Small Business Trendsarticle

How Businesses Can Pivot Online During COVID-19

How do you keep strong connections with customers that you can’t see in person anymore?

Brick-and-mortar businesses have faced some of the biggest challenges during COVID-19. Without walk-in business – and the connections that come from talking to someone in person – many brick-and-mortar businesses have struggled to survive.

And it’s not just physical businesses who are struggling. Many eCommerce businesses also host in-person events to keep in touch with customers. The bottom line is that every business has to pivot to varying degrees during COVID-19. It can feel impossible, but there are ways to adapt.

Here’s how 4 businesses like yours are moving online during COVID-19 – and how you can too.

Business tips during COVID-19

In the time of COVID-19, it’s all about virtual reach. Businesses all over are finding ways to stay connected with their customers after losing the ability to greet walk-in guests or host events.

Some businesses have been able to pivot online during COVID-19 – and offer their customers content and new opportunities to stay engaged.

You can learn from their successes:

  • Start a newsletter (like Lost Lake Tiki)
  • Introduce new ways for people to do what they love with your business (like CARA)
  • Let your audience attend your event from home (like Whistleblower Gallery and Tula Yoga)

Start a newsletter (like Lost Lake Tiki)

Bars and restaurants rely on customers coming through their doors to stay afloat.

Increasing takeout business is one way people have tried to adapt. But many customers may tighten their purse strings during an uncertain time. Even if you can’t sell to customers directly, you need to make sure they remember you – so that you have customers waiting for when you can serve them again.

Businesses who haven’t been able to carry on with a physical offer still need ways to stay afloat, pay employees, and keep bills under control. A newsletter is a great way to help your business with fundraising efforts and also deliver fun, relevant content.

Lost Lake, a popular tropical cocktail bar in Chicago, included their fundraising efforts in their newsletter via popular fundraiser platform GoFundMe. A fundraiser can seem daunting — no one wants to have to ask for help. But fundraisers can be a crucial channel to connect with your customers.

On their GoFundMe page, they offered patrons a way to stay connected to the business while also helping out its staff:

“If you would like to have a little Lost Lake in your living room, we have a proposition for you: Slide us a virtual tip here, and we will sign you up for our brand new quarantine-friendly newsletter! A twice-weekly delivery straight to your inbox with cocktails to make at home, recipes from our kitchen, Q+As with Lost Lakers, and maybe even a crossword. Every cent will go directly to Lost Lakers.”

When people sign up for the special quarantine newsletter, they get access to cool content like cocktail recipes.

By emailing out content like coveted cocktail and food recipes, along with much-needed entertainment during social distancing, Lost Lake has found a way to keep customers paying attention to their business.

Introduce new ways for people to do what they love with your business

When your business is entirely people-based, what do you do when you can’t be around people anymore?

That’s a challenge that the Chicago Area Runners Association faced when COVID-19 hit.

The Chicago Area Runners Association, CARA, is a non-profit organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community. Founded in 1978, CARA is the third-largest local community of runners in America, with over 10,000 members.

CARA provides accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, and be social together — which are all harder to do when everyone is social distancing. So what does a business do to survive when their entire premise is people running together in social, close-proximity groups?

Even though CARA halted events like their weekly 1 Mile and 5K runs, they still found a way to keep the spirit of their organization alive amongst their running crews – and spread awareness about social distancing.

Instead of hosting events that bring everyone together in person, CARA created a way for everyone to still do what they loved with each other from a safe distance – and organized the whole thing online. CARA started a Social Distance Run series. Running aficionados are able to practice safe social distancing while engaging in a community activity that they love over a series of runs where every participant’s community interaction is virtual.

To make the pivot from a close, in-person community to a virtual, socially-distant one, CARA used an email campaign, a new landing page, online contests, and social media to promote their virtual event.

Runners submitted their running times to earn raffle entries for prizes as well as tagged the sponsor partners in social media posts to show their participation and support.

In the end, everyone gets the support they need. Oh, and you get a pretty sweet t-shirt for signing up for the run.

Let your audience attend your event from home (like Whistleblower Gallery and Tula Yoga)

Whistleblower Gallery and Tula Yoga are two substantially different businesses – one a former tattoo parlor-turned British contemporary art gallery and the other a yoga studio. Both rely heavily on in-person visits to sustain their business, but COVID safety concerns closed their doors.

After some thought, Whistleblower Gallery realized that a planned gallery opening could go on — with an Instagram Live broadcast. Now, people across the entire world can attend the opening.

Along a similar train of thought, Tula Yoga provided live-streamed yoga classes.

COVID-19 has a long-lasting impact on every physical business – and it’s hard to know when many of them can move out of survival mode. But now is the time to get creative and figure out how you can support your customers while they support you.

Whatever outlets you choose to explore for your business, your customers want to hear from you. Everyone is wondering what will happen to their favorite businesses, and you can help by letting them know what’s next for you. Now isn’t the time to stop talking to your customers.


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