The threat to small business, in the short term, maybe the forced shutdowns and the limiting of patrons, but there is a much more scary threat lurking in the shadows.
A friend of mine convinced me, it was time to get a new cell phone. Now admittedly, I had been putting this off mostly because I remember the last time being incredible painful, with lost information and trying to figure out apps and passwords. As a result, I just kept putting it off so my phone was overdue for a change by probably at least 2 years.
Even though I was told, “it will be super easy”, I didn’t believe it. I took the time to transfer all my pictures and music off the phone, make sure my contacts were all backed up. Everything was synced and saved in multiple spots and I even wrote down all the apps. The day I planned to get the new phone, I cleared my calendar for the entire afternoon just to make sure I was ready.
I walked in and because knew the phone I wanted, they immediately took my old one and literally asked me for one password. About the time I finished the paper work and payment, they handed me the new phone and told me I was ready to go. As I opened up the new phone I immediately noticed, it was like looking at my old one. I opened up email….its was all there. The apps were even in the same configuration they were before. I hit Facebook….logged on, right away…the passwords had been saved.
In a matter of just twenty minutes, I not only had new technology, but it functioned exactly like the old one, but now with some upgrades!
Without a doubt, technology is transforming the way things happen, Before, I had to remember things like passwords and lists of apps. I needed to know phone numbers and addresses and make sure there were backed ups. There was a lot of work involved in changing a cell phone, but in less than five years, the experience has fundamentally shifted. What seemed like such a tough and arduous thing, now happens instantly.
Technology and AI or artificial intelligence is taking mundane or simple tasks and doing them for us. While many of us still get “creeped out” when our phones start showing us ads of things we are talking about, this is the power of AI. Where you use to spend time looking for websites, now your phone brings them to you. Where you use to spend time looking for a good movie, now the streaming services provides you ones based on what you have watched before.
There is no doubt this pandemic is dramatically impacting small business. While a majority of people believe the impact is as a result of forced shutdowns and the limiting of patrons, I believe a greater threat to small business will result from larger companies accelerating their decisions towards digital transformation.
During this shutdown, many of us have been forced to do more online and as a result, the economics behind moving to invest in digital solutions have improved greatly. The longer this situation is in place, the more accustom people are getting to being able to grocery shop, while sipping coffee on a Saturday morning without having to go out in the cold or in expecting that they can buy using a credit card. Even my parents are now doing online banking, doing e-transfers and electronically depositing checks. In a matter of a couple of short (and yet feeling long) months, consumer behaviours have changed and they are not likely to go back.
I think the caution for all small business owners is to not think about the changes you have been required to make, as being temporary. Over and over again, I hear reference made to, when we get back to normal but I encourage you to see this as your normal. If you have put your products online, then do the work to get more eyeballs to your website and expand your online presence. Make your online shop, easy to maneuver and use. If you have been tackling how to resolve getting things shipped faster, continue to push the envelope and put in place the equipment and technology to facilitate it.
Big businesses views the pandemic, not as a burden, as much as an opportunity and they are making the investment today, to position themselves to capitalize on the behavior shift that has already taken place. As a small business owner, you need to see it the same way. You have already done a great job adapting, so now is the time to keep that momentum going.
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