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How to Make Your Offline Business Stronger During Coronavirus Quarantine

With the COVID-19 pandemic sending numerous employees home for the quarantine, the first reaction of many businesses is to panic - what to do? What if people start actually saving the leftover money (after they have bought a million packs of toilet paper)? What if everyone remains home and doesn’t visit the store? What if people won’t be able to shop for homes because they are stuck where they live and yet, your salary and ability to buy groceries for your family depend on your realtor job? What if, what if, what if?

However, if we look at such companies as Amazon, they are hiring 100,000 new employees to keep up with the global demand. While few businesses are as big as Amazon, let’s talk about how digital transformation can help small and medium businesses stay afloat during these uncertain times.

In this article, we’ll touch upon several industries that are usually thought of as mostly offline: 

  • Real Estate
  • Banking
  • Restaurants
  • Art Galleries & Museums
  • Fitness Studios & Gyms
  • Education
  • Retail 

Real Estate

Nothing is more brick and mortar than real estate (since it’s literally made of bricks and mortar.) Property developers and realtors make living on building and selling houses, apartments, and offices. However, when everyone has to stay indoors unless there is a critical need, what can real estate workers do to keep their work going?

There are at least two software solutions for the issue. 

3D & Virtual Reality Tours

With the help of a 3D tour, real estate developers can showcase their properties to potential customers (and keep the social distancing going). While this is not the same as being present in the apartment or house in person, it’s already a wonderful tool to start your presale process right in preparation for the future.

After the crisis, the market usually takes about 2-3 years to restore the current figures. If you take a look at the economy’s curve right now, it’s taking a dive globally, so we advise not to invest actively at the moment. However, we all understand that after any kind of crisis, the economy will start on the upscale again. Use this semi-quiet time to fully prepare your business processes for the online world and for future growth. 

At the moment of the bifurcation, when the economy rises again, the investments will bring up to 20% per annum for the next 5-7 years and that will be a great time for the Real Estate businesses. 

In terms of the technologies to use, keep in mind that the development of a fancy VR app would take about a month (and would require additional equipment on your client’s side), but AR is possible even using your phone, so don’t lose your chance. 

With Google's ARVR project as well as the latest phones, it’s easy to create such a tour on your own even. Once you have the ready tour file, you can upload it to such platforms as Venbona (Switzerland / Austria / Germany) or find similar platforms where you are located. 

Broadcasting & Video Calls

If you don’t have the resources currently to develop 3D or virtual tours, you can utilize simple video calls. If the realtor is the only person in a certain location, then social distancing isn’t breached.

For these purposes, you can use Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype, or any other that you or your clients might prefer.

Looking for a development partner? We have several real estate clients, so we know the industry from the inside. Send us a message and let’s create a solution for you.

Financial & Banking Services

Numerous banks and financial institutions are moving their services online, but a lot of them still have physical locations. 

One of the ways to deal with quarantine is to start looking towards offering your services online. The ultimate solution is an app that would eliminate the need to go to the bank. This is exactly the path taken by so-called neobanks or digital banks. Most of them have ties with “traditional” banks, yet it’s important to be available to the customers wherever they are.

The development of such an app is not a simple and quick process (because of many legal and security precautions), but consider actively looking in the direction of online services and solutions for your business.

What are the advantages of neobanks for clients and business owners? 

  • Clients have access to their banking accounts in their pockets with notifications, finance management, and various little gamification options. They also can enjoy 24/7 support without having to visit a bank.
  • For the business owners, there are no physical locations, which minimizes social contact and infection spread during the time of the quarantine. After the quarantine is over and the world is getting back to normal, your clients will be able to continue using the app they got used to (raising your retention rates.)
  • Quality instead of quantity. You can save on administrative staff, hiring the people who are highly qualified to deal with complicated issues and not have a thousand employees that are there just for the sake of it. The same applies to rent expenses for the locations. 

In Ukraine, for example, such is the way of the Monobank. There are numerous in Europe, the USA, and Australia as well. This website offers a comparative table of various neobanks in the USA.

Restaurants & Cafes

We understand that a lot of the restaurant’s allure lies in the actual physical location - interior design, welcoming atmosphere, enjoying the feeling of being served. Can that be transferred into the online world? 

Food, of course, remains physical. However, what restaurants CAN do (especially, again, in the light of the COVID-19, when thousands of restaurants and bars are closed for visitors) is maximize on delivery services. There is a worldwide trend called dark kitchens,” where there are no consumer-facing elements (tables, chairs, etc.) and the chefs are cooking the food to be delivered or picked up as a take-out. 

There are two ways you can do it: 

  1. You can sign up with the existing delivery services that exist in your city. It can be something like UberEats or Glovo. The advantage of this solution is that you don’t need to invest a lot of finances into the initial launch. However, you need to take into account that all those services take a percentage of your earnings. 
  2. You can create your own restaurant’s solution for delivery. Besides delivery options, additional features of such a solution can include gamification (for example, the customer can scan a code and get additional discounts in the future after collecting a required amount of points), your detailed menu, information about the restaurant’s working hours and special events, etc. In case you have a chain of cafes, you can also have a map of locations.

HUSPI has been working with a client who owns several fish restaurants in the city. They had two main priorities - an online storefront and a delivery app for customers. Since the business’s main source of revenue was offline stores, they maximized that priority. However, now in the light of the quarantine, they are facing the fact that a dedicated delivery app would’ve been a lot more useful. In the course of this project, we have developed a white-label solution for the call center administrative panel, where the orders can be easily assigned to delivery helpers. The panel is integrated with the kitchen management solutions.

