The past two and a half years have been trying for Canadian small businesses. Entrepreneurs across the country have faced numerous challenges due to the coronavirus shutting down much of the economy. They’ve weathered lockdowns, supply-chain disruptions, soaring inflation rates, and government mandates. Although the times have been tough, the resilience of small business owners allowed many to innovate and adapt.
As the economy recovers and new opportunities begin to arise, we want to share the strategies that allowed some businesses to succeed despite the downfalls of the pandemic.
Investing in Digital Technologies
For many small business owners, having an online presence wasn’t a priority, nonetheless a necessity, before the pandemic. Since lockdowns forced many business owners to close their brick-and-mortar storefronts, innovative entrepreneurs leveraged digital technologies to tap into the ecommerce market, and pivoted their offerings to appeal to customers who were stuck inside due to lockdowns. With easy-to-use platforms like Amazon and Shopify, it has become much more convenient to start your own online business.
Adapting communication channels such as Zoom and Google Meet allowed for virtual meetings, classes, and workshops. During the pandemic many businesses and schools transitioned to using videoconferencing tools to host virtual classes, workshops, and webinars for their staff, students, or clients. Consider whether your business can offer its services virtually, and if not, think about creating a virtual product guide or an interactive website to entice customers.
Canadians want to keep the convenience of connecting with businesses online to continue past the pandemic. In fact, according to data from Ipsos, four in five (79%) of Canadians agree that they’d like the option to continue to shop or connect online with small businesses, even when in-person access fully re-opens (i.e. online fitness classes, retail, experiential learning classes, therapy, email orders, etc.)2 With so many people eager to continue using digital technologies to connect with small businesses, it is crucial that you leverage the tools which allow you to do so.
Exploring Fintech Solutions
While all small businesses improved their facility with digital set-ups during the pandemic, many took their operations one step further by exploring solutions enabled through financial technology (fintech).
Fintech offers traditional financial services through technology and software. Examples of fintech products and services include online banking, mobile payment apps, and decentralized finance (DeFi) tokens and protocols on blockchains like Ethereum.
The rise of fintech has steadily advanced over the last decade but was accelerated during the pandemic. Out of necessity many fintech innovations were made and more people explored how to invest, borrow, and transfer money and make data-driven financial decisions through mobile apps and online services. According to the Swiss Finance Institute, during the pandemic, the daily average rate of fintech app downloads increased from 29.2% to 32.8%.3
Many of our clients turned to our Driven Insights tool during the pandemic to overcome the challenges of managing cash flow, to forecast when they need capital, and to understand where their business had cash flow gaps. Entrepreneurs should continue to explore how fintech solutions can help establish, grow, and scale their businesses to ensure they are benefitting from the efficiency and power these technologies offer.
Adopting Hybrid Business Models
Thinking beyond the pandemic, many of the current ways small business owners are serving their customers will continue to be successful. Implementing models such as curbside pickup and ecommerce into the infrastructure of your business provides customers with the ease and convenience of making purchases through several options at their discretion. Indeed, according to data from Ipsos, four in five (78%) of Canadians agree they’d like businesses to continue to offer curbside pickup and delivery.2 With the majority of shoppers across the country in favour of businesses continuing to offer curbside pickup and delivery, it is clear that implementing such models into your business will accommodate more people, and lead to more sales.
Collaborating and Establishing New Partnerships
One of the ways some small business owners adapted to survive the pandemic was by partnering up or collaborating with other entrepreneurs, with incentives to shop local to support one-another. Strength in numbers has always been a powerful factor in the success of small businesses, but the pandemic heightened the need for entrepreneurs to lean on each other for support. Take for example, the CITYBOX, a collaboration of small business owners who were forced to innovate during the pandemic, who teamed-up to sell themed boxes with a variety of products sourced from local vendors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK. By teaming up, these owners made it easy for customers to support multiple small businesses simultaneously and provided participating entrepreneurs with more economic stability. To learn more about the CITYBOX venture visit: https://okcfox.com/news/coronavirus/local-retailers-launch-citybox-to-support-small-businesses
Collaborating or forming partnerships with other businesses provides entrepreneurs with various opportunities for growth. It has the potential to enhance your brand visibility, increase lead generation, and bring in more resources. Because of the effectiveness in cost savings, economic stability, and innovation, we expect this kind of collaboration to stick around long after the pandemic.
Small businesses are the unsung heroes of our communities and the Canadian economy as a whole, making up for 98 percent of all employer businesses across the country. The pandemic was a trying time for small business owners, but it also taught them valuable lessons about resilience and innovation. Entrepreneurs adapted to the changing environment and came up with effective new ways to serve their customers, which set a strong foundation for the future. We encourage you to take these suggestions under consideration for post-pandemic growth in your business. Time to succeed on your own terms!
1.Kriss, R. (2021, June 10). 4 small-business innovations that will outlast the pandemic. ABC News. Retrieved March 2022, from https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/small-business-innovations-outlast-pandemic-78192341
2.Simpson, S. (2021, September 27). Covid-19 has accelerated innovation in the small business ... Ipsos. Retrieved March 2022, fromhttps://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/news-polls/covid-19-accelerated-innovation-small-business-world
3. Sia Partners Staff(2021, April 12) Disruptive Fintech during the Covid 19 pandemic. Sia Partners. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.sia-partners.com/en/news-and-publications/from-our-experts/disruptive-fintech-during-covid-19-pandemic
Advice and research for Canadian small businesses from our expert team