The coronavirus pandemic has shown many businesses that they need to develop online capabilities in the event of another crisis that shuts their physical location, interrupts their supply chain or restricts the movement of customers. Having a web site that provides critical information enables businesses to innovate in how they serve customers, engage employees and grow their business.
As the coronavirus pandemic emerged, Michigan ordered the closure of many businesses throughout the state in mid-March leading to a statewide stay-at-home order on March 23 for all non-essential workers. To maintain operations and employment, many businesses sought to pivot to online sales and marketing—but those that lacked an online presence risked being left behind.
Examples of the regional impact on business of a web site and online tools during the pandemic in Michigan include:
- Many restaurants in Leelanau County that had online ordering systems in place as the pandemic shutdowns occurred in March 2020 were able to continue to serve customers with online menus, curbside services, and assurances about their safety practices. Restaurants that lacked a web site or online e-commerce systems struggled to keep business going and many shut down and laid off workers. An informal survey of Leelanau County restaurants by the Leelanau Enterprise at the height of the shutdown in early April 2020 identified 36 restaurants offering take-out services vs. 31 restaurants that closed.
- Retail businesses in Leelanau County that were closed during the pandemic turned to phone, email and internet orders to keep their operations running, thereby able to retain both employees and customers. An informal survey of Leelanau County retail businesses by the Leelanau Enterprise identified 21 businesses taking email and online orders as of April 21, which increased to 33 businesses as of April 29, and 44 businesses as of May 19. Internet-ready businesses were able to pivot to online sales and marketing much more quickly.
- In the tourism sector, businesses can use online tools like social media, blogs, email marketing and multimedia to build demand for their services during a shutdown, so that business recovers more quickly after any restrictions on travel, gatherings and in-person operations are lifted. See how Viking Cruises built an online video channel to build an audience and spur demand for its cruise services during the shutdown, and consider how that might help your tourism business to attract customers.
- In the agricultural sector, farmer’s markets in Leelanau County turned to an online ordering system enabling them to continue to harvest and sell their products locally, keeping the farms’ labor force employed and productive, and keeping connections with local customers alive.
While many Leelanau County residents do struggle to access reliable and fast broadband access, having a web site to tell your story can ensure that customers continue to find your business and access your services.