HOW TO SURVIVE THE CORONA-VIRUS CRISIS AND ITS AFTERMATH
By: Michel Ouellette JMD
Tech firms see the opportunity they have been waiting for as shoppers and business recoil from paper money. Who’s hurt when legal tender goes away?
If you are nor online, you are not making any money. You are missing out!
Is the Coronavirus Killing Off Cash?
From the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, stores and businesses were shuttering all over the World and many of those that were still open were balking at cash. Shoppers were switching orders to Amazon and Walmart.com. Many stores and businesses that have stayed open would not take cash requiring customers to pay either by debit or credit cards or paying first online. What once seemed like the oldest, most reliable way of paying suddenly seems a thing of the past.
The Coronavirus crisis drove businesses and people to prefer credit and debit payments to cash; a shift that is here to last. Digital payments are quick, clean and easy and that shift is now representing a huge opportunity for all retail and services businesses around the world. People did learn from their Coronavirus experience and, for many, this means no longer walking in a store or and office.
For years, I have been pushing toward a more virtual, less cash-based business and payments system, and pressing businesses and business owners to go online to free them from the uncertainty of being paid for their products or services and increase their sales and cashflow tenfold. The Coronavirus crisis is now providing me with one more argument to justify that business model: Due to the coronavirus crisis, people that resisted to shop on line are now realizing how easy, economical and efficient it could be.
The only people I know that would not benefit from such a transition are the older and poorer people that tend to be more reliant on paper money either for lack of tech savvy, out of habit or because they do not participate in the formal banking system, the poorer and vulnerable people that do not have access to banks or credit cards.
You want to help these people!
For the duration of the pandemic, give them your products and provide them with your services free of charge. Donate to them directly, personally, the same way you donate to your preferred church or charity. This is good business. These people will be very grateful and let other people know about what you have done for them. Just do not forget to deduct these “promotional expenses” from your taxable income.
Some other people will still resist going online or using their credit card because they think that how they spend their money is nobody’s business, especially the taxation officer. Just take their money and put it in your left pocket. This is still good business. Just do not provide them with a receipt.
Money habits can be hard to break
The Covid-19 pandemic, has forced every one of us to change our spending habits almost overnight. It took years for ATMs to replace visits to human bank tellers. Now this is common ground. After resisting the move for years, many businesses started accepting credit cards and online payments either through their website or bank transfer. This shift in behavior is here to stay and for most businesses, it is now the right time to integrate in their business model infrastructure to support mobile banking and digital payments.
For others, the Coronavirus crisis is the rightful and legitimate occasion to turn their operations and business into fully cashless environments, that kind of economy, that long-held dream that I have been promoting for years. It is much, much faster to send money via the internet than to mail a check. It is much, much faster to get paid via the internet than waiting for the check in the mail.
Where is the money going?
Starting with day one of the Coronavirus crisis, items that were once necessities become luxuries, increasingly strapped people around the world were re-evaluating what they were spending their money on and how they were spending it.
For many, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, new items and goods delivered in boxes seemed a safer bet than walking into stores. Suddenly, like many others, people became hyperaware of their expenses and were now taking a painful daily look at their financial priorities: Was that $5 monthly web magazine subscription really necessary? How much does watering the garden cost? When, in order to survive, where they going to need to tap into their savings?
“We are OK for now,” they were all saying. “But soon, the bottom may fall out from under us.”
As millions of people lose jobs, take pay cuts, close businesses and absorb family members into their homes, they were being forced to rethink where their money was going. Even before the scramble for new jobs can begin, people were cajoling creditors, looking for gig work or simply cutting back to get through the first few disorienting weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak.
For some, the question was simple as whether to by a jigsaw puzzle to keep from going corona crazy, and how much to tip the person that would deliver it. But for many others, the stakes were far higher: a good credit score sacrificed to pay off certain bills before others, or dinners rationing so that cash for groceries can be repurposed for an emergency fund.
