No industry was left undisturbed by the current pandemic. The majority of web design and marketing agencies immediately felt pressures as clients canceled, marketing budgets were reduced, and businesses scrambled to figure out how to improve their online presence.
While it all started nearly six months ago, it wasn’t until January 2020 that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By February, WHO officials gave the outbreak a name: COVID-19. By June 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases would surpass 9 million worldwide, with nearly half a million deaths and counting.
Today, scientists around the world are racing to discover a vaccine—and we may be closer to the end of COVID-19 than we think. But the pandemic isn’t just a healthcare crisis—it’s an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions.
COVID-19 has affected every type of business, from tourism to food service to web design. But in this article, we’re going to look at how web design businesses have weathered the storm and what lessons we’ve learned over the past six months.
COVID-19 Has Left Nothing Untouched
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyday life as we know it. Restaurants have packed up their dining rooms. Shopping malls have closed their doors until further notice. Packs of toilet paper and bottles of hand sanitizer are still flying off the shelves of supermarkets.
In Canada, businesses began to shut down their offices and other in-person facilities as early as March. Working from home became the new normal for companies that had the necessary infrastructure at the ready.
No industry was left untouched by COVID-19. While some have stronger defenses, others—like the travel and tourism industry—will struggle to find a new normal.
Today’s business owners face overwhelming challenges. Businesses everywhere have been thrown into uncharted waters, pushing them to operate in ways they’ve never tested before. The only thing we know for sure is that surviving means adapting.
Every business worldwide is reevaluating its short- and long-term strategies for survival and growth. Now more than ever, our priorities are financial health and staying alive. The same applies to web design companies. What patterns have we noticed in the industry?
Big Changes: Pivoting to Remote Work
Before we talk about the new normal, what was the old normal? Before COVID-19, most web design companies operated using a similar format: a central office with online support. With lockdown procedures in full swing, web design companies were forced to lean on remote solutions for designers and developers.
Seemingly overnight, the traditional office disappeared across the board—replaced by home office equipment and collaborative software. COVID-19 crippled any business that couldn’t make the transition to remote work, regardless of its size. Web design businesses were no different.
Some didn’t survive. Companies that depended heavily on small businesses, or lacked the resources to pivot to online-only, found it difficult to forge past the pandemic.
Others, such as Globalgraphics, kept operations alive by relying on a wide range of apps. Every aspect of communicating with clients and collaborating with team members was—and still is—enabled by technology.
For many web design companies, the key to staying alive was the software and platforms they relied on. Other processes that were once handled on-premises were quickly picked up with digital tools, such as:
- Zoom for client meetings
- Kayako Support for customer support
- ACT! For tracking ongoing marketing campaigns
Web design companies that had already expanded their online support pre-COVID had a major advantage over those that were left scrambling.
No matter the industry, the secret to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic is the same—staying resilient means embracing technology. In other words, web design companies that are still breathing have their work cut out for them.
The Importance of Embracing the Digital Era
Ever since the pandemic made it clear that it was sticking around for months and not weeks, we’ve relied on modern technology to maintain a semblance of normal life.
The colourful icons on our phones and taskbars have helped us weather the storm. We order takeout and groceries through delivery apps. We meet with doctors over video conferencing apps. We work from home using feature-rich collaborative apps—technology has made it possible for entire offices to disappear overnight, and for the businesses that own them to survive relatively unscathed.
Technology has kept our lives and livelihoods protected from COVID-19. And as it continues to evolve, there’s no doubt about it—technology will keep us safe from future disruptions.
It’s not just technology that’s evolving. Consumer behaviours have changed. Panic shopping rapidly gave way to unprecedented spikes in online retail. Whether it’s groceries or household essentials, people now rely on the Internet to avoid leaving the house unnecessarily.
Health and safety force themselves to the forefront of our thoughts every time we open the front door. Until a vaccine is found, tested, and deployed at scale, consumers will gravitate toward digital solutions and reduced-contact channels wherever possible.
What does that mean for businesses everywhere? Staying competitive means leaving a digital footprint that consumers will notice.
Building a Digital Presence Is No Longer an Option
Before COVID-19, investing in a website was an afterthought for many businesses. Nowadays, going without one is no longer an option for any business that would like to see the other end of the pandemic.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has erased any lingering sense of reluctance toward embracing technology. Entire industries have raced toward remote work. Seniors are ordering groceries online. Businesses everywhere are desperate to establish an online presence.
Staying in business has always meant meeting consumers where they are. With shopping malls closed and stay-at-home orders in full effect, everyone is online.
In the era of COVID-19, establishing any brand awareness whatsoever requires at least a home page. Simply put, businesses that aren’t online are inaccessible to their target market, regardless of what demographics that market may consist of.
Businesses need web development and design services more than ever. What can your agency do to support them where it counts?
Thinking Digitally: How to Support Small Businesses Through COVID-19
By now, it’s clear that businesses must enter a new digital arena to stay competitive. Creating and implementing a strategic digital marketing plan is the key to generating sales in 2020.
What can your agency do to keep your clients in business? Here are a few of our suggestions.
1. Embrace Ecommerce
Even before they shut down, shopping centres were shunned as people opted to stay safe by staying home. With a vaccine just out of sight, people are still hesitant to frequent public spaces.
As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in online sales. Offering ecommerce solutions through leading platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento will help businesses get back on their feet by tapping into the current demand.
2. Plan for Success
Work with businesses to create a fully-realized digital marketing plan. Ease any worries by roadmapping your client’s next digital marketing campaign, which should involve elements of search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content marketing, and other critical strategies.
Many businesses are new to the digital scene—and a well thought out plan is one of the best ways to introduce them to online marketing that achieves results. Take the time to explain industry terms like pay per click (PPC)works and make sure to inform your clients how each of your services fits into the bigger picture.
3. Stay Realistic
Any web design company worth its salt avoids fear-based marketing and false promises. There’s no easy way to say it—the world is in an unprecedented economic slump. The best your web design company can do is harness your digital marketing expertise to keep businesses flexible.
Adapting to consumers’ changing needs is always a challenge. With the right marketing strategies in place, businesses will have the resources to juggle new priorities. However, steer clear of misleading claims and using fear to upsell your services. Neither strategy is ethical and leaves a less than desirable impression on potential clients.
4. Provide Ongoing Support
These are highly uncertain times. Business owners everywhere are facing immense pressure to adapt at every turn. We’ve witnessed resilience across industries, from the rapid adoption of complex technologies to innovative solutions like curbside pickup and contactless delivery.
Living and working through a viral pandemic of historic proportions is stressful, to say the least. One way to ease your clients’ fears and anxieties is to provide 24/7 technical support. For businesses that aren’t tech-savvy, having team members available to work through any technical issues will be much appreciated.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the defining events of 2020. We don’t think it’s too early to say that its implications may last well into the upcoming decade.
The pandemic continues to raise interesting questions about the way we live and work. Will remote employment be the new norm? How will consumers react to shopping malls, restaurants, and other public spaces opening up?
What will everyday life look like on the other side of the pandemic?
While we don’t know the answers to these questions just yet, what we know for sure is that things will never be the same—and, with technology on our side, that may be a good thing.
To our readers, thank you for following us, and thank you for staying at home to protect yourself and others during these unprecedented times.