The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives, but new ways of living and working have been adopted and the economy has started moving again. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistic (ONS) showed the UK Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.6% in July 2020, the third consecutive monthly increase.
However, it has still only recovered just over half of the lost output caused by the coronavirus and despite businesses and workplaces reopening across the UK, fears are growing that with many people still working from home, productivity will begin to fall. This means it could take a considerable time for towns and cities across the country to bounce back from the impact of the virus.
With more local lockdowns being imposed and restrictions likely to be in place for the foreseeable future, how can businesses adapt to the new normal, and thrive against a COVID backdrop?
The impact of COVID-19 on SMEs
The coronavirus pandemic has affected all areas of our personal and working lives, but without doubt small to medium enterprises (SMEs) have been amongst the worst hit. Whilst many have been able to take advantage of the government’s support schemes; such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBILS) or furlough scheme, many are still facing a challenging period.
The immediate pressures caused by the UK’s lockdown were huge, with millions of businesses closing their doors and ceasing trading for a significant amount of time. However, for those that survived this period, it’s the long-term effects and impacts on consumer behaviours that they must now consider.
The actions that businesses take now will be what lay the foundations for future growth.
The steps SMEs must take now
SMEs have shown incredible resilience during this period, and many put this down to their ability to quickly pivot their businesses. From introducing home delivery services, to moving operations online, we’ve seen some fantastic examples of SMEs adapting during this period.
To ensure SMEs maximise their chances of thriving in the future, there are a number of steps businesses must take now if they haven’t already considered them:
Invest in technology
Often during challenging economic times businesses will reduce budgets and withdraw any ‘unnecessary’ spend. However, the reality of the current climate is that the world has shifted to online and investing in technology will be vital for future success. It will open up a host of new opportunities for your business and ensure you can continue offering your customers the best service.
For example, online retailers and e-commerce businesses should be investing in new websites, Point-of-Sale (POS) systems and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems in order to offer customers the best online shopping experience possible.
Develop an agile business model
The future still remains very uncertain and therefore it’s important that your business can adapt to any challenges that may present themselves. This means having the right processes in place to quickly and effectively adapt to change.
Making sure your team are trained and prepared for any outcome is key to having an agile business model. You’ll need staff who are able to quickly adapt and activate any necessary changes.
Put your customers first
During this time, it’s businesses who understand their customers and their needs that have successfully pivoted their operating models. By understanding this, you can ensure you provide services and products that give customers exactly what they want, and more importantly need.
As well as this, it’s important to build trust with your customers. According to research by Edelman, 62% of customers are loyal to brands they trust and with one of the top things people said makes a brand trustworthy being ‘It has always treated me and others well’ – it’s clear that putting your customers first is key.
Without doubt, customer-retention will be an important competitive differentiator following the pandemic and ensuring you have a customer-first business will help you in your future success.
If you’re a small or medium sized business looking for funding to boost your online visibility, invest in technology, train staff or provide a better customer experience, a Capify business loan could help – find out more here.