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5 growth opportunities for businesses to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world

COVID-19 may be waning thanks to our vigilant medical and research communities, but the world has changed irrevocably. Many organizations have undergone a digital transformation faster than ever before, and the pandemic was the major catalyst. Now, more than a year later, everyone is starting to settle in and adjust to the new normal, which prioritizes remote and digital experiences.

Things have changed so much that even if everyone was ready to return to normalcy right this second — and we’re not — the shift to traditional work environments would take some time. What’s more, some workers and workplaces aren’t considering a turnaround. They will continue working as-is, with remote operations and digital tools remaining a priority.

Gartner’s CFO survey reveals that 74 percent of respondents plan to shift employees to remote work permanently after the COVID-19 crisis is over. Big companies are a part of that demographic, too, as brands like Square, Facebook, and others have discussed a plan to keep remote opportunities accessible.

What does all of this mean for small business growth? What kinds of opportunities can businesses expect in the post-COVID-19 world, with these changes in mind?

5 Opportunities to Grow Your Business in a Post-Pandemic World

1. Contactless Fulfillment

Because of COVID-19, many in-person and direct services were forced to shift paradigms to allow for safe distancing and contactless interactions. Restaurants, for example, closed in-house seating and dining and switched to curbside pickup or delivery. It was a smart move, especially for minimizing contact and exposure.

It’s an excellent business prospect going forward, even without a pandemic. The market is rife with opportunity, and competition is still not as diverse as traditional channels. It means there is plenty of room for new players to enter the game and for those players to become successful and thrive.

This is a chance to build fluid, contactless fulfillment services that make it easy and convenient for customers to purchase remotely, whether online or via mobile, and then pick up their orders with minimal exposure. Small businesses stand to benefit immensely from this, as it cuts down on a lot of overhead and streamlines customer experiences.

2. E-commerce Is King

The king of modern business is e-commerce. Giants may dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for growth. In fact, businesses big and small that don’t participate in the e-commerce world may see shrinking profits as time passes.

Thanks to the pandemic, e-commerce has seen a huge boom as people shop online and receive goods on their doorstep without ever seeing another human. It’s safe, it’s convenient, and it’s faster than it’s ever been. From March 23 to March 30, 2021, e-commerce enjoyed a 14 percent increase in volume. That’s just one week.

This is a promising opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to improve their digital and e-commerce game. With many stores and dining rooms still closed, there’s no reason not to.

3. Clean, Minimal Impact

Another concern on most people’s minds these days is our overall impact on the surrounding environment and community. The tipping point has arrived, where going green is necessary for businesses to retain trust and integrity. Nearly 70 percent of consumers believe it is essential for brands to have a sustainable or eco-friendly operation.

Small and medium businesses are in a unique position to take advantage of this, more so than large organizations. It may not be immediately cost-effective, but overall, they can make changes faster and with more impactful results than a large organization can.

Revamping processes that consume a lot of energy, or adopting renewable energy altogether, is one way to improve sustainability. Sourcing more eco-friendly products and components is another. Building green products or facilities or moving locations to one that is more eco-friendly can help too.

Reducing waste and leveraging more recyclables is yet another possibility. These are all things that small and medium businesses can do. And it will all have a positive impact on growth, reputation, and sales.

4. Smarter Services

We saw many different businesses take up new roles during the pandemic to create needed supplies like gloves, respirators, and even hand sanitizer. Breweries alone had such a huge impact by using alcohol reserves to create sanitary salves, soaps, and gels.

Not only was this commendable, but it was also a brilliant use of existing technologies, tools, and supplies. Fortunately, these kinds of ideas can continue post-COVID-19, and they absolutely should.

Waffle House, for instance, began selling its waffle mix online to regain some profits after having to close many of its restaurants. The mixture sold out in just four hours. It also meant they discovered a new sales opportunity, which they can capitalize on, likely years into the future.

It’s this kind of quick thinking that creates not just smart opportunities but more successful ones, too. Every small and medium-sized business should be burning the midnight oil to brainstorm and research these opportunities.

How can your business serve your community through its niche? What out-of-the-box ideas can you come up with for providing your services and goods? Or entirely new ones?

5. Stronger Together

The business world can be extremely cutthroat and competitive, and no one would argue otherwise. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to work together with the opposition to achieve some truly amazing things.

Some of the most competitive leading companies banded together to create ventilators for the UK’s National Health System. Even as the pandemic winds down, this presents a unique opportunity to have a positive impact on local communities and beyond.

Small businesses, especially, can work together to develop highly creative and promising ideas that serve their customers to increase goodwill and profits. Before all of these major events, a proposal like this might have sounded crazy. But things have changed. We, as a society, are stronger together, not apart, and this has been proven time and time again.

There’s no reason why this wouldn’t present promising and ideal growth opportunities for businesses. Partnerships expose brands to new audiences, resulting in higher-quality or more useful products, and sometimes may even help create new markets or demands for the new goods or services.

An Unprecedented Event, One-of-a-Kind Responses

Never before have we seen anything like this, and it’s a possibility that we never will again. We may see future pandemics, but the way the world reacted and what happened in the business world — a massive digital transformation — is a sign of the times. But it also presents a plethora of new opportunities for businesses big and small.

With the right preparations and the right moves, small businesses can capitalize on this event by optimizing their growth and operations for the better. Contactless fulfillment, smarter products and services, green initiatives, and a greater push towards e-commerce can help.

You have plans. We have ideas. FirstMidwest.com/SmallBusiness

This article was written by Eleanor Hecks from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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