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How To Grow Your Business After COVID-19

business

How To Grow Your Business After COVID-19

COVID-19 has upset economic forecasts and forced many companies worldwide to rethink their business strategy plan for the future. Finding success during this unprecedented time has been a painful process for many companies. Although the pandemic has brought new hurdles to businesses across the globe, it has also created loads of opportunities for retailers. A change in consumer behavior means more people are turning to online marketplaces for their shopping, which has redefined the position of ecommerce and online businesses in the retail sector. But this positive trend isn’t an assurance for future success. You need to develop a plan that intends the growth of your ecommerce business, in a post-pandemic context. Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Revise Your Current Marketing Strategy

Assess your current messaging process to establish whether you’re relaying the right message and positioning your business in the right way to succeed after the pandemic. This step will help you identify and get rid of marketing materials that don’t resonate with the current economic and social situation. Shun sending emails, updating on social media, or engaging in any marketing campaign that may seem insensitive.

Adjust your brand’s messaging to be in line with the unique needs and demands of your customers. Your message should show to both existing and potential customers the value they’ll get from buying your products or services. Offer appropriate, concise, and meaningful communication. Be sure to address the COVID-19 impacts, and the steps that you’re taking to bounce back big time. If you’re thinking about marketing your products to overseas consumers, consider entering a strategic partnership with a professional globalization partner. Optimizing your Global PEO strategy will always benefit your business’s revenues and will help you smoothly navigate your workforce abroad right after the pandemic.

2. Provide Unparalleled Digital Customer Experience

In a rapidly expanding ecommerce landscape where many sellers are providing the same products and services, offering better digital customer experience can set your business apart from your competitors. Some of the things that can help you deliver unrivaled digital customer experience include a smart and user-friendly interface, excellent support, efficient payment options, and the right technology infrastructure.

Poor networks and lack of strong data protection measures can easily damage an otherwise well-built customer experience. Websites and payment portals with poor loading speeds will drive customers away. Consumers will also avoid companies that are vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. So laying a solid foundational infrastructure for your ecommerce business can help it grow in leaps and bounds in the future.

3. Optimize Your Website and Incorporate Live Chat

Ensure your website is as responsive as possible and accessible on a wide array of devices. Enhance your website’s speed and ensure it’s extremely easy to use no matter the device the user is using to view it. Around 48 percent of people use mobile devices to search for product information and to shop. On top of that, 47 percent of digital shoppers prefer a site with a load speed of below two seconds. Avoid driving leads to competitors by creating a highly responsive and user-friendly site.

When a consumer is gathering product information while shopping, they expect answers to their questions right away. If they can’t get a quick response, they’re likely to move on to another online store. Live chat is almost equivalent to in-store customer service due to its ability to bring the advantages of human interactions. It adds a human touch to digital shopping. Most importantly, it can be done remotely.

4. Build Reliable and Diversified Supply Chains

The pandemic has demonstrated that the global economy relies extremely on supply chains, which are susceptible to disruption. With the increasing attention to digital customer experiences, ecommerce and online businesses must invest time and effort into consistently delivering products to consumers if they want to survive after COVID-19. Supply chain interruption can result in shipping and manufacturing setbacks if a company lacks a flexible plan to address ongoing demand.

In addition to investing in excellent network uptime, ecommerce businesses should look for multiple options for obtaining materials and labor. The best way to do this is nurturing relationships with a variety of suppliers, all of whom should have the capacity to comply with the intricate compliance requirements of different sectors. A globalization partner can also connect you with the best local vendors who’ll help you reliably deliver your products to your global customers.

5. Prepare for Capacity Growth

Invest in adequate technology infrastructures, such as servers and bandwidth, to help you deal with more ecommerce traffic. Do a thorough review of your past performances, revised marketing strategy, and latest ecommerce trends to gauge the amount of traffic you’re likely to attract. This information will be important in a proper estimation of demand and building the right capacity to exploit it.

