Consumer habits have been steadily changing over the last few months, and the COVID-19 crisis has affected freelancers, and leisure and hospitality sectors to a greater degree than others.
As a freelancer or SME owner, you may be wondering just how you can solidify your place in the market now and in the future With behavioural changes occurring due to social distancing and forced closures, retail and hospitality industries have been hit particularly hard. Therefore, these businesses would be well-advised to adapt to these changes and alter their day-to-day behaviours.
With technology proving important to businesses looking to survive the coronavirus crisis, now is the time to future proof businesses, and give them the chance to rise from the ashes of COVID-19 stronger and better equipped.
Our Habits Are Changing
It’s clear that consumer habits are not what they once were. Whether you’re assessing shopping, business, or digital habits, each segment of customer behaviour has altered. With online shopping increasing exponentially and numerous businesses forced to close their physical doors to consumers, changing patterns in the market are undeniable.
As businesses reopen, it’s unlikely that consumers will adopt the same habits as they did previously. With social distancing still in place and fear of the virus remaining embedded in society, it’s unlikely that businesses or freelancers can operate under replicas of prior business models. If organisations wish to remain competitive and relevant, they’ll need to reassess their approach to business, establish new rules, and set in place ways to embrace the new workplace.
What Can Freelancers Do To Future-Proof?
As the freelance and gig economy has been largely put on hold during the coronavirus crisis, freelancers should aim to improve their service portfolio for when new opportunities arise.
Until we reach a ‘new normal’, freelancers should see this period as an opportunity to work on their business rather than sourcing direct work. Though this is a difficult reality to accept, creating a strong portfolio, improving your website, and ensuring that your services are as effective as possible will greatly improve your ability to future-proof.
In addition to this, freelancers should aim to learn new skills and improve content marketing during this period. SEO, social media and digital marketing have become more prevalent for those looking to succeed as freelancers and honing these skills will be invaluable during this period. Whether you’re learning the fundamentals of digital marketing or learning a skill through an online course (such as those offered by Udemy or The Open University), future-proofing during this period relies on learning and adapting for freelancers who will be facing a difficult barrier when searching for client work.
For freelancers to future-proof their businesses it’s key to reflect upon the changing market. Learning to adapt during a difficult period will always be a challenge, but sometimes pausing and reflecting on the global climate and focusing upon individual branding will do a world of good when it comes to future-proofing for freelancers.
What Can Hospitality & Retail Do To Future-Proof?
For retail industries embracing the power of technology and social media to create a strong brand presence will be key. During the crisis, an excellent way for retail and hospitality industries to look at future-proofing is to assess and evaluate their websites (or build a website if they don’t have one already!) and decide whether their online brand is strong.
In light of this, an excellent way for these sectors to stay relevant is for them to assess digital assets, fill in any gaps and experiment with social media in meaningful ways. Often working to connect with existing and potential customers, a strong online presence ensures that retail industries can function without the presence of physical customers.
With e-commerce surging during the coronavirus crisis, smaller, independent retailers should focus on online stores that are designed to optimise sales. As frustrations can arise with any online business, an excellent way to future-proof is to ensure that a physical address and customer service email address are clearly visible, so that customers will have peace of mind when ordering. In addition, you’ll want to make the checkout process as seamless as possible and be transparent with expected delivery times. As time passes, not only will these steps help retail businesses become future-proof but will lead to efficiency within the sector as smaller businesses discover the power of the online world.
Though hospitality is a more complex industry to future-proof, adequate safety measures and increased sustainability will be the key to their survival. As the coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future, the best future-proofing steps that businesses in this sector can take are social distancing, limiting footfall and streamlining menus. You may also wish to diversify as many have done already and offer services off-site such as takeaway, delivering cook-at-home kits, or even acting as a local supplier of food, drink, etc…
What Can Office-Based Businesses Do To Future-Proof?
As a final consideration on future-proofing, SMEs may be looking for information on how they might future-proof office spaces.
As working from home will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future, assessing the possibilities of remote and flexible work for employees may help to future-proof office-based businesses. By creating an efficient workspace that’s technologically advance and not afraid to be flexible, you stand in good stead should a pandemic happen again.
In addition, by prioritising health during this period, SMEs may benefit from decreased sick leave, higher productivity, and a greater awareness of employee needs. Though health considerations for businesses in the past may have been limited to a gym membership subsidy, the coronavirus crisis will force companies to future-proof their workforce by prioritising the health of its employees above all else.
Time To Diversify? Which Industries Are Likely To Boom?
Though it is certainly a difficult time for businesses, it is not all doom and gloom. In fact, many industries are likely to boom because of COVID-19.
Many E-Commerce retailers are understandably booming on account of social distancing measures that have forced physical stores to close. As E-Commerce has become a necessity in the current climate, it is of no surprise that consumers will look to shop online for the foreseeable future.
In addition, in the absence of human interaction, augmented reality and robotics have been on the rise in the business world for those that cannot see or touch items in the flesh. Automated technologies both reduce pressure on physical industries and act as substitutes for services that cannot operate under current restrictions.
Finally, virtual meeting software companies have boomed over this period. With Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings becoming daily occurrences for office workers, the use of virtual meeting software in future is only set to rise. This trend is not likely to die down after the coronavirus crisis either, as the sheer convenience and reliability of this software has not gone unnoticed by both small and large businesses.
Entrepreneurs amongst us will be watching keenly for gaps in the market created by the huge global socioeconomic shift we’re experiencing at the moment. If you’re thinking of starting up a business to fill a niche, why not discuss your business plan and financing with our team?
Attempting to navigate a changing world is never simple, and for many businesses, making the correct choice when it comes to future-proofing can be daunting. Should you be looking to take guesswork out of the equation, Warr & Co are happy to offer a free initial consultation regarding your business’s accounting needs.
In times of crisis, any assistance can be invaluable. So, please reach out and allow us to lighten your load during this difficult time.