As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis continues, people are focused on keeping their families and loved ones healthy and safe. In addition to these concerns, many small business owners are worried about the health and wellbeing of their companies. With a large number of people staying home and more than half of all U.S. adults shopping less at stores, over 80 percent of small business owners are “very worried” about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and half say their customer demand is declining.
In this dark economic picture, there are some rays of optimism. To deal with this severe downturn in customer traffic and sales, many small businesses are putting greater emphasis on their online marketing and eCommerce tactics to reach housebound Americans who suddenly have more free time and are spending more time online. In addition, other small businesses, positioned to offer sought-after solutions during this crisis, are thriving.
Here are some of the solutions-focused small business categories that are emerging and growing during the coronavirus pandemic and what you can learn from them.
Food Delivery Services
With an increasing number of customers spending the majority of their time at home, restaurants and grocery stores are seeking viable delivery options. Delivery services saw a dramatic increase in demand even before the coronavirus as people are placing more value on free time and convenience. Due to the current virus situation, delivery has gone from a convenience to a virtual necessity for restaurant and grocery patrons either unable or unwilling to leave their homes.
While some restaurants offer drive-through or curbside pickup service, delivery networks like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash® have seen a dramatic increase in business as small restaurants scramble to keep their ovens and grills on and customers well-fed. Similarly, grocery stores are contracting with services like Instacart and Shipt that allow consumers to shop from home, select grocery items online and have their purchases delivered, typically in a matter of hours.
This rising trend has greatly increased the need for delivery drivers and many people are taking on these opportunities as a “side hustle” to supplement their incomes. In addition, while the large delivery networks are popular, restaurant and grocery store owners often balk at delivery fees as high as 30 percent per order and small, independent delivery services have emerged as a growing force in the local restaurant landscape. Some restaurant and grocery store owners are working with these small “pop up” food delivery services that offer competitive delivery rates and simply need vehicles and smartphones to receive, coordinate and deliver orders.
Personal Wellbeing and Empowerment
As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout parts of the world, so does fear and anxiety. Nationwide, personal counselors are indicating their number of patients have doubled over the past few months and some are reporting they have quadrupled due to coronavirus concerns. To respond to this growing demand, many counselors are starting private practices and conducting virtual sessions with telecommunications resources like Zoom, Skype and JoinMe. The full-time online counselor category has grown by nearly 25 percent this year and shows no sign of slowing for the foreseeable future.
Some people who are housebound and suddenly have more time, are focusing on fitness. Many small gyms and workout facilities that have had to close their doors are keeping their members moving by offering live online classes and video libraries. The number of online personal trainers also continues to rise during the coronavirus crisis as customers are able to schedule appointments via text and online to participate in custom one-on-one workouts in real time on resources like Facetime and WhatsApp. Fitness industry professionals are predicting that the demand for online personal trainers will keep growing after the coronavirus subsides as people with busy schedules and little time find virtual workouts a healthy and valuable convenience.
As people are looking for ways to stay calm and focused during the current crisis, online meditation apps and resources have seen a surge in popularity. Headspace recently announced it is offering free premium services to all U.S. healthcare professionals through the end of 2020 to address rising levels of stress. In addition, online meditation guides – people who conduct virtual sessions with clients individually or as a group – are gaining in popularity as more people are seeking outlets for their anxiety levels.
Online Communications Resources
As more Americans work from home, popular collaboration apps like Zoom and Slack are leading the way for teleconference tools. However, apps like Friday, Brandlive and Bluescape, developed by smaller businesses, are also experiencing dramatic upticks in usage. It appears that the coronavirus crisis may go longer than originally anticipated and the demand is growing for more telecommunication services like these.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends contacting your local physician if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Although coronavirus tests are not yet widely available, many physicians at small medical practices across the country are using “telehealth” screenings – video calls that allow them to conduct an assessment with a patient to help determine if they have coronavirus symptoms and if so, next steps for treatment that may include a hospital visit or quarantine.
Small businesses are also developing apps like Immuntouch that constantly reminds you to wash your hands and not touch your face and Biofurmis, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify changes in a patient’s health. Healthcare experts are indicating that there is always a demand for online app and resource development and the coronavirus crisis is the latest example.
In addition, with an even greater shift from in-store buyers to online purchases, small businesses are focused on making sure their websites, eCommerce options and social media strategies are in place and ready to adapt to the ever-changing needs of today’s consumer. Times like these emphasize the importance of online marketing and its ability to keep your business accessible to customers in virtually any situation.
We’re all in a challenging situation right now and small businesses are no exception. Finding the right solutions during the crisis can help you expand your company or start a new one. While the coronavirus will pass, the efforts you make now could lead to a business opportunity with a bright future.