According to Yelp, almost 100,000 businesses closed permanently in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. A study conducted by the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago have confirmed this.

The unprecedented closure of businesses as a result of the pandemic has completely confounded people around the world. Millions were left unemployed, hungry, and homeless.

We can expect pandemics like this to reoccur and and businesses need to evolve and adapt in order to meet new challenges.

Here’s our list of what can be learned from businesses in 2020.

Flexibility Isn’t Optional Anymore

Of the hundreds of thousands of businesses that closed during the pandemic, most failed as a result of being unable to adapt to it. As horrible as a global crisis can be, memorable lessons can come from them. The current pandemic changed everyone’s way of life with lockdowns, travel restrictions, and an increased interest in online shopping as an alternative to brick-and-mortar retail.

Businesses that have been able to adapt swiftly have been, implement contactless solutions, and provide essential services, remained afloat. Many businesses realized increased productivity and lower operational costs by adapting to a remote workforce.

Working from home was often the only option available in their industries and markets. The ablest to adapt to this were software companies or tech companies. For those businesses that required work to be done on site at all costs, social distancing measures had to be implemented. Even though ensuring 0 infections on site was impossible, businesses had no choice but to try.

Businesses will have to build flexibility into their DNA if they want to survive similar challenges in the future.

Digital Solutions Can’t Wait Any Longer

During 2020, businesses witnessed a marked increase in adoption of digital services. Other than the consumers that got Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, digital solutions were adopted for the most basic services. Retail and grocery shopping specifically witnessed a huge shift to digital. The projected growth rate for E-Commerce in 2020 was 20% according to IBM’s US Retail Index.

People adopted paying for everything digitally in droves. According to a report by Square, fewer than 25% of all payments are being made in cash around the world. This is half of pre-COVID levels. Hence, any company that wishes to grow, or survive in the future will need to adopt digital payments.

In fact, companies should adopt as many digital payments options as possible to include any and all customers. However, starting with the most popular ones is a good start. There are several payment apps, banking solutions, and social media solutions available for digital payments. Businesses can’t afford to ignore them any longer.

Contactless Operations are the Future

Speaking of digitization, contactless operations as a whole have become necessary in the pandemic. This doesn’t just include deliveries. It also includes delivering important information, verifying purchases and packages, and reducing overall contact.

Contactless operations will have to be made possible by businesses by further embracing digitization. For example, embracing more digital communications, payments, verifications, and voice and video calling, are all necessary to enable a contactless future. Not only will this help with hygiene, but it will also improve operations efficiency.

Web or mobile applications to handle all this will now be a prerequisite for the average customer. Without these changes, a company may find too much competition to contend with.

Businesses are a Team Effort

No matter what the physical work environment looks like, teamwork is essential. At most workplaces, reaching out to a colleague or another department would be the way to get a problem solved. However, during this pandemic, with work from home orders being upheld, this has become is more difficult than ever. If most employees in your organization are working remotely, it’s best to invest in a central communications protocol. This could be solved through a number of enterprise software options or just adopting a secure messaging app like Signal. There are other solutions available such a VoIP cloud business communications which can replicate your office phone system with the need of a desktop phone and other tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and Slack.

Another important consideration is authentication software to ensure that any device that accesses your servers is verified. During the pandemic, cyberattacks on private businesses and government organizations have increased dramatically. Authentication and single sign on (SSO) access are just two of several solutions available.

If your employees have to work on site, then you should implement strict rules to ensure hygiene. This should include multiple checks and balances to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hand sanitizers and masks should always be available on site. Also, surfaces should be cleaned routinely to avoid the spread of the virus.

Ensuring that as many of your employees stay healthy and comfortable during this ordeal will make a huge difference. It may even cultivate loyalty among your employees and inspire them.

Diversification is the Key to Success

A key insight that was gained by businesses in 2020 is that diversification always pays off. Several businesses that provide a variety of different services realized were considered essential throughout the pandemic. For example, ride sharing services that also provided delivery services saw them rise in popularity. Certain ride sharing services even pivoted almost completely towards e-grocery services.

Spotify also pivoted to attract more paying customers. It took artists onboard to deliver original content like podcasts. One of the largest was the Joe Rogan Podcast. General Motors also pivoted by building ventilators for hospitals as well as FDA-cleared Level 1 surgical masks.

This shows that adapting to a challenge like the pandemic is significantly easier if your portfolio of services is diverse.

Nearly all businesses that survived and grew in 2020 adapted and changed. And as a famous quote illustrates, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.

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