Social distancing dramatically changed all of our lives, and one of its biggest impacts is on the way we shop. Walking downtown and stopping by your favorite stores, restaurants, and coffee shops is a thing of the past — at least for now — and even getting groceries is an exercise in ordering online and then waiting for a delivery or pick-up window. Through it all, small businesses are hurting the most. 

Think about it: Sure, your local “Mega Mart” can offer things like curbside pickup and local delivery, but the dozens of Mom & Pop shops scattered around your neighborhood just don’t have that option. The good news is that if you’re a small business supporter, there are still things you can do right now to ensure your favorite local stores can weather the storm. 

Small Businesses Need Tech

According to a recent Microsoft trend report coronavirus will forever change the way we work and learn, and digital transformation is the key to keeping small businesses connected and productive. One of the best ways to do that is by way of affordable, secure, next-gen tech.

What does that look like? I’m a gadget gal – so let me give you some inexpensive and mid-range examples here: 

The HP EliteBook 735 G6: keeps you powered throughout the day, connects with MS Teams, the platform that lets you chat, meet, call, and collaborate all in one place. This tool prioritizes what’s most important to small businesses, keeping data, and customers safe. And check out their ProBook 400 series too great value – in the $600-$700 dollar range.

I own a small business – one problem my go-to tech needs to solve is battery life. I can’t be tethered to a power outlet all day – I need to change rooms and even work outside. For that, the Dell Vostro 15 5590 stays powered for up to 12 hours on a single charge, and the battery has an ExpressCharge feature which takes it from 0 to 80% in less than an hour. Dell also has the XPS line with that same portability and sleek design. 

My other favorite here is the Lenovo: ThinkBook 14. It has a smart power-on feature that lets you unlock the computer with your fingerprint – similar to a phone.  Little fixes like these add up to big benefits at the end of the day – relief we can all use right now!

The Gift (Cards) That Keeps On Giving

This one is a bit of a freebie: Buy gift cards! There are a lot of local businesses that you cannot physically shop in right now, but you may still be able to buy gift cards or certificates for services that you’ll use later. The business gets the money and you (eventually) get what you want. 

You can go about it two ways: You can contact your favorite local shops over the phone or online (see if they have a Facebook page). Or, you can hop on Support Local, a new service by Gannet  — the folks that run USA Today and a ton of local newspapers — that connects you with local businesses and provides gift card services online. Depending on your location, there are up to several hundred local businesses listed and you can buy gift cards in no time flat. If you don’t see your favorite business already on the list, you can add it. 

Tell Them About JustAnswer

Small businesses that are struggling as foot traffic wanes can get a financial boost by offering their services remotely on JustAnswer, and you can play a part in keeping them afloat. 

JustAnswer is a site that connects consumers with expert advice for a fraction of the cost of in-person visits, is hiring experts in some of the areas hardest hit by layoffs, job losses, and shelter-in-place closures including: 

  • DIY home repair
  • car and boat mechanics
  • sewing machine experts
  • home appliance repair experts
  • plumbers
  • homework helpers
  • antique’s experts

The most prolific experts on the site make as much as $60,000 per month (for real). Why now? They have more than 10,000 new questions coming into the site every single day (250% increase day-over-day since COVID).  April represented the highest compensation month ever for JustAnswer experts which average monthly payout at $2.7K/month, which is 23% higher than the prior record month. Prior to COVID-19, doctors and lawyers were the most frequently sought after experts.  These continue to be in-demand, but the need for “real people experts” is emerging and surging too. 

Find Your Nytch 

With so much confusion over what businesses are “essential,” it’s virtually impossible to know which small businesses are still open, and in what capacity. Nytch is an app that renders those worries moot. Think of it as a huge virtual marketplace filled with local businesses, all in one place. Here’s how it works: If you’re looking to purchase something — really anything — or have a problem that you can’t solve on your own, you post a request on the app. Local businesses browse requests from Nytch users and reply with recommendations, support, or offers for products, depending on your need. Make purchases right in the app and choose when to visit the store to pick up whatever it is you need. 

Dining Out, In Your Living Room

One huge thing you can do to support local restaurants that are hurting right now is to order delivery. Some local eateries have started to offer delivery since social distancing requires them to keep their dining rooms closed, so call around to check. Even if your favorite restaurant doesn’t have its own delivery staff, services like Uber Eats or Grubhub can get you the goodies and put money in the pockets of local restaurant employees. 

Bend Your Schedule

Whether it’s a hair appointment, dog grooming, or car detailing, you’ve probably had to accept that your schedule has changed in a big way due to social distancing. That’s okay! But before you go and cancel everything on your monthly to-do list, consider simply rescheduling things first. If you can’t get in to see your stylist or barber as you normally would, ask them if you can be placed back on the schedule at a later date, rather than canceling your appointment entirely. 

Even better, if you can afford to pay for your appointments ahead of time, offer to do so. Not every small business or local shop will take you up on it, but many are willing, and paying in advance is a great way to help keep your favorite places up and running while still getting the services you want at a later date.