Designing strategies for the future of your business is an important job for owners. When the pandemic happened, though, many of those plans went out the window. As the economy changed drastically, businesses had to pivot—and quickly—to survive.
Now, 2021 is on the horizon, and it's time to design strategies for the year ahead. This time, business owners have added some lessons learned to their toolboxes.
“Uncertainty is the governing principle for 2021," says Andrei Kurtuy, co-founder and chief communications officer of Novorésumé, an online resume builder. “That's why it's necessary to have two strategic plans for 2021, one pessimistic with hard measures still in place, and one optimistic in case vaccines are quickly distributed, and economies throughout the world bounce back just as fast."
Plan to be flexible
If the world continues on the trajectory set in 2020, Kurtuy says his company will continue the arrangements it put in place for the pandemic, like allowing people to work from home if they wish. In addition, company training and events will remain virtual.
However, if a vaccine is quickly approved and distributed, Kurtuy says his company would remain more flexible in how it pursues product goals and its working arrangements, focusing on getting teams back to a sense of normalcy.
“We think it's important to keep everyone in the loop as things evolve throughout this extended crisis and do it without some kind of hidden agenda," he says. “It's just about transparency right now and working together to keep everyone as safe as we possibly can."
Mobile is still first
In addition to working arrangements, COVID-19 changed customers' needs and how they search for products and services.
“Everything is going digital, and I fully expect this trend to continue into 2021," says John Ross, president and CEO of Test Prep Insight, a professional exam preparation services provider.
Ross is refocusing his efforts on his mobile website for 2021. “Since the onset of COVID, time spent on cell phones is up 37%," he explains. “This generally means more people are looking at our website on mobile as compared to desktop than they were just a year ago."
This shift prompted Ross to invest in the user interface of his company's mobile site to help improve conversion rates.
“Mobile is more important than ever now that COVID is the new reality, and you have to lean into it," he says. “We plan to invest significant resources into upping the game of the mobile version of our site and are even considering building our own app."
Increased focus on online sales
The pandemic also changed how people shop.
“[For 2020], we had plans to diversify our sales channels and explore retail opportunities," says Modi Sarkar, co-founder of Modi Toys, a multicultural toy store. “We also had plans to expand internationally, working with local distributors. Given the uncertainty and impact of COVID-19, we've paused these discussions."
Sarkar says she saw sales plummet in March, at the onset of the pandemic, and then watched them surge by 66% the following month. She focused on growing the company's digital presence by increasing her investment in online advertising and hiring an agency to scale and grow revenue from social media.
“We're a small business, and while most of our success to date has happened organically, 40% of our web traffic comes from paid search alone," she says. “We want to make sure we're visible in the same places our customers are, so we're focusing on growing our online presence. While online growth was always part of our plans, COVID-19 has made it a priority."
Looking ahead to brighter days
From hiring and growing teams to serving customers, business owners that are willing to change to meet new needs and have a positive outlook for the future will be ready for whatever 2021 brings.
“The only thing we can plan on is that next year will continue to keep us on our toes," says Sarkar. “We know we'll need to be nimble and flexible to adapt."