By Jennifer Flatow
There's an adage that says, "When the storms rage at sea, the fishermen repair their nets."
The storms are raging now as a rapacious virus holds our globe hostage. It's an unprecedented time. But, as we've learned from history, there will likely be a recovery from this epic crisis. The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and World Wars I and II have shown us that.
How can you prepare your business to come out stronger when things return to normal? How can you repair your nets? Make good use of this time by strengthening these technological tools, and in turn, your business.
Six Ways to Prepare Your Business for a Post Pandemic World
1. Improve Your Website User Experience
When customers visit you online, can they quickly find what they're looking for? Is it easy to contact you? Does your website provide a seamless purchasing experience?
The coronavirus pandemic has been the ultimate test for many brick-and-mortar merchants who've suddenly had to pivot to online sales in the face of restrictions placed on in-person shopping.
One local business, a wine merchant, boasts a large selection but their website features only a fraction of their inventory. It's also confusing to navigate and doesn't show product images. The shop's curbside pickup and delivery orders have skyrocketed during the coronavirus crisis. But the staff has had to handle sales over the phone instead of being able to rely on ecommerce.
"We knew our website needed a lot of work. It's something we kind of put on the back burner, so we were caught off guard," said a store representative.
If you're a retailer or service business - consider how you can provide your users with the best digital experience:
- Is your ecommerce website mobile friendly?
- Does your photography and brand imagery give you a competitive edge?
- Is your web site's technology up to date?
- Are your customers able to purchase everything they normally would?
- Should you add a chat bot?
- Is it time to build an app?
Web design and technology trends change quickly. Whether you build a custom software feature, or purchase something off the shelf, now is the time to implement a design and feature refresh to maximize customer engagement and monetization.
2. Build Your Virtual Office
Plenty of businesses employed remote workers before COVID-19. But those who were behind the curve of the virtual office trend have found themselves scrambling to implement WFH (Work from Home) strategies to prevent distruption and stay productive.
Developing an effective and safe virtual work environment is not as simple as signing up for Zoom. In addition to beefing up security measures, working virtually requires new modes of team communication and employee training.
During the coronavirus crisis, we're partnering with the Rhode Island Governer's office to help small businesses implement the following reliable WFH tools:
- Firewall and VPN configuration
- Remote access software
- Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams
- Cloud storage and file sharing
- Video conferencing
- Electronic document signing
Many of these solutions require technical expertise to evaluate, set up securely, and learn to use. But they can be onboarded quickly. We're happy to help you put in place a suite of tools that fit your needs.
3. Fortify Your Cyber Security
Unfortunately, the latest technologies that make your business more productive and profitable also make it more vulnerable to cyberattacks. These are only becoming increasingly advanced and creative, and cybercriminals are exploiting these chaotic times. What’s at stake? Simply put, your data in the form of intellectual property, customer credit card numbers, employee personal information and more.
The list is long of things you can do to protect your data. The bottom line is, if you don’t have a cybersecurity strategy in place, we recommend you do this asap. Tactics should include:
- Use of firewall and VPN
- Enforcing a strong password policy
- Using a secure protocol for wireless networks
- Implementation of data backup and protection plan
- Updating all software and hardware systems
Work with an expert to manage IT security. Like insurance, it's too consequential to ignore, and depending on your industry - it's required by law.
4. Get SEO Healthy
Maybe you're already using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to learn how users are interacting with your site. Great. That’s one of the ways to check SEO health. Now is the time to work on improving it. Why? Because actions taken now to boost your SEO won’t increase web rankings right away. Google needs time – weeks to months – to crawl your site and propagate changes made.
Not sure if your site is SEO healthy? Consider an SEO audit to analyze technical aspects like sitemaps, server errors, meta data, accessibility, indexing and optimization.
Start improving your SEO now so there’s time for improvements to be implemented by the search engines. This will be reflected in your rankings when business picks up. Keep in mind, SEO is never “one and done.” Check SEO health and make tweaks regularly.
5. Leverage Marketing to Let Your Customers Know You're Open
Marketing strategies are indispensable for letting customers know how you’re adapting to their needs during a dramatically changing business climate. Are you a retailer now offering curbside pickup? A restaurant switching from dine-in to delivery? For some businesses, it may be important to re-set customer expectations in the wake of interrupted supply chains and shipping delays.
If you’ve been underutilizing them, now is the time to leverage key marketing channels and tools to keep your customers informed and your business churning:
- Website enhancements like popup messages and alert bars are a great way to make important announcements and keep customers up to date.
- When you consider that 99% of consumers check email daily, it’s not surprising that your customer email list is probably the most valuable marketing asset you own. Why? Because emails don’t compete with other messages and your audience is more engaged because they’ve already opted in to receive your message. Email marketing is a great channel for sales offers or to express customer appreciation. Be sure to include an unsubscribe link or options for recipients to tailor email frequency.
- If you rely on local business, it’s essential that you leverage the power of your Google My Business profile to communicate your location and current hours of operation. Your profile can be updated in real time to keep current with frequent changes.
- Social media advertising gives you unmatched audience targeting and immediacy. If you’re new to social media advertising, Facebook a great place to start since you can experiment for a relatively low cost to tweak your ads and figure out what works before investing more dollars. And Facebook ad tracking methods allow you to gauge which ads are cost-effective.
The bottom line is, you should be making it as easy as possible for your visitors to learn that you’re open for business and what to expect. Determine which platforms and tools are the best fit for you and optimize them to engage your audience.
6. Make Your Website Accessible
Now is a good time to analyze your website and remediate accessibility issues. Can your website be easily navigated by someone with a physical disability? Can your content be consumed by users with visual, hearing or speech impairments?
Disabled individuals use assistive technologies like screen readers when they visit websites. If your website isn't equipped with these tools, you're not engaging the audience of one billion disabled individuals with a spending power of $6 trillion. And your business may be subject to ADA lawsuits and complaints.
Fortunately, the ADA and W3C have published guidelines to help sites legally meet accessibility requirements. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need a design overhaul, but you’ll want to conduct an accessibility audit that includes user testing. In complying with ADA standards, you'll also improve your site's overall experience and satisfaction for all users - not just the disabled.
One of the silver linings of the current crisis is the push to innovate. To remain viable, businesses need to embrace technology more ably now than ever before. The good news is, leading edge solutions are available and Brave River is working uninterruptedly to help our clients quickly and affordably implement them. Contact us to learn how we can support you today.