Easy ways technology can sustain SMEs during and after the pandemic
Tue 21 Apr 2020 | Dr Elaine Garcia
With most of the world in lockdown due to COVID-19, it is certainly a difficult time for businesses, and particularly for SMEs and sole traders. While managers and owners might feel somewhat paralysed due to the closure of all but essential shops and services, there are ways in which technology can enable businesses to try to keep operating at present and will be able to assist when the lockdown is over.
With all but essential businesses currently unable to operate in a face to face environment, the internet can provide a great way for companies to continue to publicise their business and even sell their products. If a business does not already have a web presence, now might be the time to consider creating a website and, where possible, incorporate a web-based shop to allow customers to continue to order products and services. Depending on the type of business, this may be something which can be sent through the post immediately or it could be something which customers could order for a later date.
Even for those businesses that already have a website, now might be a good time to revise or revamp it. The current situation provides an opportunity for business owners or managers to learn more about how to incorporate new and different features to engage with customers more easily.
A similar approach can be adopted with social media. Social media can be a great way to connect with customers and, particularly at this time, to build relationships with existing and potential new customers. This will also help to raise the profile of your business once the lockdown is over.
Another strategy is for businesses to consider whether any of their current processes could be streamlined using available technology. For example, accounting software can allow a business to record costs and send invoices easily, without the need for paper records. If a company is currently experiencing a downturn, it could start moving records to electronic systems now, allowing for time to be saved when able to operate normally again.
When the lockdown is over, and we return to ‘business as usual’, it is likely that the world is not going to be the same as it has been. Finances may be tight and customers may have adopted new and different approaches to work and shopping. At this point, technology may again prove beneficial for businesses.
On the other side of this crisis, companies will most likely need to promote and raise awareness of their business as much as possible. Once again, using the web and social media can be a great and relatively affordable way in which to do this. Highlighting products and providing user reviews can help to keep users engaged and interested in your business.
Aside from advertising, technology can also be used in other ways. Businesses can, for example, use elements of big data and analytics in order to be able to track trends and discover how to become more attractive to consumers. Such trends can also allow businesses to identify new products or services that may be of interest to customers.
For those who might be concerned about finances following the pandemic, technology can also allow businesses to streamline processes. For example, a business may consider using some form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to respond to everyday customer queries.
Overall, whilst the world is in lockdown, it is possible for business owners and managers to use this time productively. They should consider how technology could enable their business to be more streamlined and efficient in the future, as well as continuing to interact with existing and potential customers at present.