The roaring twenties haven’t exactly got off to the best of starts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have been put through the wringer, and then some. With any luck, none of us will have to worry about how to survive as a business during a pandemic ever again. But you can’t be too careful, so we thought we’d look at some of the ways you can keep the tills ringing the next time something unforeseen happens – from Click and Collect to selling online.
Do I need to plan as a business for the next pandemic?
COVID-19 has been described as a ‘once in a century event’, and if that turns out to be true, then sure, we won’t have to fret about managing a business during a pandemic. But no one has a crystal ball, and while we don’t want to predict any doom and gloom, some experts warn that the next global virus outbreak could arrive sooner than we think.
Most new diseases are passed from animals to humans, so as societies build more urban areas in wildlife habitats the risk of exposure increases. Couple this with the spread of those local viruses through ever-increasing global travel, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that that global lockdowns are a growing threat.
In recent memory, diseases like swine flu, SARS and bird flu have caused outbreaks among humans that may have spread even further, had the cards fallen differently. So, while none of us should be unduly alarmed about future global outbreaks, as business owners it doesn’t hurt to have a ‘What if?’ strategy in the back of our minds.
How to manage a business during a pandemic
As we’ve all discovered, no business is immune from the effects of a global outbreak, even if these events happen once in a blue moon. But the good news is there are things you can do – and even opportunities to explore – to help you survive and thrive as a business during a pandemic.
Online sales have long been on the increase, but COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the transition from the high street to cyberspace. Back in the pre-lockdown days of January 2020, internet sales represented 20.2% of total retail sales. Compare that to January 2021, when online sales rose to 36.3% of the total (source: ONS).
By selling online, you can reach a bigger market, engage with customers where they increasingly spend their time, and never have to sweat about the dreaded prospect of a shuttered shopfront during a viral outbreak.
Click and Collect
Selling online is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some businesses may wish to keep a high street presence but encourage pickups rather than deliveries, especially if the products are difficult to transport. Click and Collect means less money spent on fuel, less time racing around in a car (and the risk of breakdowns) and the chance to expand your customer base by offering a range of pick-up locations beyond your store.
For the customer, Click andCollect means they don’t have to wait at home for a delivery, and if they’re collecting in-store, they can get benefit from face-to-face customer service. It’s also a good pandemic survival strategy for businesses; in 2020, more than 80% of retail shops offered Click and Collect – a 32% increase from the previous year, according to Statista.
Global virus outbreaks are especially hard on businesses that place importance on their on-site presence, like restaurants with good customer service. By taking payments over the phone and offering a delivery service, you can serve your customers on their doorstep when they’re unable to see you in person.
You don’t even need to do all the heavy lifting yourself; courier services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats can help you reach more customers at speed. Setting up a delivery service is more complicated than it sounds, though; you’ll need to think about where the drivers will wait, which packaging to use, and hygiene standards when transporting products.
In a lockdown, we’re mostly restricted to the neighbourhoods where we live, and one silver lining is the opportunity for locals to get to know the businesses near their home. In hard times, many people value those businesses that go the extra mile to support the local community, or those hidden gems that simply don’t have the cash flow to survive a pandemic. Many much-loved businesses that were struggling under restrictions have been lifted up by local donations on websites like GoFundMe. Having a community ethos is both personally enriching, and could help your business stay on its feet when times are tough.
Can you get business insurance for pandemics?
The short answer is no – you can’t get business insurance for a pandemic. According to a letter from the Financial Conduct Authority to insurance industry bosses, most insurance policies “do not cover pandemics and therefore would have no obligation to pay out in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”. A small number of businesses may have insurance in place to protect them against the spread of disease on their premises, but often these policies cover very specific diseases, and not an unknown future virus (Source: ABI).
Get more support for your business
Running a business is both challenging and rewarding in good times and bad. Come rain or shine, the Tyl portal (available to Tyl customers) could help you take payments online and run your business remotely. For more resources to help you become an entrepreneur extraordinaire, check out these Tyl guides: