Small- and medium-sized businesses were impacted the most by the pandemic due to the financial fragility that the COVID-19 disruption put on businesses during the initial stages. Businesses had to adapt to changes quickly, and a lot of them couldn’t adapt due to the ever-changing restrictions put in place.
The impact, especially on small businesses (SMBs), was substantial, with almost 100,000 businesses that closed temporarily. Many eventually shut their doors for the last time. Restaurants, Salons, tattoo parlors, and daycare centers are among many businesses either closing or that already closed. Technology is helping many businesses, especially those who don’t have to deal directly with the public, overcome the current and potential future pandemics.
Which technologies are helping SMBs and medium-sized businesses recover?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the key technologies helping businesses combat COVID-19 and stay in business. AI has helped researchers and businesses understand the virus, slow it and respond to it.
From a business perspective, AI and big data can help businesses:
Businesses are also using AI to help with everything, from crop-monitoring to uncovering potential supply chain issues that may impact business operations. In the pharmaceutical sector, AI is also helping to increase the speed of research and treatment. With the addition of machine learning, these systems show a promising benefit to help fight against current and future pandemics. If your business isn’t using AI, it’s time to start. AI can help smooth out issues in your supply chain and help you make smarter business decisions.
Digital Outreach and Services to Customers
Customers are experiencing a rapid change in the way that traditional business is conducted. Digital adoption is on the rise, with estimates suggesting that business and consumer adoption has moved forward by five years. One major change is digital outreach, especially in the financial sector, where banks are leveraging fully remote teams that offer:
Medical professionals have shifted some of their operations to offer telemedicine. Flexible regulations are also assisting these small businesses, especially the smaller practices, navigate the world of telemedicine.
Online Ordering and Tracking Solutions
More businesses have implemented key ordering and tracking solutions to assist customers better. Grocery stores are a prime example of this, with many now offering full online ordering and delivery solutions. Some grocery stores are offering checkout-free solutions. Contact-less solutions are on the rise across multiple sectors but have been a major technology implementation in the restaurant industry. Many of which didn’t offer traditional delivery services, small mom and pop operations are now offering online ordering and to-go options.
Higher Focus on Analytics
Big data remains paramount, but analytics will truly be the driving force behind any change that this data offers. Businesses are using analytics to:
When using analytics, it’s possible to find other sources for supplies or work out logistics with suppliers to ensure that goods are delivered on time. Analytics can also be used to understand supply needs better and reduce excess inventory. Due to the fast-changing environment of the post-pandemic business world, these data sets are becoming an invaluable part of business operations.
Mobile Teams and Video Software
The office environment today looks a lot different than it did in 2019. Businesses are using Zoom and other video platforms for internal and external meetings. The shift to mobile teams has also allowed small-and-medium firms to put policies and technology in place to keep running teams fully remotely if desired. Remote teams offer the flexibility companies need while also reducing overhead.
Some of the world’s largest tech businesses, like Twitter, will allow employees to decide if they want to work in the office or remotely after the pandemic. Smaller businesses can also attract higher talent by offering this perk.
Forward-thinking companies will continue to offer many of these solutions to attract consumers and businesses. With new technology, AI, big data, and more, the SMBs of the future will better prepare for any uncertainties that the pandemic presents.
While the pandemic is responsible for massive closures, it has also helped surviving businesses offer better customer service and solutions that will last into the future.