COVID-19 forces businesses to show their human side - The Orca

COVID-19 forces businesses to show their human side


Ada Slivinski: In less than two weeks, companies large and small have adapted quickly.

COVID-19 has changed business all over the world, both in the short term and with far-reaching effects that will last long after this period of social distancing is over.

Restaurants and retail have been forced to pivot in the span of a few days, as eat-in has changed to mandated take-out only overnight. Retail, from big brands down to small niche gift and apparel shops, have had to lean completely on their online presence.

Companies who have put focus in this area before, and have the budget and manpower to execute quickly, adapted surprisingly fast. Within days of businesses closing storefront shops, ads for loungewear and at-home spa products started flying fast and furious into my inbox.

Best Buy highlights delivery and storefront pickup for home electronics, advertising, “we’ve got everything you need to enjoy this time at home.” The potential for home office and family entertainment system upgrades has Forbes contributors speculating the company’s stock could go up by as much as 25 per cent as a result of the pandemic.

Clothing retailers would usually be entering the busy spring sales season, but instead of sneakers and sun dresses, they’ve had to highlight sweat suits and loungewear.

Restaurants in particular were dealt a sucker punch. Those not already on Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats had to figure out online and/or phone ordering, contactless pickup or delivery, which menu options they would offer, and how frequently.

The speed with which the pandemic hit out businesses meant there was no time for fancy branding or aesthetically thought through web design. Speed and efficiency was – and still is – of the essence. It’s sink or swim as many small businesses fight for their lives.

This also means seeing a lot more vulnerability and authenticity from businesses owners online than we’re used to. Small shops are offering gift certificates online posting that every sale helps them keep their business afloat.

“Thank you for supporting us, so we can support our people,” is the message headlining Aritzia’s website. They also have a running ticker tallying the sales proceeds supporting the Aritzia Community Relief Fund.

Belgard Kitchen has launched a Staff Meal, affordable takeout options “born of the desire to feed our staff in the moments after we decided it was prudent and necessary to close the doors.” Those words hit close to the heart.

Ultimately, business is people and relationships. This crisis has stripped all the shiny pretense and exposed that very direct link from hand to mouth.

Businesses that survive will be the ones that can not only pivot their goods and services to serve a world that stays at home, but those that can convince us that when everyone is tightening their purse strings, their team is a part of our wider family.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at