To save money, heaters have been turned down, clothing sales ignored and auto insurance policies canceled. Vacations Plans turned into at-home entertainment and long sessions with Netflix, Disney Plus and Zoom. Rents were going unpaid as people spend weeks waiting for government aid to arrive.
An economic shock like this would certainly and definitely have a long-term impact on people who have traditionally felt like they were being cautious, that they were not squandering with their money, but did not have to worry about paying for rent or affording food. They might have more debt, which will make it harder to spend in the future, or they might just feel insecure.
Even when the economy was strong, many were in a precarious financial position, ill prepared to weather even minor disruptions and often weighed down by debt. Today, many of these people are experiencing a complete loss of income and on the verge of even loosing either their business or home. Those people are now relying on either good will from strangers or programs from corporations and the government to stay afloat.
For some people, many of whom have never seriously budgeted, are now mapping out strict spending schedules for the next few months. They get really creative. They eat little half meals, and they experiment with their seasonings and condiments to try to forget that they are eating the same thing over and over. They try to reschedule when monthly bills are due so she can space out the payments.
More than half of lower-income adults in North America say they will struggle to pay bills this month, compared to a quarter of their middle-income counterparts and 11 percent of those in the upper-income tier. Over all, more than half of those who expect a government stimulus infusion will use most of the money to cover essential expenses. One in five will save the funds to cover expenses further down the road.
To create a financial buffer, many people are hunting for freelance or part-time work or are working overtime in an attempt to drum up new business. For the last few weeks, for most people that I met online, they are all completely overwhelmed by their shortfall of income. For most of them, and they are not alone, while focussing on being able to afford groceries and maybe the house and car payments, they are all being stretched thin emotionally. They are totally exhausted at the end of the day.”
“If you are not online, you are not making any money”
Following my predictions and recommendations, small business and shop owners are now launching “Online Stores” to either stay open or survive after the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you are like many other entrepreneurs, for years, you wanted to venture into online sales for your business, but could never find the time. Now, with the pandemic shutting down most retail stores and nonessential businesses, it is only common sense to invest your time and money in doing so. The process is not really easy and may be costly and time consuming but the bottom-line results are certainly worth it. If you are not online, you are not only making any money but you are also losing money.
For many business owners that decided to go that route, the last several weeks have been chaotic and frantic, but the hard work is beginning to pay off. The response from customers has been amazing. Many businesses are now rushing to offer online sales or expand their available product line to keep their businesses afloat and meet customer demand. And this is only common sense.
Around the world, online store creations jumped by seventy-five per cent when comparing the second week of April to the first week in March. Some entrepreneurs have been very creative to offer the same product or service online as they did in-store. Despite the investment and long hours involved, their sales are going up their costs are going down and they are doing even better than before the pandemic.
For most of them, it is just non-stop work providing services, fulfilling and delivering orders. It is even busy, seven days a week.
One more time: “If you are not online, you are losing money”
Creating an online store is often challenging for small businesses. Because of the many steps it can take, it can be a tedious process. It is definitely work, but it is important work right now. Really, if you are not online, you are not making any money and even losing money.
If you are not going online now, you are not only losing money, you are jeopardizing your future.
Look at the Covid-19 is a business opportunity
Even with the country in lock-down, a number of entrepreneurs are plunging ahead with new ventures. From pet services to food delivery and even advertising, many companies are forging ahead with launch plans. Some are even focusing their startup on issues related directly to the virus. For most of them, they find that the new, challenging environment actually presents an advantage for their startup.
When offering online services, your customers no longer have to walk in your store or offices to see your products, negotiate your services and process the credit card payment. All this interaction is now happening online.
Right now, people are really out of options, and do not know how to move forward with some sort and any kind of gathering. People are going online for everything and this trend is here to grow even further and stay.
For many services businesses going online, they offer a free phone consultation to start, and then propose other services susceptible to satisfy their customers’ needs. From the beginning, the introduction offers to the end, cashing the money of the customer, everything is done online.