We are also working on a contactless payment solution for a coffeehouse network. The idea is that restaurants and small coffee shops will be able to function at all (since in the light of the quarantine, they are mostly closed if they can’t provide delivery.) The payment solution utilizes a Telegram bot and a financial services platform. The way it works is the client comes to the door of the establishment, scans the QR code to get into the Telegram group, where s/he can see the menu (with or without pictures.) The client clicks on the items s/he wants and pays for the order in the Telegram. Once the payment is processed, the barista receives the message on her/his phone about the order and starts preparing it. After the coffee (or food) is ready, the barista or the waiter takes the order, already packed, to the buffer zone (a place where 2m / 6ft distance can be observed between people) and leaves it for the customer to pick it up. 

Need a personal app for your restaurant’s delivery that can be integrated with most ERPs and CRMs? Send us a message - we’ve got a white-label product for that.

Art Galleries & Museums

Just a couple of weeks ago, HUSPI has finished working on a project for the UN’s HeForShe movement that was dedicated to the HeForShe Arts Week 2020 and featured works of famous Ukrainian female artists. 

With the help of Augmented Reality (AR), anyone can admire the works of art with the help of the mobile app for Android and iOS.

HeForShe Arts Week 2020

This app is not the only one in its kind, but it is gathering more and more traction because it opens the opportunities for many to see the art and various locations, where many people around the world would otherwise not have a chance to visit. These apps are also a wonderful addition in terms of the inclusivity because they help people with limited movement abilities witness the glorious art and travel around the world without leaving their home.

Recently, Google also launched its project where you can explore national parks via 360-degree virtual tours. It is always better to visit these in person, we won’t even try to prove otherwise. However, when you are stuck with your kids at home during the quarantine, visiting national parks online helps to dream and build plans for the future. 

Need an AR solution like this for your art gallery or museum? Let’s discuss this. 

Fitness & Gyms

There are a lot of personal trainers and fitness apps available online. However, what do you do when your main business is an offline gym and group training, but suddenly people are on quarantine and can’t come? 

A few of HUSPI team members are a part of a small offline gym and when the quarantine measures were put into force, we were disappointed: what do you do? We JUST got started to get better at fitness… Boo.

And then, our fitness studio (hello there, #hiitworks) started doing online video streams on Instagram. Besides one free training per day, they also launched a paid online fitness challenge for those who would like personal training opportunities and achievements’ tracking. 

While it is still better to be training at the gym (where the atmosphere itself is conducive to the morale and the equipment is readily available), such streams help the coaches to stay afloat during the times when they cannot meet with their clients in person.

Education

Homeschooling and distance learning has been a trend for years now. Global unhappiness with the majority of public school options pushes parents to look for something different for their kids. College and universities also have been moving online more and more lately. 

However, those distance learning schools are usually quite small. What do you do when the entire country’s public school system shuts down and millions of children are left at home with their parents for an unspecified amount of time?

Modern video conferencing and online education tools come in handy. These are a few that I use personally for my online education as well as several that I have found to be useful for my kids: 

  • Moodle (or its alternatives): it’s a system where the teacher can create the tasks for the class, upload necessary reading, create tests and exams, and embed videos the students should watch. It’s a convenient tool, where students interact with the material (for example, by posting their opinions about the material in the forum and commenting on their fellow students’ posts). A great advantage of Moodle is the fact that it’s open-source and it’s also available in many languages. (You do need someone who can set up and customize the product for you.)
  • Zoom or Skype for video conferencing: explaining difficult topics to the students and having an opportunity for them to ask questions is easier via video conferencing solutions. There are many available, but we have used Zoom and Skype, so we can vouch for them. 
  • YouTube: record the videos of your lessons and have them available to numerous people around the world. The benefits of this product include the fact that it’s free and also Google makes sure YouTube can handle large quantities of people online, therefore there should be no problems with the connection. Also, since the lectures are already recorded, students have an option to 

Retail

We’ve mentioned Amazon at the very beginning of the article. Ecommerce is not a new idea, but for smaller local shops, many business owners haven’t thought of going online because it wasn’t a necessity. However, as we have seen in the case with an offline restaurant, think ahead of the possible delivery options to provide service even when people cannot visit your store. 

This can be applied to grocery and clothing stores, bookstores… pretty much anything. Think of the opportunities the technologies offer you - from AR to product delivery and beyond. What works for your advantage also is the experience of the other ecommerce stores that you can learn from and not repeat their mistakes.

We have done several ecommerce stores and delivery apps. So, in case you decide to go digital, let’s talk.

What will your business do?

The aftereffects of the COVID-19 will affect everyone. The global economy will feel the impact of the reduction in liabilities, budgets, and investment portfolios. However, it was this crisis that showed us all once again the importance of switching to digital and mobile solutions. 

During this crisis, whatever industry your business belongs to, remember the following: 

  1. The first thing the consumer leaves behind is luxury goods (cars, yachts, real estate), complex goods (grain, metals, etc.), and new projects and startups.
  2. Second thing: various wants-not-needs, i.e. restaurant visits, clothes and home shopping, gym memberships, etc. Basically, everything that is not absolutely required for life, but can be categorized as “nice to have.” Even when grocery shopping, people are starting to stock up on non-perishables and avoid extra expenses.
  3. Third: education
  4. Finally, the last thing people will consider refusing medicine. 

The restoration of the economy will go in the opposite direction, therefore when you see the medical industry on its way to restoration, this will be the trigger to start actively preparing for the economic rise. 

REMEMBER: the main task during this time is to raise brand awareness for your business and increase the number of people interested in your services or products. Monetization is important, but it will come later. Right now, focus on empowering and streamlining all of your business processes.

In the meantime, don’t forget to wash your hands and get ready for the big leap.

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