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Case studies: Businesses moving to online platforms

We gathered a couple of examples as inspiration for your own online business shift. First decide how to provide increased value to your customers and think outside the box. Use the strategies of the following small businesses as a guide.

Snack/Food office delivery

SnackNation began as a service that delivered snacks to workplaces but found its business model quickly interrupted by nonessential business closures. The company quickly pivoted its high-touch, person-to-person snack delivery service and now offers “Work-From-Home Wellness Boxes.” Its member companies can now send healthy, tasty snacks to all of their employees, maintaining—and even boosting—employee morale during a tough time and extending their corporate culture.

“Our pivot was a matter of tracking in real time what our core customers were experiencing, and then asking the question, ‘What challenges are they facing right now that we can solve?’” says Sean Kelly, the company’s CEO and cofounder. Now, for every box sold, SnackNation donates one meal to families in need, in partnership with Feeding America, and it is also donating 500,000 snacks to food banks. SnackNation members also can opt to have their in-office snacks donated to local food banks

Photo Booth Rental

In the wake of government mandates to cancel or postpone events, The SnapBar, a photo booth rental company, experienced what felt like an overnight apocalypse. The company lost three months of revenue within a week and saw sales for future events plummet. Yet with smiles as part of its corporate DNA, the team crafted the concept for Keep Your City Smiling in just days: a gift box initiative that features goods from local businesses.

"We launched the idea in four days and began sourcing from vendors in the Seattle area first, as that’s where we’re based,” says Sam Eitzen, The SnapBar’s CEO. “The first company we contacted was thrilled, and the sentiment from others as we reached out to artists, candlemakers and coffee roasters was all extremely positive. Some vendors have almost been in tears receiving cash for 300 of their products that weren’t otherwise moving."

These local-centric boxes are flying out the door of their online store, keeping local businesses afloat in the midst of a near-complete shutdown. “In the first two and a half weeks since we’ve launched, we’ve received almost 1,000 orders from individuals and companies buying for their remote teams,” says Eitzen. “While our margins aren’t that great, they’re enough to keep our team working (which was the goal) while paying wholesale prices to other small businesses who desperately need the revenue.”  

Garden Design

Jack Wallington, 38, runs a garden design business, he's exploring new revenue streams and now now runs garden design meetings with clients via video calls, which allow them to take him on a virtual tour of their garden. He’s also developing online courses for people wanting to learn more about growing vegetables, fruit and herbs. “This is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about because I know it will help people, growing crops to mitigate self-isolation boredom, and it’s good for you too,” he says.

Event Organizer

Suzanne Vaughan, 36,is the founder and director of a creative children's events company.

“All our events have been wiped overnight, so if we don’t turn things around now, we will have to close our doors for ever,” she says. “So instead of sinking we are swimming fast underwater with our jet packs on.”

As of last week, Vaughan started to use the studio space she usually delivers workshops in to run online classes such as children singalong sessions and mindfulness classes for families. “We are taking it online so people can join the platform and enjoy classes and connect virtually to one other,” says Vaughan, who is running the sessions via Zoom. “I think a virtual community gives an uplifting feeling that still connects us humans.”

While she says it will not provide as much revenue as the physical sessions, she believes online “will go some way to helping keep our studio running and cover the costs of the studio space. Also it does mean that we can reach out to a wider audience who usually don’t come to the classes.”

Let us know how you plan to pivot!

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