As the world changes and people move indoors to stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses of all shapes and sizes have been faced with a decision: find a way to adapt to this temporary way of life or shut down entirely.
Although many non-essential businesses have shut down their brick-and-mortar locations, employers are still working hard to keep services alive and staff members employed. Businesses that are considered “essential” are still open during shelter-in-place orders, and they include:
- Supermarkets and grocery stores
- Big-box stores
- Convenience stores and discount stores
- Garbage collection
- Healthcare operations
- Daycare centers
- Hardware stores
- Gas stations and auto repair shops
- Post offices and shipping businesses
- Laundromats and dry cleaners
- Veterinary clinics and pet stores
If your business is not included in the list above, you will likely be required (or already have been required) to shut down your location. However, there are several strategies you can utilize to get creative and add new services or connect to customers in new ways.
Here are a few ways other small businesses are staying afloat amidst coronavirus.
Change up your hours
Grocery stores are in a unique position as they must stay open, but run the risk of having large crowds. New York-based chain DeCicco & Sons and San Francisco-based grocery store Gelson’s Market are reserving certain hours for immunocompromised customers and those over the age of 65 to reduce the risk for the two particularly vulnerable customer groups.
The alteration of hours means customers have enough room to practice social distancing while shopping for necessities.
Adapt your delivery and to-go tactics
Many businesses, restaurants, and delivery services are utilizing a “touchless” strategy for to-go and delivery orders to safely provide goods and services to customers.
Many businesses, like Inna Jam in Emeryville, California, are offering reduced or free shipping to encourage online orders and close their shop to protect both their employees and customers.
“INNA is a very small business—aside from me and my partner Jesse, we have three employees, who all have generous sick pay benefits and other paid time off benefits,” INNA Jam founder Dafna Kory said. “It’s important that our employees can rely on their paychecks during challenging times, and it’s important that if anyone is sick (or caring for someone who is sick) they stay home for as long as they need to in order to keep our community safe.”
DoorDash is also encouraging customers to use the delivery instruction feature on their app, which allows consumers to send a picture to the driver of where they want the food to be delivered by their door.
If you are currently offering to-go or delivery options, consider implementing this tactic by asking customers where they want their orders to be placed. This will help customers feel safe while still enabling them to support local businesses.
Offer your services online
Milwaukee-based business Farmhouse Paint and Sip, which usually hosts painting classes at their location, is using both no-contact delivery and a new online strategy to stay afloat in a creative way.
Instead of onsite sessions, the company is offering curbside pickups of art kits and they’re teaching the same classes virtually for free.
If you have a studio that normally teaches in-person classes, think of ways you can offer curbside resources to supplement the sessions, like yoga mats, cooking tools, or art kits.
Livestream classes are a growing trend in the new state of living, with restaurants participating as well. Seattle bakery Piroshky Piroshky is not only livestreaming from their own business, but also partnering with local establishment Pike Place Chowder.
They’re maintaining an active sense of community by creating joint videos and offering new delivery combinations that weren’t previously available—like pastries and clam chowder. Teaming up with other local businesses that are struggling is a good way to join forces and come up with new ways to serve customers.
Get creative to stay relevant
If you have the opportunity to create a new product that will help customers in this uncertain time, do it. Several distilleries, for example, have done their part to decrease the hand sanitizer shortage by crafting their very own “brew” from their own alcohol.
“We are a community of huggers and hand shakers and we want to do our part to keep that warmth around but in as safe a manner as possible,” the company said on Facebook. “While washing hands with soap and water remains the best solution, we hope the sanitizer will help when that is not possible.”
While Moonrise Distillery is offering their hand sanitizer at no charge, there’s no harm in using your new product to keep your business going.
If you’re a retail store, consider revamping some of your existing offerings to cater to those working from home, like comfy clothes or toys to keep children (and pets!) happy during work hours.
If you run a restaurant, offer “freezer-friendly” meals such as casseroles and soups that families can store for a later date.
If you can find a way to adapt to a world of social distancing and help your employees and customers get through these tough times, so will your business.