Preserving Humanity With Tech in Our Rapidly Changing World: Part 1

Small Businesses Face their E-Commerce Awakening

Ted Cran
Ted Cran
Apr 16, 2020 · 4 min read

Like it or not, COVID-19 has arrived and looks like it is set to stick around for a while. Never before have governments, businesses, families, and people had to pivot our way of life so drastically and so quickly. But even though social distancing is keeping us physically apart, we continue to find new ways to connect, to collaborate, and to grow our connections.

After all, that’s human nature.

In this three-part series, I’ll be diving into the way technology is redefining the way we run our businesses and foster personal relationships during this tumultuous time.

Small businesses face their E-Commerce awakening

We all have those local shops we love- our coffee house, our corner store, the brewery down the block, and all the other particular small businesses we like to support. These businesses generally thrive because of local foot traffic, instead of a booming digital presence.

But in this age of COVID-19, many small businesses have had to shut their doors, and their customers have made the switch to online shopping instead. It may be the first time these customers realize just how cheap, convenient, and safe buying online really is. And you can bet that after things get back to our ‘new normal’, these same customers are going to expect that they should be able to buy what they need from businesses of every size online.

Online shopping isn’t exactly a new business model (perhaps you’ve heard of a small Seattle retailer named Amazon?), but we’re now entering a new territory of unprecedented growth in e-commerce. That leaves the mom-and-pop shops facing a new set of challenges.

All of a sudden, the local butcher, grocer, florist, and coffee shop need to improve their digital presence, quickly. These small retailers have been suffering more than bigger shops during this pandemic due to the hyper-local, in-store nature of their businesses. Adding to this, they typically don’t have an existing foundation in place to support online purchasing and delivery.

There are also consequences for the consumer. These small shops have a big effect on keeping neighbourhood culture alive- one that has a quantifiable benefit for local community members. That’s something everyone is missing out on right now- individual and business owners alike.

In the meantime, there are some inexpensive blanket solutions available to small businesses looking to join the digital marketplace- think ChowNow, Shopify, and Etsy. But these are one-size-fits-all offerings that won’t necessarily match the needs and brands of many local shops. There are also generational hurdles to overcome. Many senior-owned mom and pop local businesses might find themselves at an extra disadvantage due to digital unfamiliarity.

That’s not to say we haven’t seen some great adaptations and innovations by our small business community in the face of the COVID crisis. One Vancouver florist has been bringing succulents to its customers on a flatbed truck. Customers can come out of their homes, pick which plants to take, unload them from the truck and then pay online. What a clever pivot- one that’s going to leave a lasting impression.

Photo by on Unsplash

But in order to survive this downturn and the challenges that are sure to come in the long run, small businesses need to redefine their business model, integrate disaster preparation plans ahead of time, and ramp up their contingency options as the most important components of their future strategic planning. Building strong e-commerce tools and branded digital products can amplify these efforts, giving small businesses a better chance of thriving in this new post-pandemic market.

Long term, sustainable implementation of new strategies is key here. After the 2008 financial crisis, many businesses had grand ambitions to be better prepared for the next disaster, intending to fix things for the future. However, many of these plans were never completed, and here they are again, unready for this turbulent economic time.

That’s why it’s so critical that businesses see these adaptations not as band-aids but as long term, core elements of their new business model.

Keep your eyes peeled next week for Part 2 of this 3 part series on how technology is keeping us connected in this age of COVID-19 and social distancing.

In the meantime, to get a jump on developing an e-commerce solution custom made for your business, sign up for a free one-hour consultation with Apply here.

Apply Digital

We make and market smart digital products.

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

Ted Cran

Written by

Ted Cran

Skiing, Digital Products, Marmite — in that order.

Apply Digital

Apply is a digital product studio with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York City. Informed by human insights and empirical data, Apply makes and markets apps, platforms, and brand experiences that are smart by nature and intuitive by design.

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