The Business Inside: Small Businesses Shifting to Online Platforms Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

In March 2020, millions of business owners across the nation had to shutter their stores for two months as India imposed the lockdown to keep pandemic in check. No one thought how they are going to make a comeback after the lockdown gets lifted. The business owners who were already using e-commerce platforms to run their businesses were still in safe hands. They started working on online business methods to make up for the losses they suffer during COVID-19 lockdown.

COVID-19-Impact-On-Business
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

There’s a saying, “When in a dire situation, one will come with a solution he never thought before.” This statement fits here. When the lockdown got lifted, the world witnessed a huge climb in online business opportunities as small and medium scale businesses started to adopt e-commerce platforms.

The Cause

Before continuing with the topic, let’s look into some of the causes that accelerated the sudden online shift:

  • We all know the main reason, that’s coronavirus pandemic. Consumers are scared of going outside for shopping as the virus spread from touching. Due to this, more and more people started shopping online, whether it’s a grocery item, electronics, vegetables, etc..
  • Digital business is the future: It is not the new concept. Amazon, Flipkart, Alibaba, they all are eCommerce giants that provide retailers, small-medium business owners, etc. an opportunity to widen their customer base. Those who are shifting now to such platforms might be late right now, but it’s a great opportunity too.
  • It’s important not to gather too much crowd in the market place to maintain social distancing. Seeing this, the local store owners have to adapt the means that allow them to collect local online orders, schedule home delivery, and collect payments online.
  • Everyone desires profit: Conducting business with traditional means is not an option anymore. Consumers are looking for new ways of shopping from their comfort place. And the one’s taking advantage of this situation are online business owners. Most of the businesses are running discount programs, ad campaigns, adopting new technology to increase sales and profit.

Millions of online consumers have changed their behavior in this pandemic to opt for more convenience and time-saving methods. It has put a considerable strain on online retailers and e-commerce today. As a business owner, how you will react right now will shape your future online business and eCommerce. You have to turn your occasional customers into loyal ones. The behavioral changes are already reshaping the retailing landscape.

Some Tips to transition your business

It is a good time to act right now. The big companies have started to take timely action to capture the market share and overcome the crisis. Following are some of the recommendations you can consider to respond to new business reality:

Invest in Digital Marketing Methods

Adopt digital channels and media to promote your business. Invest in paid and organic marketing campaigns. It will help you to generate more leads. If you don’t know to invest competitively, find a digital market place that suits you best. More importantly, you have to generate appropriate marketing messages during and post the COVID-19 pandemic era.

Upgrade your technological platforms

Use the integrated software solutions to streamline your business process. Cloud technology would be very helpful in this matter. Your software should allow the integration of e-commerce or other online business platforms, gives you real-time access to inventory, generate real-time reports, and keep tabs of other business activities. Try to invest in advanced analytic capabilities that ensure personal, automated, and timely customer recommendations and interactions across devices.

Adopt a digital business model

It’s time to shift from a traditional business model to a digital one. It is necessary to make sure that your sales channels, profit models, and customer services remain valid according to the current business scenario. Having a cloud-based ERP model will give you real-time insights into your business operations, keep inventory level up-to-date, manage online orders and payments, etc.. It’s the right time to create a digital market place, implement a subscription-based model, or develop a click-n-collect universe that can help your business grow.

Enterprise-Resource-Planning-System

Improve customer experience

Cloud ERP systems with integrated CRM models should be your first choice right now. It will help you to understand your online consumer’s behavior, and provide them with adequate discount offers and schemes to create a delightful shopping experience. If you are running multiple stores, make sure that your ERP software allows you to integrated every store under one e-commerce platform.

Supply Chain & Demand Fulfillment

If you want to address strong product availability, then start by making supply-chain customer-centric. In return, it will deliver fast last-mile delivery, easy returns, flexible warehousing, auto-replenishment models, and logistics partnerships for better profitability. Understanding the consumer’s demand is necessary right now. It gives you insights regarding current marketing trends and how your business can address them. Having an ERP system with supply chain capabilities can help you in this regard.

Gopal Pillai, VP, seller services at Amazon India, told BloombergQuint, “In India, the online retailers also started registrations in Hindi to make it easier for business in ruler or remote areas to shift online.” Amazon is already implementing local programs to onboard more small and medium scale businesses. It will increase the visibility of the platforms in the post-COVID-19 era. 

Using Facebook and Instagram to promote your store or business is another method. Many small businesses have already increased their social media presence during the lockdown. Various ERP software providers also launched their mobile apps to enable local stores to take their business online. In the apparel industry, digital influence jumped 55-60% during COVID-19 as compared to 45-50% earlier. For mobile users, it rose to 70% from 50-55% before the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus is reshaping the e-commerce and online business. Those who will take full advantage of this situation have the chance to survive in the post-COVID-19 era. As a business owner, you need to strengthen your brand equity, shifting sales channels online, and adopt technologies to support workplace and operational continuity. 

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