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What are “Essential Businesses”?

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our communities, it feels like our personal and professional lives are shifting quickly. In many local areas, it feels as if more and more businesses are having to close their doors as we continue to battle the virus. Local and national authorities continue to update their advisories, rules, and regulations for businesses every day. 

The latest decision that local authorities are making, which is having an impact on businesses all over the country, is a regulation stating that only “essential businesses” may remain open to in-person interaction. “Non-essential” businesses must close their doors temporarily and ask their workforce to work remotely.

These new regulations are begging questions from professionals in all types of industries. What qualifies as an “essential business”? If I am a “non-essential business,” what do I do from here?

What are “Essential Businesses”?

For starters, what you need to know right now is that many areas across the United States are experiencing “community spread” of the coronavirus. To limit the rate at which the virus is transmitted from person to person, authorities are taking action to limit face-to-face interactions. As a result, millions of businesses have to close their doors if they are considered “non-essential” – or in other words, are not a business on which people rely on an everyday basis.

However, local and national authorities recognize the need to keep “essential businesses” open. On March 16, 2020, the President guided that:

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” 

President Trump via CISA

“Essential businesses” qualify as important to the safety and well-being of local communities. However, it’s not easy to figure out whether or not that definition applies to your business. Take a look at the major industries that the U.S. Department of Home Security deems “essential”:

However, it’s important to note that it’s up to local officials to make a decision about which businesses are “essential” in their area. In addition to the list above, some additional businesses that many local authorities have typically kept open are:

  • Grocery stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Healthcare practices
  • Childcare centers
  • Some educational facilities
  • Hardware stores
  • Auto repair
  • Banks
  • Post offices and shipping centers

What are “Non-Essential Businesses”?

Most local authorities consider non-essential businesses to be those that are purely for recreation, personal care, or pleasure. In other words, they don’t offer necessary healthcare, food, financial support, or utilities. However, some businesses are allowed to stay open if they help “essential businesses” remain open.

Here are some generally accepted “non-essential” industries:

  • Gyms and recreational facilities
  • Spas and salons
  • Theaters and museums
  • Casinos
  • Retail shops and shopping malls
  • Concert venues
  • Sporting arenas

Now, here is where it gets tricky. Some businesses may fall under either “essential” or “non-essential” – it depends on their local government to make the call. Here are a few industries able to pass as “essential” in some locales:

  • Restaurants (take-out only)
  • Liquor stores
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Home office supply stores

The best way to determine whether or not your business’s doors can remain open is to check your local and state websites for updates. You can also read this memorandum from CISA, issued on March 19, 2020.

What Business Leaders Need to Know Right Now

Despite the anxiety and uncertainty this situation is creating for business leaders globally, there are some nuggets of optimism. In difficult times, it’s important to pave a way to keep your business efforts moving forward in spite of conflict. Here are some things to consider to keep your business operating successfully.

Small Business Loans are Available

Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which gives some relief to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). If your business has under 500 employees or otherwise meets the qualifications, you can take out a small business loan to help with operational costs. The PPP loans are meant to cover payroll, rent, mortgage, utilities, and other operational costs. This is giving many business owners the chance to maintain cash flow and continue to pay employees while the economy rebounds.

E-Commerce is Up

If you are deemed a “non-essential business” in your area and must close your doors, remember that this is by no means a “be-all end-all”. It means you temporarily have to avoid conducting in-person business in order to protect the safety and health of yourself, your workforce, and your community.

There are several ways you can adjust and conquer, even given the coronavirus’s impacts on B2B and B2C business as we know it. Research is showing more people are buying online, which makes sense. Professionals are working remotely and as more shops close, they have to ship business needs to their home offices.

So it makes sense to come up with a digital selling strategy if you are a “non-essential business”. However, business stakeholders have their doubts that their shift to e-commerce will be successful. A March survey by Digital Commerce 360 found that only 38% of businesses expected their online sales to improve.

But here’s a bit of optimism for you: statistics are showing increases in online sales. Quantum Metric showed that many businesses who normally sell under a brick-and-mortar model are seeing a 52% increase in online sales and a 8.8% increase in conversion rates compared to last year at the same time. 

Here’s another thing to keep in mind. It’s no secret that many people turn to Amazon as a knee-jerk reaction during a crisis, or when they need items shipped to their home immediately. So you may have your doubts that your target market will actually choose you when there are brands like Amazon dominating residential sales. However, Amazon just announced that they will be freezing shipments from non-essential third-party sellers. Now, those people that normally turn to Amazon for the items they need are now looking elsewhere on the web. Now is a better time than ever to win new business.

High Demand from Essential Businesses

It’s important to keep in mind right now that business activity has not stopped completely. Essential businesses are now the backbone of our communities. They are going to remain open in spite of this economic hurdle, and they are going to continue to need to buy products and services to stay up and running.

Because people nationwide are relying on essential businesses right now, these businesses are likely going to need to buy more products and services than we assume. For instance, they may be experiencing a higher than normal volume of customers, patients, or clientele and need extra support. Now is the perfect time to target them and see if they have a need for what you sell. Think outside the box – even if these businesses are not ordinarily companies you would reach out to, you may be surprised at what they need in these times of crisis.

Both “Essential” and “Non-essential” Businesses are Buying

No matter whether businesses are operating in-person or not, business leaders need to keep their business operating. In fact, many reports show that even though essential businesses are the ones keeping their doors open, people are buying non-essential products and services. Remember that millions of Americans have relocated to home offices, but are otherwise continuing to conduct business as normal. This shift is creating a demand for web-based business purchases – the only difference is that people now need those products and services at home.

Here at 360Connect, we continue to see buyer demand for both “essential” and “non-essential” products and services. Some more good news – our clients are closing deals quicker than they do under a normal B2B sales cycle. Why? Whereas normally, buyers often prolong their purchases, now they are closing the deal fast.  Crisis often causes people to buy quickly – they want to have their needs met immediately to cope with their current situation. This is where you can offer your help and quickly boost your ROI.

Our advice: Ultimately, keep pushing and making enhancements to your online sales strategy. Target both essential and non-essential business, regardless if their doors are currently open or not.  If remote work lasts a lot longer, professionals will continue to need to buy. On the other hand, if it does not last much longer, well – then you’re back in business.

If it makes sense to team up with us during this tricky time for business, reach out to us and let us know. We continue to see demand for B2B products and services, and we can help you easily find and close new business so you can keep your revenue up during this hurdle.

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