How the Covid lockdown affected small businesses forever

Simon Best

On March 23rd, 2020, Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first Covid lockdown, ordering the people of the United Kingdom to stay at home. Since then, life’s changed for many small business owners, in particular in the service sector where companies were suddenly cut off from their customers. Simon Best, CEO of website and e-commerce platform BaseKit, outlines how they’ve had to adapt.

For many small service businesses, a shift to online trading was the only opportunity for survival. While many may have been slowly heading in this direction, the pandemic dramatically accelerated the trend. The result is that the landscape for trading services is now unrecognisable compared to two years ago.

The ways in which technology has become the key to the survival of service micro-businesses can be broadly split into four categories.

1. Reaching new audiences through flexibility and scale

From gym classes to therapy sessions, services are often highly localised and delivered in person. Now, however, people expect to be able access the services they need online. That doesn’t just mean banking and paying utility bills. It’s come to include a range of services previously delivered face-to-face.

For businesses, this has opened up incredible new opportunities, unrestricted by locality. Technology such as Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the mass adoption of video conferencing, is enabling service businesses to:

  • Deliver online workshops not limited by the size of a physical venue
  • Connect and engage with people in different locations, regions and countries
  • Have a better chance of scaling their business with broader reach.

2. Seamless bookings with automation

Online booking has made the process much smoother, both for the business and the customer. There’s no need for email or phone tennis, with customers simply choosing an available date and booking a slot. It’s simple and straightforward.

The real benefit for businesses is that a booking system can unite the different technologies used to run the company – from calendar and their payment system to their CRM. This brings better business intelligence, as well as time efficiencies, allowing business owners to concentrate on delivering great service.

3. Ecommerce for product diversification

While the shift to online has changed how customers interact with service businesses, it has, in turn, allowed business owners to experiment with different routes to market. For instance, productising their service.

These products may be physical or digital, or a combination of a physical product with a digital service. Take, for example, an online coaching programme that includes a physical notebook and writing materials – the combination of online service and physical product allows the business to generate extra revenue while delivering greater value.

Creating products allows service businesses to diversify and scale-up. Had the pandemic not happened, many of the businesses which have grown over the past two years may have stayed with the status quo. However, it’s proved important to do it properly, with a responsive and reliable eCommerce function which is safe and secure.

4. Contactless payments for low maintenance and speed

As services have shifted online, it has made sense that payment for those services did, too. Again, this has been a boon for smaller businesses where late payments, and chasing them, has historically been an ever-present struggle.

Now, the ability to take payments upfront removes the later headache and allows businesses to focus on doing their work and delighting their customers.

Where work is still delivered face-to-face, contactless is now king – with the shift towards digital money avoiding the need to bank cash, cheques or carry change.

Again, technology – such as Sum Up, Square and Zettle – is enabling low-maintenance and quick payments, invoices and payment links via online systems.

Endless opportunities

In the past two years, the landscape has shifted rapidly, especially for small service businesses. We’ve spent several years talking about the huge growth of eCommerce, but Covid-19 has allowed service businesses to realise the power of online trading.

Crisis creates opportunity and small businesses are now supported by a wealth of products to enable growth, pace, scale, reach, diversification – just some of the endless ways that digital innovation can transform small service businesses.

At BaseKit, we’re doing our part to constantly evolve our digital offering, to help the small business community to thrive in the new digital economy. We sense that we’re only at the beginning of where this revolution is going to take us.