Adopting cloud computing can help your business provide the best digital customer experience and react to ecommerce trends rapidly. It’s easy to upscale or downscale cloud computing capacity to handle growing demand quickly and effectively. For better control and flexibility, you can invest in a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

6. Be Transparent with Pricing and Consider Lowering Delivery Charges

Post-COVID-19, customer loyalty will be extremely crucial for your company. Consumers share their experiences, both positive and negative, on social media, and review sites. Negative reviews can have a major negative impact on your profits margin. Avoid concealing extra fees or details that may come as an undesirable surprise during the final stages of finalizing a purchase.  Be transparent from the initial stages to keep customers pleased and loyal.

A large number of regular online shoppers end up making more purchases when shipping is free or considerably low. Lowering or doing away with delivery charges could result in a significant uptick in sales. If your current profit margins can’t accommodate this, consider value addition. You can give a discounted delivery on purchases exceeding a specific value.

Conclusion

The high ecommerce demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to become permanent even after brick-mortar stores resume operation, especially if it follows the normal trends of online shopping habits. Companies that adapt quickly will stand a better chance at growing their businesses and expanding their profit margins by exploiting this great opportunity. The above 6 tips will help them grow their businesses even in post-pandemic circumstances.

remote work

Should Companies Rush Headlong into Permanent Remote Work?

New research from Stanford shows 42% of US workers are working from home full-time. After a successful transition for COVID-19, more and more tech companies are allowing their employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future. Twitter recently announced that most of their employees may continue working remotely as long as they want to. And 4,000 Nationwide Insurance employees recently became permanent telecommuters.

The benefits of an all-remote workforce are considerable and fairly easy to measure. But are we losing something equally important by ditching the office and in-person work?

The four benefits of all-remote work

When real estate startup Culdesac announced they were giving up their San Francisco headquarters, co-founder Ryan Johnson tweeted: “Remote work is going great for us.” Google, Facebook, and Zillow recently told their employees that they could continue to work from home until 2021. Google recently abandoned more than two million square feet of planned office space. “Our bias against working from home has been completely exploded,” Dan Spaulding, Zillow’s chief people officer, said. Zillow is “not seeing any discernible drop in productivity.”

Here are four reasons companies are ditching their offices for all-remote workforces.

1. Offices are expensive

According to commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield, companies have been pushing more workers into less office space for years. Packing everyone in came at the cost of minimizing distractions, which is consistently the top driver of employees’ ability to focus on their work.

Not only that, but until there’s an effective treatment and/or vaccine, these uber-dense offices aren’t going to cut it. Spacious offices with thermometers, hand-sanitizer stations, phone sanitizer stations, new HVAC systems, touchless systems, and more they need to be safe are going to cost even more.

As we enter a COVID-led recession, Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, predicts that investors are going to insist that firms cut costs. Letting go of office space accomplishes this without cutting headcount.

2. Offices are distracting

Going all-remote not only saves companies money on office space, but also can lead to fewer distractions and more focus for workers.

A few stats:

–The average company sees a 10% to 43% increase in productivity after going all-remote.

–In a recent survey, 54% of workers said their productivity had improved since working from home full-time.

–64% of workers said their work quality has improved.

3. Commutes are terrible

Americans spend 30 billion hours commuting every year. Long commutes are one of the main reasons workers say they want to work from home. Research shows longer commutes are associated with obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, back and neck pain, divorce, depression, death, political disengagement, poverty, absenteeism, lower productivity, and even pregnancy complications. Long commutes also exacerbate pollution and climate change.

4. Talent is distributed

Firms that hire remotely can access far more talent and may be able to offer lower salaries. Currently, Facebook is paying employees based on their geography’s cost of living. It may also make it easier for teams to meet their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals. For example, it’s easier to employ people with disabilities when you don’t have to worry about office accessibility. Companies with greater gender diversity are 15% more likely to be high performers, according to one study. Companies with greater ethnic diversity are 35% more likely.

Drawbacks to all-remote

Remote work isn’t without its drawbacks, including loneliness and boredom. In addition, we found that many workers are having more meetings and working longer hours after going remote. There’s evidence that full-time remote workers have a harder time problem solving and being creative than their in-office peers. Many contend that it’s easy to overlook the value of the spontaneous ideas and networking that in-person coworking facilitates.

“Many companies are jumping into ‘remote-first’ too head-on,” said Can Duruk, Product Manager and co-writer of The Margins newsletter. “Once people burn through the accrued social capital you will see productivity drop as relationships decay, new hires not gelling well, etc.”

Futurists have long predicted that as telecommuting became technically feasible, firms and workers would abandon high-cost cities. Research shows that physical co-location is still valuable enough to justify the rents.

One interesting criticism of all-remote teams is that trust and social capital are hard to establish and maintain over distance. As trust and social capital are measurably associated with higher performance, will we see performance dip as they erode?

“We are operating under the assumption things won’t deteriorate and we are making these sweeping changes without much data,” Can said.

More broadly, some fear that widespread adoption of the all-remote model will finally lead to the long-predicted de-urbanization. A move away from large cities would have negative impacts on the environment. Urbanites use less electricity, drive less, and spend about $200-$400 less on electricity each year compared with suburban dwellers.

Plus, people who live in cities have more access to health care, employment, and education.

Alternative models to all-on-site and all-remote work

Workers tend to be happiest and most productive when they have the freedom to live where they want and choose how to organize their time.

This is in line with a Gallup poll showing that just 40% of Americans who are currently working from home are excited to go back to working in their office full-time. Nearly 60% would prefer to work remotely “as much as possible” going forward.

Within a couple of years, Kate Lister from Global Workforce Analytics predicts that 30% of workers will work from home a few days per week.

“I’m partial to what Stripe is doing,” Can from The Margins said. “Treat remote as a hub to position it to succeed, ensure people are available in the same time zone. Seems gradual enough to be low-risk, discrete enough to measure and tangible enough to support.”

The major downside to the split-office model happens when some workers are working from home full-time. Those workers are going to have a different experience than workers who come into the office, even occasionally. Remote workers may have trouble establishing relationships, getting put on the right projects, and getting promoted.

“It’s important that we are conscious of this situation if we want our high performers, wherever they may be, to be recognized for their excellent work,” writes CIO Contributor Dan Mangot. “Similarly, we need to make sure that those who are struggling, get the support they need so they can continue to be valuable members of our organizations.”

Going forward

While the benefits of going all-in on remote work are considerable, it’s also worth considering the drawbacks. For many workers and many companies, a staggered or split-office approach may work best.

To learn how to transition some workers back into office work, check out 6 tips for transitioning into a split office setup.

office

Navigating the Dynamics of a Split Office

Experts are divided over when workers will get back to the office after COVID-19. Google is looking at June 1st at the earliest. A report from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University recommends holding out until August. But both Google and Harvard agree that the return should be staggered in order to protect workers.

The Harvard report recommends starting by letting 20% of at-home workers back into the office. Start with a few days per week and then expand to five days as testing ramps up.

Not only does working in shifts reduce office density, but it also prevents overcrowding on sidewalks and mass transit. But it also comes with challenges, including the fact that some workers will feel less connected to the rest of the company. Here are three tips for keeping workers safer, happier, and more productive as companies transition into a split office setup.

Don’t rush everyone back

While you may be tempted to get everyone you can into the office at least some of the time, that’s not really necessary.

“We may see some companies realize they can run their businesses effectively with a much smaller office and many people working largely from home,” said Elizabeth Brink, principal at global design and architecture firm Gensler. Dr. Anna Tavis, academic director of the Human Capital Management Department at the NYU School of Professional Studies also predicts that many people will continue working from home indefinitely. “We kind of assume that collaboration means physical presence in one place,” Tavis said. “But now we’ve learned that’s not the case.” Indeed, the average company sees a 10% to 43% increase in productivity after going fully remote. And in a recent survey, 54% of workers said their productivity had improved since working from home full-time and 64% said their work quality has improved.

Google won’t require workers with caretaking responsibilities or other special considerations to come into the office. You may also want to encourage workers who live with healthcare workers or “essential” workers to stay home. The Harvard report recommends bringing workers who have recently tested negative and show immunity in reliable antibody tests back into the office first.

Get everyone on the same page

Now is the ideal time to invest in project management software. If you wait until some people are back in the office, the drive to have everyone use it will be diminished since some employees will once again be able to walk over to a coworker’s desk to get a status update on an ongoing project.

