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4 ways to crisis-proof your business in 2021

Man and woman wearing masks in a warehouse

In 2020, the Covid-19 global pandemic kept businesses in every sector scrambling to adapt to a new and unpredictable world. From constantly-changing CDC guidelines and stay-at-home orders to shortages in goods, price hikes, and postal service delays, small businesses all over the country have spent the last year trying to weave and dodge the multiple curve balls thrown their way. 

Luckily, the past year has also given us the gift of foresight into some of the challenges that we’ll be presented with this year. Based on the latest estimates, here are the top 4 resolutions you need to follow to crisis-proof your business in 2021:

1. Rely less on foot traffic and in-person sales

It’s little wonder that online shopping figures skyrocketed in 2020. From groceries to cars, the internet allowed consumers to do nearly all their shopping from the comfort of their couches. 

That’s why businesses that heavily relied on foot traffic were the first to feel the pinch as people started shutting themselves in for weeks or months at a time.

According to market research company eMarketer, in 2020, e-commerce sales in the US reached $794.5 billion, a 32.4% rise year-over-year. This trend shows no signs of stopping in the next couple of years. Due to the significant changes in consumers’ shopping habits, having an online shop is no longer a “nice-to-have,” it’s a must for almost any small or medium-sized business. 

The shift to doing business mainly online isn’t limited to consumer transactions, and vendor and contractor relationships have also moved from physical meetings to Zoom one-on-ones. 

In the past, you may have been perfectly comfortable stopping by at your B2B customers’ place of business to check in and collect your payment. 2020, however, has taught us that you must be able to manage as many aspects of your business as possible remotely. Luckily, there are digital tools out there, like Melio, that can help you manage incoming and outgoing payments online, keeping you safe both health-wise and business-wise. 

2. Fine-tune delivery and shipment options

For those offering physical goods, from retailers to restaurants, the shift towards e-commerce also means a greater reliance on delivery services. There is no shortage of delivery service options for businesses today, from traditional couriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS to UberEats. But, as we learned from the passing year, these providers’ capacity is limited and hasn’t entirely caught up with the sharp spike in demand.  

An important tip is never to make promises you cannot keep. If you normally offer delivery within the hour, but logistics in the current reality mean it would now take 90 minutes, it’s better to put the cards on the table and explain the situation to customers in advance, rather than letting them become frustrated by late shipments. You can also add the customer-favorite option of curbside pick-up as an alternative, which alleviates some of the burden carried by your chosen couriers. 

Whatever shipping policies you choose to implement, be sure to communicate the terms of each properly, so consumers know exactly what to expect beforehand.

3. Develop scenario-based action plans

If someone had told you, at the beginning of 2020, that for most of the year, people everywhere will shut themselves at homes, that concerts and trips alike will be canceled worldwide, and that restaurants and bars will be closed to visitors for months on end, it is likely you wouldn’t have believed it. 

So, as you continue your business’s journey in 2021, make sure you have action plans in place for coping with unexpected or unusual situations. When developing your action plans, think of dangerous or delicate situations that could feasibly impact your business and work backward from there to determine the steps you and your employees would need to take in order to continue to thrive. Then, train everyone on staff on the new procedures, so the organization is ready to mitigate possible risks in the future.  

4. Improve your communication with clients 

Good communication is the basis for excellent business relationships, so make sure your messages are clear, concise, consistent, and available to your customers wherever they are. 

The world is confusing enough right now, so make sure your messages are the same on every channel you use, including your website, newsletter, and social media channels. If any of these show varying opening hours or confusing Covid-19 policies, for example, this could seriously damage your relationship with customers. 

No matter what the new year throws at you, sticking to these four resolutions will help keep your business running like clockwork and make 2021 a success. 

On behalf of the Melio team, here’s wishing you a fantastic, productive, and hopefully less-eventful year!

*This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and you should consult with a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.