A man in a face mask and ball cap hands a box of groceries to a woman who also wears a face mask.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, prioritizing online sales and local distribution networks can be vital for riding out the pandemic. — Getty Images/kmatija

Whether you're a small business owner or a corporate giant, this year has undoubtedly forced you to adapt and rework your overall business plan. The pandemic has challenged businesses to meet consumer needs that change seemingly from week to week.

In reality, pandemic planning is just a way to build resilience in your organization. Here are a few pandemic-friendly business strategies that can prepare your company for the many waves of COVID-19 and beyond.

[Read more: Business Ideas That Will Emerge Out of the Pandemic]

Plan for remote work

It's impossible to predict when regular work schedules will resume, if ever. Don't run away from this reality. Address it, and plan to ensure your business won't suffer if you go back into lockdown.

By creating a thorough work-from-home strategy, you can avoid a glitch in productivity. Your plan should include ensuring everyone has the capabilities to work from home. Whether it's laptops, internet connections or access to online servers, spend some time making sure your company’s remote tools areas up-to-date as possible.

Companies like KPMG have dedicated their human resources teams to ensuring their pandemic policies align with public health recommendations. These companies confirmed they're ready to migrate to 100% virtual operations if required, while also accounting for employees’ sick leave or leave of absence to assist ill family members.

Integrate online and offline

If you're in retail or hospitality, your brick-and-mortar location probably experienced a drastic decrease in revenue. Instead of riding out the storm and hoping for a vaccine, shift your attention to online sales and embrace an omnichannel approach.

Consumer buying habits have shifted and by investing in an omnichannel presence, you can optimize a customer’s interaction with your business. Companies like Amazon and Whole Foods have developed distribution networks, taking full advantage of both online and offline networks. Even Starbucks has recently announced a strategy to integrate physical stores with a digital coffee experience.

Small businesses like Fort Orange General Store in New York have done this on a smaller scale. This shop has spent time ensuring its online presence is top-notch, funneling as much traffic as possible to its online store. Its online presence also includes an Instagram strategy focusing on regular IGTV live content and optimizing the "Swipe Up" feature wherever possible. With the introduction of a blog and a newsletter, the company’s new online community will continue well after the store reopens, serving its offline strategy simultaneously. By adjusting and adapting to the current circumstances, Fort Orange General Store addressed the short term with a long-term revenue stream.

[Read more: 6 Strategies to Build and Strengthen Your Brand Through the Pandemic and Beyond]

"We can and must shape our businesses so that they are resilient and less vulnerable."

John Gummer, Lord Deben, chairman of Sancroft

Leverage sales insights to meet customer needs

The economy may have changed, but this doesn't mean there aren't growth opportunities. The shift in lifestyle has created new markets and, with that, new sales prospects. RV sales have skyrocketed, with an increase of over 600% from last year. A purchase like this suggests a lifestyle change. So, companies like Omaze have shifted their strategy towards trendy "van life" prizes—turning insight into opportunity.

Companies need to shift their strategies to speak to consumers' changing needs. Use this time as an opportunity to rework your business plan, identifying the options available to you. Take the new trends and see how you can optimize them to drive revenue for the foreseeable future.

Use future-proof sales channels

According to new research released by McKinsey & Company, digital interactions are now twice as meaningful as traditional sales. Many organizations have adapted by moving sales online and encouraging virtual interactions, but there's a long-term opportunity here. Businesses need to break out of the rigid ways of thinking and embrace what they've learned in the past few months.

"So to go back to the old ways of leading and managing businesses would be to assume that there will never be another traumatic shock. We can and must shape our businesses so that they are resilient and less vulnerable," says Lord Deben, chairman of sustainability consulting giant Sancroft.

Resilience means optimizing future-proof channels and embracing digital marketing, online sales, virtual learning and remote working. Moving with the times, preparing for the unknown and adopting a hybrid approach to business will stand you in good stead.

Expand your niche

Not only is digitization future-proof, but it provides scope for niche businesses to expand their markets. If you're a store owner who has just opened online shopping, think how much you've already increased your customer reach.

Take VIPKid, a Chinese company that links English teachers to children. By switching from physical to online, the company saw the opportunity to expand well beyond China's borders, reaching teachers and students globally. The same goes for businesses like Bookshop.org and My Local Token. With increased reach comes increased opportunity.


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Published November 05, 2020