Plus, project management software can help mitigate Zoom fatigue. Project management software serves as your team’s source of truth when it comes to each project’s updates, statuses, assignees, due dates, files, and more. Examples include Asana, Notion, Trello, Monday, and Basecamp. Pre-set notifications and reminders for due dates and changes mean you spend less time Slacking people about who’s doing what and more time making progress. Project management software that offers visibility into others’ schedules, tasks, and workloads can be especially helpful for partially remote teams.

You may not even need to invest in new software, but just better leverage what you already use.

“We found that it’s not so much about needing new tools but instead, leveraging existing tools to foster greater collaboration during quarantine,” Corporate Recruiter Lauren Munroe said about her team’s use of SharePoint and Microsoft Teams to collaborate on projects simultaneously since moving to WFH.

Get chatting

Speaking of Slack, if your team doesn’t already have a chat app, now’s the time! For similar reasons, you don’t want to wait until some teammates are able to talk things through in-person to encourage widespread adoption of chat.

Good chat software lets you send and thread instant messages to individuals and groups. It’s also nice to be able to search chats and snooze notifications. Other examples include Hangouts, Glip, and Twist. The ability to start a video call inside the chat app is nice, as is timezone awareness if your team is distributed. Some apps allow you to set your status so colleagues know when you’re busy or free, in a meeting, or it’s outside your work hours.

A chat app can also help you re-create some of what’s great about being in the office. After moving to WFH, Chief People Officer Meighan Newhouse created new chat channels for this purpose. “Water cooler” is for workers to check in and share updates. “Lock-down” is where they share relatable tales from quarantine. VP of People Carrie Pinkham added a “CEO,” “wellness,” and “family Fridays” channel. The last is “where employees post old and new pictures of loved ones, which seemed fitting during this time. We added new tools like Donut to pair employees for get-to-know-you chats,” Meighan said.

If you’re a Slack user, get the most out of it by syncing your Slack status with your Google Calendar.

Set up video conferencing

Speaking of video calls, video conferencing software is obviously a must. Chats and phone calls are great, but there’s nothing like seeing someone’s face in real-time. This becomes even more important when everyone is working from home. Video conferencing software makes the conversation a little bit more like you’re in the same room. Video conferencing software facilitates on-demand or pre-scheduled video conferencing among two or more people simultaneously. Generally, this software integrates with your calendar system and provides built-in screen sharing and chat functionality. Examples include Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. Facebook Messenger also recently got into the game with their Rooms product.

Since not everyone’s home internet is super fast, now’s a good time to choose video conferencing software that allows workers to call into the meeting toll-free from their phones.

Video conferencing is another good way to bring employees together for fun and camaraderie. At Clockwise we do lunch Zooms where our Office Manager Czar divides employees into smaller groups where we eat and catch up.

Share everyone’s status

It’s a good idea to have everyone, regardless of whether they’re working at home or in the office, set their working hours and add their WFH or OOO to their calendars. To easily share this information with a team, many workplaces have team calendars. Clockwise streamlines this process by adding everyone’s individual WFH or OOO to their team’s calendar automatically, so if someone forgets to update either their personal or shared calendar everyone is still on the same page.

Upgrade workers’ work from home setup

Especially since we don’t know how long some workers will have to continue working from home, it’s worth it to spend a little money to ensure they’re as productive as possible.

First, make sure everyone who’s still at home has the fastest internet possible. Have everyone measure their home internet connection speeds using services like fast.com or Speedtest. For more accurate results, the Verge recommends making sure your computer is connected to the right network instead of, for instance, your ISP’s lower-speed wireless hotspot. If workers’ speeds aren’t good, or they’re running out of data before running out of month, consider giving them some money to upgrade and/or invest in a mesh network or wifi extender. To save, check out COVID-19 deals from ISPs.

Then offer them a little money to upgrade their desk, chair, light, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. If they have that stuff at the office, let them bring it home. For example, Clockwise gave all employees $100 to buy a new chair at the start of WFH and let us bring anything we were using that we could carry home with us from the office.

Going forward

Staggering your comeback to the office can be a great way to balance the benefits of an in-office environment while still keeping employees reasonably safe. The trick is to make sure no one feels left out and everyone is able to work productively whether they’re home or at the office. Making sure you have the right technology and equipment makes all the difference.