Like many people, I’d never used Zoom before COVID-19. I now have as many as three Zoom meetings a day, and I’m not alone. According to a late April, 2020 article on The Verge, “Zoom usage has soared from 10 million daily meeting participants back in December to 300 million this month.” I finally broke down and got my own Zoom account a few days ago, which turns out to cost just $14.99 a month for small businesses.  From what I understand, having a paid account helps decrease the threat from hackers that has been a concern.

How can you make use of this popular video conferencing platform (or alternatives such as Apple’s FaceTime, WhatsApp Video or Google Meet) to run your business during this challenging time?

You could:

1.  Gather your team into one place while maintaining physical/social distancing.  This would be helpful to talk with your entire staff, or just your managers.  Be aware, however, that requiring computer access may put employees without current technology and Internet at a disadvantage.  Public libraries often serve as a place where anyone can go online, but many of them are currently closed.

2.  Meet with your fellow merchants. We had a very productive “Town Hall” meeting of my Monroe Street colleagues last week, sharing our plans for reopening and our concerns about the current situation.

3. Use Zoom to meet with your sales reps. You don’t need conferencing that can handle 100 people at the same time in order to do this, of course – FaceTime or Skype will work just as well.  Several of my reps have offered this option for a virtual appointment, and showrooms are using technology for remote selling.

4. Talk to your customers.  If you have a group of customers with a common interest, such as birdwatching, they might enjoy a Zoom call in which they hear a presentation by an expert – you – and then can discuss the topic amongst themselves.  Many people are eager for social connection, and Zoom makes it possible to easily share visuals as part of your presentation.  You could even have fun with a virtual background appropriate to your topic.

5. Use Zoom for employee training.  I’m eager to try this, but haven’t done it yet. One of my fellow merchants, Sarah Artz of Good Day Shop, shared this tip with me: “Since Zoom has screen share and recording functions, I can record and talk through a process like shipping an item and share the link with team members. It’s been a really great way to get the team up to speed with new processes without having to train them individually. They can then go back and rewatch it as needed, hopefully also they can be in charge of updating it as it evolves too.”

I’m sure there are other creative ways Zoom can help your business during this time – but I have to go now, because our weekly family Zoom call is starting!

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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