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How Technology Is Keeping Small Businesses Alive During COVID-19

June 9, 2020 • April Miller

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is causing hardships all over the world. Many small business owners find themselves particularly vulnerable, especially if lockdowns and social distancing rules substantially disrupt their operations. Fortunately, small business technology solutions are helping many entrepreneurs keep their companies running smoothly. Maybe you’re already using some of them.

Data Analytics Platforms Offer New Insights

A recent report investigated how companies adjusted their use of technology since COVID-19. The results showed that small businesses — with 51 to 200 employees — surpassed larger ones in their use of data analytics. The research revealed that applying analytics to operations was the most popular use case for companies of that size, with 68% of respondents relying on data analytics for that purpose. 

The research also indicated that 55% of businesses of all sizes use data to increase efficiency. That could be important for streamlining processes and decreasing customer wait times, especially if companies have all or most employees working from home. 

Businesses Are Going Online

Before the pandemic, many small businesses did not feel the need to operate online. They may have lacked the resources to do it or felt that whatever they offer customers is not well-suited to the internet realm. 

However, as many local and national governments around the world enforced lockdowns and mandated that only essential businesses could keep running, enterprises realized that continuing to lack an online presence would significantly hinder their profits. A basic website, then, was typically preferable to not having one.  

eBay launched a program called Up & Running that allows small businesses without websites to sell things online for free. The bidding site recently announced some enhancements to the initiative’s offerings, and informed people it’ll remain available through July. 

Other companies have followed suit to help small businesses. Facebook recently launched a Shops feature that allows small businesses to open online stores. Similarly, Pinterest is spotlighting small, sustainable brands on its platform, and YouTube made a free video builder so that companies can make short clips to advertise what they offer. 

Some companies are also using their Facebook pages to announce service changes. In the case of a catering operation in Ireland, the enterprise posts a menu of meals for delivery each day, a service it did not offer to households before the pandemic. Since the business has a van it used to bring food to now-canceled events, it pivoted to provide a popular and appreciated service to people who want delicious meals without exerting effort in the kitchen. 

Cloud-Based Small Business Technology Solutions Embraced

Besides figuring out how to safely cater to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies also had to figure out how to manage team communications. May business owners found themselves in wholly new territory, especially with workers suddenly needing to get everything done from home. Tools that operate in the cloud, such as Zoom, Skype and Google Meet, help everyone stay in touch from their new work environments. 

Microsoft recently published coverage about how its tools assist small businesses. Some of the enterprises taking advantage of the brand’s products include a restaurant distribution company with 17 employees and a winery that formerly only had staff on site but shifted to let everyone work remotely. 

In addition to aiding small businesses by keeping people connected, cloud-based tools can ease isolation. Virtually everyone feels it these days, but it can especially affect people who have always worked alongside their peers in offices and enjoyed the sense of community. 

One survey from Slack polled thousands of people working from home. Some of them do it all the time, while others only started that option due to COVID-19. The results showed that remote workers using Slack felt less isolated, lonely and disconnected than people who did not have that tool.  Slack users reported productivity improvements, too. 

Even if some people find that working from home is not a major adjustment, many are dealing with other COVID-19-related stresses. They might be trying to meet deadlines while their toddlers play nearby because the local preschool closed temporarily. Workers could find themselves preoccupied with the well-being of both their parents, who are in a nursing home 100 miles away. Tools that function in the cloud support businesses, as well as the people who populate them.

Essential Tech Eases Burdens

Small businesses have plenty of concerns these days, and technology can’t address them all. What it can do is provide these enterprises with options that may have seemed out of reach before the pandemic struck. Then, with tech helping profits come in, business owners are better equipped to tackle other challenges. 

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