The Coronavirus pandemic has affected small business on so many levels from a loss of productivity across industries to switching to remote work. Whether you are a clothing manufacturer or you run a corner store, adapting is crucial to stay competitive in these uncertain times.
This is where automating your business shines. Here is how it can help you.
Helping you Improve Performance and Reduce Costs
The goal of any small business is to keep their finances liquid during the pandemic. Luckily, automation can help. There are many automated SaaS tools that enable you to manage business processes yourself instead of outsourcing.
Accounting tools like QuickBook, Xero, FreshBooks, and Sage 300can keep you on top of your finances from the office or from home. For example, Xero enables you to check your cash flow instantly, send invoices and pay company bills instantly.
With automated invoicing tools, you can easily track failed payments and late payments, send invoices faster and tailor your messaging.
Many tools allow you to automate payroll processes that traditionally required significant time investment and paperwork. These tools can help your finance and HR teams wages such as hourly payments, overtime payments, double-time payments, salaries, commissions, bonuses, pay-raises, tuition reimbursements and more.
Allowing Employees to Collaborate Remotely
Many SMBs have switched to remote work policies since the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the major challenges you may face is maintaining optimum employee productivity, collaboration, and communication.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to ensure that your employees remain productive.
Start by investing in a powerful project management platform such as Basecamp, Asana, Trello or Hibox. On these platforms, you can create multiple projects and create countless tasks and lists. Even better, these platforms let you assign the right tasks to the right people. Instead of sending out circular emails, a project management tool will inform each staff member their individual project updates. These tools also let employees attach and download files in a quick and centralised manner
You may not be able to organise traditional team building activities but you can video chat with tools like Cisco WebEx, Skype for Business or GoToMeeting to manitain relationships between employees. GoToMeeting allows you to host video conferencing calls with up to 100 people and provides many cool options, such as screen sharing, easy scheduling, drawing tools.
Helping You Manage Production and Inventory Effectively
COVID-19 has also influenced the buying patters of the public. The focus has turned to essentials and less on luxury products. According to Time, the most popular product among customers during the Coronavirus pandemic is aerosol disinfectants followed by thermometers, oat milk, fresh meat alternatives, rubbing alcohol, toilet paper and multi-purpose cleaners.
According to a recent survey by Klaviyo, of the brands that are seeing the growth in sales, many have noticed that many non-essential products have become new essentials.
The way they are making purchases is also changingwith many customers are turning to online shopping and home delivery options.
Unsurprisingly, the changing purchasing habits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting the performance of SMEs. As per Klaviyo, only about 30% of businesses reported sales were going up.
One of their major pain points for SMEs is the supply chain. A weakened supply chain leads to overproduction or overselling. Klaviyo’s survey reported 40% of brands are experiencing shipping issues and 56% report issues with their supply chain.
Consider investing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and material requirements planning (MRP) software to streamline your supply chain requirements. Cloud-based manufacturing software for small business can centralise most of your business processes, including sales, CRM, manufacturing, inventory management, supply chains and the point of sale. These tools can integrate with many of the tools you currently use for your small business including ecommerce platforms and accounting tools.
Improving Brand Consistency
Now that your customer support, sales and marketing teams are working remotely, maintaining exemplary customer experiences and brand consistency is more difficult.
For example, if you are building a strong brand identity on social media, you need to keep the quality and frequency of your posts consistent. Start by automating your marketing efforts. There are many social media management tools like Buffer or Hootsuite that can help you. Using these tools, you can schedule hundreds of social media posts at once, discover and curate quality industry content and stay on-brand with pre-approved content for your social media marketing teams.
If your sales are surging, you will also want to stay on top of your product and brand mentions. With social listening software like Social Mention, you can easily track your brand mentions and hashtags to analyse brand sentiment and provide faster feedback.
Finally, you will want to provide customers with faster feedback. This is where AI chatbots step in. They can provide your prospective customers with quick feedback, send useful content, and personalise their experiences. This will free up time for your customer service representatives to focus on more complex tasks such as supply chain or delivery issues.
Automation can help small businesses in many ways, from improving workplace performance and maintaining online brand consistency to optimizing the sales cycle and the supply chain.
I hope that this article helps you during these uncertain times. And, don’t forget – stay home and stay safe.
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