Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash
Life as we know it has changed dramatically over the last year. Never did we realize that 2020 would bring such disruption to modern times.
But here we are. We’ve changed our routine and adapted to the new normal. Welcome to the future!
Things may eventually return to what we previously classed as “normal,” although this is probably a long way off. COVID-19 has forced businesses to adapt their working methods and changed the way they generate sales, connect with clients and build working relationships. However, these changes may have already been in progress. Has COVID-19 accelerated the natural change in business and forced us to adapt sooner than we anticipated?
Let’s think about this. It’s easier than ever to connect with others through a wide range of different methods. Gone are the days where we could only participate in business meetings in-person and could only communicate via letters, phone calls or that dreaded fax machine (thankfully I’m just young enough to have missed out on using these at work, but I’ve heard they were a real nightmare!) No longer are we reliant on an internet connection that made noises like a breakdancing robot and took hours to download an MP3 track (unfortunately I am young enough to remember dial-up internet!).
So that leaves us in a position where we have the means, the ability and the technology to diversify and change the way in which we conduct business. We’ve had this for a number of years, yet something was keeping us from breaking out of our comfort zone and exploring these new opportunities. Maybe COVID-19 was the push businesses needed to catch up to where we should be…
So what are the advantages of embracing this technology and leaving tradition behind? Let’s take an international business meeting for example. For big corporate companies, these meetings often involved the coming together of several of your company representatives with others from potential trading partners. They may involve traveling halfway around the world, requiring transport (usually in the form of flights) and accommodation for all representatives involved. Then there is food, drinks and other expenses … It can all get hugely expensive, not to mention the pollution caused by transport and travel (and presently also putting your colleagues and friends at greater risk of contracting COVID-19).
During the last year or so, businesses have realized that these meetings can be done virtually, greatly reducing the enormous costs that they can rack up and also being much greener for the planet.
Yes, we still get that dreaded “how do we end the call” moment, and sometimes run into poor connections resulting in only being able to hear half of what is said, but there are always ways around these small issues.
Video calling is a powerful tool, allowing us to work from anywhere that has an internet connection (which in this age, is almost everywhere!) And what can be better than getting up and out of bed, jumping in the shower, getting half-dressed and plonking yourself in your virtual office (making sure that the camera doesn’t show that you’re only wearing your boxer shorts on your lower half)?
Virtual trade shows are another phenomenon that have burst onto the scene over the last six months, and just work so, so well. You may not get quite as much socializing at the bar or sightseeing around the local area as you would do in-person, but you can still meet with suppliers and trading partners easily, and it makes these shows much more accessible to those that may not have necessarily been able to visit in-person (due to things like distance, costs or personal circumstances). Having recently participated in two of them, I have made a huge number of new contacts and signed deals with partners I never ever knew before these shows. They are an important part of the industry and having access to them in such a convenient way has helped the industry to thrive in these crazy times.
Another thing that COVID-19 has railroaded adult retailers into is building an online presence. Many retailers had previously only relied on their own bricks-and- mortar store, and although no one could predict the devastation and disruption COVID-19 has caused, they hadn’t built a virtual presence for times when their business is forced to close to walk-in customers.
In modern life, having an online presence for a business is essential! More shoppers shop online than in-store in the U.K., and although this is unfortunate as it becomes less personal, it’s just fact. Customers enjoy the convenience of being able to order on their phone, tablet or computer and have a courier drop it off the next day. Some still do enjoy shopping in-store, but it’s important to have a balance of both physical and online retail. When one must close, the other becomes your lifeline and carries your business through these tough times.
When you have an online presence, the customer then has an option to shop online or in-store, potentially increasing your sales. You effectively open a new virtual store, and if you have just one physical store, it can double your brand and retail presence.
Most retailers that have physical stores tend to find that their online store is their biggest moneymaker (when done correctly), and their physical store acts more like a walk-in warehouse — so if their walk-in warehouse needs to close because of things like COVID-19, their business doesn’t have to close and their online sales pull them through until they can reopen again.
In times like these, we have to think smart. Rather than finding ways around cheating the rules and regulations (such as trying to find loop-holes), come up with alternative ways to trade. Embrace modern technology and figure out better ways of doing what you currently do. Diversify, adapt and future-proof your business.
After all, you never know what’s just around the corner…
A Look at the Lessons COVID-19 Has Taught Adult Retailers by Daniel Miller originally appeared in XBIZ