Around the world, small businesses are bearing the heaviest burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic. With customers staying home - either due to lockdowns or because they’re voluntarily respecting social distancing measures - these companies have seen a drastic fall in incomes and are now struggling to pay bills and keep employees in jobs. Even eCommerce merchants whose businesses operate online and are used to shipping products around the world are struggling in the current climate.
Many countries are hurriedly cobbling together stimulus packages that - in theory at least - will provide some much needed financial relief for small and medium-sized businesses struggling with the coronavirus impact, as well as larger corporations.
In the US, the federal government is attempting to put together a $1 trillion stimulus package that will supposedly include small business loans and direct cash infusions. The problem is, no one knows exactly what any of these national packages will entail or how long it will take for businesses to get whatever it is they might be entitled to.
In the meantime, we could see local restaurants and bookstores shutter permanently and bigger companies consolidate the number of stores they have. We’ll also see mass unemployment, with many people joining the ranks of the over 5 million Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits last week.
Of course, there is help available. On a personal level, there are many steps you can take to support local small businesses in your area. But, big multinational corporations are also offering all kinds of support for SMBs. Here’s what you need to know.
10 Ways to Support Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic
1. Buy online
Many small businesses that don’t typically have a big online retail presence are now being forced to test the waters. Many restaurants are now taking orders online for takeout and delivery, while everyone from grocery stores to bookstores is now offering delivery for online orders.
To sweeten the deal, many small businesses are trying to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic by offering steep discounts to encourage customers to make purchases. This especially applies to eCommerce retailers who are using dynamic pricing, free shipping, and crowdfunding to get through this. Every little bit of money you spend now will help these businesses survive the pandemic so that your favorite local place will still be open once all this is over.
2. Buy Local
Speaking of local places, this is definitely the time to buy local (and from small shops). Many of us have flocked to big supermarkets and chain grocers to stockpile canned goods and household staples. But, before you do your next run, why not consider supporting small, local businesses who need the money more than Whole Foods does? Think about picking up meat from a local butcher, fresh fruit and vegetables from a local farmer’s market, and groceries from the store around the corner.
3. Leave Good Reviews
Times are tight for everyone, but even if you’re unable to order lots of takeout and purchase “just for fun” items, leaving positive reviews for local businesses you’ve interacted in can help. You might consider leaving reviews on these businesses’ Facebook page or Tripadvisor page or even recommend them to others who might be interested.
Even something as simple as following them on social media might help! Many eCommerce businesses incorporate reviews into the product pages of their online store, and this can help drive sales for them.
4. Pick Up a Gift Card
Small businesses will all need a little help seeing through this pandemic. They’re in the greatest danger of shutting down because they simply don’t have the financial resources to stay open if there’s no incoming cash flow. But, purchasing gift cards now that you can use once social distancing rules have been relaxed could be the life support they need to get through this.
So go ahead - treat yourself to a gift card to that posh spa you’ve been wanting to try or a special meal at that fancy restaurant. You deserve it - and so do the businesses your gift card purchase will support.
5. Pay for Online Classes
Missing your favorite yoga class? Not to worry. Many service-orientated businesses are now going digital to keep their customers engaged - and the cash coming in. Financial planners, therapists, doctors, and personal trainers are just a few professionals that have gone online.
So whether you want to keep up your yoga practice, continue your piano lessons, or maintain your therapy sessions, you should be able to do so from the comfort of your own home. And, by participating digitally, you’ll also make sure these professionals will continue to be there for you once the pandemic is contained.
6. Order From Restaurants (and Do it Directly)
We’ve already mentioned restaurants, but with most of us not able to eat out due to social distancing measures, eateries around the world are struggling to keep their businesses going and staff in their jobs. That’s why many have now pivoted to takeaway and delivery services.
It’s a win-win situation: you still get to enjoy food from your favorite local eateries, and they can still keep operating and paying staff. But before you order from third-party aggregators like GrubHub, Seamless, or Deliveroo, check if you can order directly from the restaurant. These apps charge exorbitant fees that seriously crush a restaurant’s profit margins; if you can order direct, you’ll be ensuring that the money you spend goes directly to the restaurant.
7. Reschedule (Don’t Cancel) Travel Plans
Obviously, none of us are traveling right now. But, many of us had already booked (and paid) for trips. The travel industry has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, so canceling every aspect of your trip could mean that many hotels and operators are pushed out of business before this is all over.
