, if a massage therapist can't provide actual hands-on care, he or she could write a book to share stories about how people have been helped by the business over the years.
Is your business making a digital transition?
If you're committed to transitioning your business to a digital presence, you're about to reap the many benefits, including productivity, security, and agility. Fortunately, plenty of tools are available to support the move.
4 Tools to help your business transition to a fully digital presence
The following are essential for every firm that looks to shift into a digital operation.
- A company intranet. Remote employees need a central virtual space where they can access company files, communicate, check on tasks, comment on projects, and perform any other required tasks.
Just like a company intranet accessible from a physical office, you can create one for remote employees that's accessible from anywhere.
- A company IT security policy. When workers gain access to the company network from their homes and public spaces, you need a strong IT security policy to thwart potential cyberattacks.
- High-tech cybersecurity software. Chances are, you'll be using the cloud for data storage at minimum. You'll probably be resorting to cloud-based apps as well. Regardless of what you use, you need high-tech cybersecurity software to protect your cloud environment. You need a next-generation firewall along with security software that can detect, quarantine, and block threats automatically.
- Social media. Social media is a small business's best defense against COVID-19 shutdowns. Your social media fan base is potential revenue. If your firm isn't on social media, you're forgoing the opportunity to generate sales and strengthen your reputation with existing customers.
Transition to digital quickly — time is running out
If you're moving to a digital presence, time is of the essence. Don't wait until the next round of shutdowns to launch your e-commerce website. Get it done today so people know your site exists by the time the shutdowns are in full effect.
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