5 Tips to Ensure Business Continuity during the COVID-19 Pandemic
June 4, 2020 –
Online behavior has been turned on its head as many people started working remotely and staying at home to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Being homebound means people have to rely on social media and other online tools as a way of connecting with coworkers, friends, and family. Sprout Social reports that the optimal time to post on social media for maximum engagement has changed because of more homebound people spending time on social media.
This change is also clear in consumer behavior. As stay-at-home orders persist, the way consumers approach purchases has also changed. In a report by Accenture, consumers are embracing ecommerce, shopping locally, limiting food wastage, and opting for sustainable options.
Under this shift to more conscious consumerism lies a deep worry about the economy. And this anxiety is not unfounded. The International Labour Organization (ILO) says there could be nearly 200 million job losses globally in the next 3 months. And many countries are already seeing a contraction in their economies as lockdown measures continue. Fitch Ratings expects the GDP to shrink by 7% in the Eurozone, 5.6% in the US, and 6.3% in the UK.
With the global economy in dire straits, it is more important than ever to ensure business continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Changing consumer behavior, economic anxiety, and a recession make business continuity hard, but it can be done.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure your business not only continues but thrives during the novel coronavirus crisis:
Cutting Operational Costs
The trick to cutting operational costs is to do so only where it is needed. It is tempting to get aggressive with reducing costs by firing workers and ending subscriptions to business tools willy-nilly. Taking this approach can come back to haunt you.
Ending subscriptions to business tools is one way to cut costs in the short term, but your company still needs to run properly and survive long term. Take the time to evaluate the tools important to the functioning of your business. Essential business tools that ensure the smooth running of your business like your team communication app, project management software, A/B testing tool, customer support software, etc. are the ones you should keep. Cut those nice-to-have tools that are not essential to daily business operations. You can save more money by replacing enterprise tools on your essential list with non-enterprise and more affordable options. For example, you can replace your expensive enterprise A/B testing tool with a more affordable option that offers the same features like Convert Experiences. This way you do not sacrifice operational efficiency trying to save money.
One of the major disadvantages of firing workers is that they leave with legacy knowledge. Training and onboarding a recent hire to replace them will take time. This will definitely affect your operational efficiency and send the wrong signal to your customers. Your company is more likely to survive the recession and pandemic if you take measured approaches like reducing hours and cutting pay according to a study from Harvard Business Review.
Strengthening Supply Chains
Businesses that source and sell products to consumers are in a tough spot as the pandemic has increased the pressure on existing supply chain structures. And this dicey situation is not going away soon. Strengthening and improving existing supply chains is the only way to ensure that retailers, ecommerce businesses and others keep running during the pandemic.
It makes sense to make sure that the supply chain all the way to the manufacturer has contingencies to ensure that supply is assured even if this pandemic is to last a long time.
To plan ahead and set up contingency plans, you need to visualize your supply chain from manufacturers to your customers. Digitizing your supply chain makes it easy to visualize. Supply chain visibility makes efficiency easy as you can identify areas that will be impacted (should a disruption occur) and implement steps to reduce this disruption. For example, visualizing your supply chain in its entirety enables you to pinpoint that a delay by a tier 2 supplier will affect your supply and you can work with your tier 1 supplier to find another tier 2 supplier and keep your supply chain running smoothly.
Expand your supplier network so you can source your products from multiple suppliers. When one supplier is facing issues, having other suppliers means you won’t run out of stock. While this can solve disruptions further up the chain, there are still issues around delivering to customers to resolve. Hiring more fulfillment agents like Amazon can also help resolve delivery problems as lockdowns continue in different places.
Properly Managing Partners
Strategic partnerships have enabled your business to grow in normal times. These partners will be key to ensuring your business continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It may be tempting to cancel contracts with your partners to save money. Before you do that, you need to think long term. Canceling contracts may affect your relationship with your partners.
Look at renegotiating contracts to make them more flexible and preserve your partnerships.
Another way to manage partners during this time is to send customers their way. If you have partners in an adjacent industry, you can send them customers interested in their products. For example, a travel booking company can send traffic and potential customers to partner museums hosting virtual tours during this pandemic.
And if your partners use your products or services, giving them a discount may help them keep business costs down at their end. This is also a win for your business as you get to keep a paying customer.
Ensuring Buyer and Stakeholder Confidence
The only way to thrive and survive the recession brought on by this pandemic is to give your buyers confidence. Anxieties are high about falling sick because of the Sar-Cov-2 virus and the economic situation. Customers are clinging to their money and scrutinizing purchases.
Your goal as a business should be to give both your customers and stakeholders confidence. For stakeholders, craft a plan that shows your current revenue standings with projections of revenue dropping by percentage and how your business will handle revenue loss should it happen. And the steps your company is currently taking to mitigate revenue loss. A concrete business continuity plan for this pandemic will bolster investor and stakeholder confidence.
Your customers require a different approach.
- Your messaging and content has to change to reflect current reality. Your content should be emphatic and geared towards helping your customers cope through the pandemic.
- Be transparent with customers about the issues your company is facing. Say there are delivery issues, let customers know before they call your customer care service, and tell them how you are fixing the problem. This level of transparency builds trust and confidence in your customers.
Changing Marketing Strategy
Since the pandemic has changed reality, your marketing strategy has to evolve too. Your customer’s reasons for purchasing your services or product may have changed with the coronavirus pandemic. This means your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) may need to change to account for customers’ current context.
Emarketer reports that 77% of consumers in a March survey wanted brands to inform customers about their usefulness in the current climate. Say you run an ecommerce store that sells products geared to women. Mother’s Day is a period where you make a lot of sales and run different promotions. But with stay-at-home orders in many places, it is not possible for customers who no longer live with their parents to hand-deliver Mother’s Day gifts. With this context in mind, your messaging can change to show that even while apart, your customers can still celebrate their mothers and make them feel loved. You can even offer free delivery for orders above $50, for example, in the week leading up to Mother’s day.
Evolving your marketing strategy to fit the changing needs of customers will ensure your business continues to thrive amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Ensuring business continuity during the Covid-19 crisis is of utmost importance. Put your customers first and instill confidence in your business practices. Rethink your marketing strategy by focusing on how you can help your customers. Reduce operational costs where it makes sense. And remember to carry your partners along.