If you are a retailer or distributor, going online is even easier.
There are a lot of opportunities to navigate.
Today and Tomorrow
Again: “If you are not online, you are not making any money”
Yes, the coronavirus curves are plateauing
There are fewer hospital admissions and the daily death toll is still grim, but no longer rising. While this is encouraging news, it masks some significant concerns. The gains to date were achieved only by shutting down the countries, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely.
No one knows exactly what percentage of the people around the world have been infected. So far, estimates have ranged from three percent to tern percent. Until a vaccine or another protective measure emerges, there is no scenario, agreed upon, in which it will be safe for people to suddenly come out of hiding.
One thing is for sure:
If, in the near future, people are to pour back out in force, all will appear quiet for perhaps a few weeks and then, without any warning, all over the world, the emergency rooms will get busy again. The tighter the restrictions, the fewer the deaths and the longer the periods between lock-downs.
China did not allow Wuhan, Nanjing and other cities to reopen until intensive surveillance found zero new cases for fourteen straights days, the virus’s incubation period. At home, people can still take domestic flights, drive where they want, and roam streets and parks. Despite strict or mandatory restrictions, everyone seems to know someone discreetly arranging play dates for children, holding backyard barbecues or meeting people. Even with rigorous measures, Asian countries have had trouble keeping the virus under control. How can we be so arrogant?
If there is a lesson to be learned from China, it is that reopening nonessential businesses, lifting all distancing restrictions, requires a steady declining of cases for at least fourteen days, the tracing of ninety percent of all people that came in contact with a person affected by the Covid-19 virus, an end to all healthcare worker infections and at least the immediate instauration of recuperation places and facilities for mild cases. This is a strict minimum and for most of the location where the Covid-19 safety and prevention precautions have been relaxed, none of these pee-emptive steps have been followed. Get ready for second wave of the Coronavirus infection.
“If there is something that people need to realize, it is that is not safe to play poker with the Coronavirus; that the faucet needs to be reopen gradually”
Previously unthinkable societal changes have taken place already. Schools and business have closed, and millions of have applied for unemployment. Taxes and mortgage payments are delayed, and foreclosures forbidden. Stimulus checks, intended to offset the crisis, were issued. Food banks opened doors across the world, and huge lines have formed. Except for the upper class of the society, the world has become a welfare world.
A public health crisis of this magnitude requires international cooperation on a scale not seen in decades. Once the pandemic has passed, the economic recovery may or may not be swift depending on the way we are dealing with the pandemic today. The psychological fallout is harder to gauge. The isolation and poverty caused by a long shutdown may drive up rates of domestic abuse, depression and suicide.
In such a scenario, immunity to the virus will become both, a societal advantage and disadvantage. Imagine a population divided into two classes: those who have recovered from infection and presumably have some immunity to it; and those who are still vulnerable. It will be a frightening schism: Those with antibodies will be able to travel and work, and the rest that will be discriminated against.
As people stuck in lock-down will see their immune neighbors resuming their lives and even taking the jobs they lost, it is not hard to imagine the enormous temptation to join them through self-infection. Younger citizens in particular will calculate that risking a serious illness may still be better than impoverishment and isolation.
Even though limited human trials of three have already begun, any effort to make a vaccine will take at least a year to eighteen months. This is being very optimistic. Treatments are likely to arrive first. Meantime, for the next two years, I strongly suggest that you exert extreme caution. Avoid people that you know that may have been exposed to the virus. Avoid shaking hands and touching your face. Wash your hands. Keep safe distancing from everyone you meet and finally start doing business online.
Above everything else: Stay Safe!
Michel Ouellette JMD, ll.l., ll.m. Business Growth Strategist
JMD SYSTEMICS, a division of King Global Earth and Environmental Sciences Corporation
Systemic Strategic Planning / Crisis & Reputation Management
Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a Former Attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.