Whether you were ready or not, the COVID-19 pandemic most likely caused you to make changes to your business operations. Whether it was the introduction of new business practices, such as going online to sell your products, implementing new ways of raising your online visibility, introducing (and perfecting) remote working practices, 2020 was a transformative year.

So with the broad distribution of several vaccines looming in the next 6-9 months, one key question is whether these changes are here to stay?

Virtually all businesses that I’ve talked to say that the intend to keep the changes – at least partially. The work has been done; the training completed and the money spent. However, in the end it comes down to your customers.

And they will want more social interaction than what is available via online video conferencing. The coffee shops and the remaining restaurants will roar back to life. Tourism will come back with a huge roar. Tourism destinations will spend large amounts of money promoting their product. 

A recent (November 2020) study of small businesses in Canada that currently have a strong ecommerce presence (conducting more than 50% of sales online) indicated that 39% of the businesses were able to maintain or increase their revenue. Not surprising as 85% of consumers say that they now shop online.

But the surprise is that many small businesses are reluctant to go online – only 46% of SMB’s plan on selling online after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The growth of e-commerce during the past 9 months is undeniable, so why the hesitation to adopt it?

Our conversations with business owners indicate that many business owners over estimate the cost and complexity of e-commerce. e-commerce and digital automation may sound hard to do, but the good news is that plenty of businesses who have done it before and you can safely avoid the early adopter pitfalls.

If you are considering moving some of your sales online, be sure that you understanding your prospective customer online preferences. You have to provide a unique service or product that brings value to your consumer. And that means being creative.

For some larger businesses, an expansion of their current investment is already the norm. There are two digital automation trends that we have been tracking:

1. Retailer’s livestreaming
L’Oreal has recently made investments in “social commerce” – a form of e-commerce that allows consumers, influencers and their retail staffers to sell their products via live shopping or livestreaming. In effect, this allows them to instantly create digital stores on any social media platform.

With recent investments into AR (Augmented Reality), it’s not hard to visualise where this is going.

Walmart is testing the same through a recent investment with the video sharing platform TikTok. During the live stream, TikTok users will be able to purchase Walmart fashion product without navigating away from TikTok.

2. The rise of online commerce/banking
As the CEO of Shopify stated, that company is now implementing plans that they thought would be adopted in 2030. And there are numerous investments by larger companies in smaller payment and banking technology providers.

It seems that everyone wants to have their own banking functions. Most recently DoorDash and Stripe have or are preparing to offer banking functions. DoorDash, the food delivery app/service, will now offer their drivers a Business Prepaid Visa card and mobile banking app (as well as rewards).

The pending delivery of vaccines now allow small and medium business owners to consider the future, instead of reacting to the pandemic. We at ASC Creative contend that now is the time to start planning what your online future. 

Have a terrific holiday season and best wishes for a prosperous 2021.