One way to help these businesses out is to reach out to your hotel, B&B, tour operator, or airline to see if you can reschedule your trip or get credit to use at a later date. This ensures that you don’t lose out on payments you’ve already made and that these businesses aren’t out of pocket.
8. Ask for Alternatives
Many small businesses are getting creative with the pandemic, so it’s worth seeing what alternative services are available from your favorite places. For example, gyms are providing personal training online or at-home exercise and nutrition plans; bookstores are offering discounted shipping and delivery or curbside pickup; while some big hotels are hosting masterclasses with chefs, bartenders, and wellness practitioners.
Reach out to any small business you’re hoping to support - even if they don’t have any alternatives right now, you could throw them a life-line by suggesting some things you’d be willing to pay for with the current restrictions.
9. Tip Generously
As much as we might be minimizing social contact by avoiding deliveries, there are certain situations where it’s simply necessary. You might choose to order groceries online rather than visit the supermarket or get a meal delivered because you can’t visit your favorite restaurant, for example.
In this instance, whoever is delivering your order is putting themselves at risk. They’re probably also not being paid very well to do this. So, if you can, tip generously and spread a little kindness during this time.
10. Don’t Ask for a Refund
Have you bought tickets for a play, a concert, or some other event that’s been canceled because of the pandemic? While you’re probably entitled to a refund and the organizers will likely reach out to offer this to you, you might think twice about whether you accept that full refund.
If you are given the option, you could consider donating part, if not all, of your ticket price. This can go a long way to protect cultural institutions and artists who are struggling right now - and will mean that they’re still in business once all this is over.
How Large Companies are Supporting Small Businesses
Many bigger companies that are able to are showing solidarity for small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic by offering grants, loans, and special limited-time offers. Below are just a few initiatives being taken by these bigger corporations.
We’re helping eCommerce merchants by offering free 90-day access to our platform for new clients that sign up for an account by June 30. For existing merchants, we’re removing all shipment caps and team member limits. All users will also be able to access our improved features to save on shipping and a series of insightful webinars hosted by our experts. We’re also consolidating a wide range of information and resources related to shipping during the pandemic on this page. Additionally, we're working with out partners to create exclusive offers for our eCommerce merchants - see here for more details.
This retail giant is donating $5 million to local businesses around its Seattle headquarters. These businesses are losing out on sales since Amazon’s thousands of staff are working from home, so this initiative is designed to help them get by.
A popular food delivery app, Deliveroo has introduced daily payments so that restaurants will now receive money for orders made through the app within a day. The aim is to improve the cash flow for thousands of restaurants around the world.
This website builder is offering free access to its email marketing tools so small businesses can keep stakeholders updated. They’ve also launched the #OpenWeStand microsite to allow small business owners to connect with each other and find necessary resources.
Social media management platform Hootsuite is offering free access to its Hootsuite Professional Plan for any small business impacted by the pandemic. This way, they can easily engage with customers, handle crisis communications, and access a library of free social media courses.
This image library has a free resource hub full of creative assets. It includes free images, videos, and music, as well as virtual backgrounds for all those Zoom meetings.
Online payments company Skrill has made its wallet and Quick Checkout solution free to small and medium-sized businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic, including food and grocery services, online conferencing solutions, and PPE providers. This will be in effect through September 30, 2020.
The UK arm of this major telco is offering 30-days free unlimited mobile data to over 500,000 pay monthly subscribers, including small businesses. This will also apply to NHS workers.
This eCommerce platform is not charging fees to list or sell through May 31. Existing sellers will also enjoy a 30-day no-fee period.
The social media giant is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to help small businesses navigate the pandemic. They’ve also put together a dedicated page full of tips, useful resources, and suggestions.
US Mobile Providers
Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have all signed a pledge to offer support to Americans through at least May 13 (though this could be extended). Spearheaded by Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, the pledge promises open wifi hotspots across the US, waiving late fees for those experiencing financial difficulties, and waiving termination for residential and business customers.
New York-based bank Citi is extending fee waivers on monthly service fees and remote deposit capture fees. They’re also extending penalty waivers for early Certificate of Deposit withdrawals for an extra 30 days.
Support Small Businesses
Local businesses are still the heart of most communities, so it would be a real shame to see many of them close down as a result of the pandemic. While we’re all weathering the storm of the coronavirus, supporting small businesses will ensure that your favorite local restaurants and shops will still be around long after this is a distant memory.
We hope you’ll find these suggestions useful. And don’t forget, we’re doing our part to help too - read about how Easyship is supporting eCommerce merchants at this time.