How to Pivot During COVID-19: 16 Ideas to Switch from Brick and Mortar to Digital

pivot during covid-19

When governments around the world issued stay-at-home orders and implemented lockdown measures, many small businesses were forced to shut their doors and cut off their primary source of revenue.

Traditional brick and mortar businesses were hit hardest as they had little or no online presence to fall back on. But for many, it was the spark they needed to pivot and change their business model.

So if you’re still unsure how to make the switch from brick and mortar to digital, we’ve rounded up sixteen ideas from businesses who have executed a successful pivot during COVID-19.

Let’s take a look.


How Restaurants, Cafés, Pubs, and Bars Pivot During Covid-19

Restaurants, pubs, and cafe bars were among the first businesses to close down to prevent social gatherings. But that didn’t stop them from pivoting.

1. Introduce takeout and delivery services

For example, in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo restaurants, like Kouraku, have taken to social media for the first time to announce their new takeout and delivery service:

More substantial businesses like Mcdonalds and Burger King have also turned to home deliveries as both their restaurants and drive-thru services were closed.


2. Sell online merchandise

But what about a double pivot?

That’s what the Siop Shop – a popular café in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter – performed.

First, they changed their business model to deliveries around Manchester city center:

But when that model hit a snag, they pivoted again to selling online merchandise, such as t-shirts and caps, and launched with a great video on Instagram:


How Physical Retail Stores Pivot During Covid-19

Physical retail stores have also been hit hard as a result of the lockdown. But there are ways to transform your business model.

To help stores pivot, Shopify has extended its free trial to 90 days. Now you can create a simple online store that offers curbside pickup or local delivery options to your customers. And, if that proves to be successful, it’s a model you can use after the lockdown as well.

Here are some success stories of businesses going online or changing their products and services.


3. Offer curbside pickups

The Ruby Tap – a self-serve wine bar in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin – started offering curated wine for curbside pickup on their website:

pivot during covid-19 retail store offer curbside pickup

Customers can now order hand-picked packs of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles of wine for collection.


4. Downsize products

Before COVID-19, Aaron Moreno’s company, Drift, used to build custom tables, doors, and furniture from reclaimed wood for restaurants and mansions in Palm Beach, Florida. Now, he’s scaled the business right back so that his team can work on solo projects to produce baby gates, shelving, and small coffee tables for the home:

pivot during covid-19 retail stores downsize products


5. Run training bootcamps

Nail salon chain, Olive & June, founded by mani-obsessee Sarah Gibson Tuttle in Beverly Hills, California, is now offering online mani bootcamps. Customers can build their own “Everything Box” from a selection of colors and shades, and then follow the online classes to manicure their nails.

pivot during covid-19 retail stores run training bootcamps


6. Offer online consultations

And on a similar theme, professional hairstylist Lauren Phelps of L. Rose Salon in Charlotte, North Carolina, is offering DIY kits and online Zoom color consultations, as you can see in this clip from  :


How Gyms, Spas, and Health Clubs Pivot During Covid-19

Additional brick and mortar businesses struck by the coronavirus are gyms, spas, and health clubs. Most of these relied on customers to visit their premises for treatments, classes, and workouts.


7. Create online apps and stream live classes

Previously, Gympass provided access to 50,000 gyms worldwide. Now they’ve had to pivot from in-person visits to online options, including a collection of wellness apps and live-streamed classes.

pivot during covid-19 gyms spas health clubs stream online classes


How Artists Pivot During Covid-19

With mass gatherings banned, we’ve seen artists switch to online performances with at-home live concerts.


8. Livestream performances

For example, Diplo streamed his live DJ sets:


9. Live recordings

And Queen and Adam Lambert went one stage further by recording one of their live impromptu performances and releasing You Are The Champions – an updated version of their classic hit We Are The Champions – in recognition of the frontline health workers.


How Events and Conferences Pivot During Covid-19

Live conferences and events have also had to switch to online virtual events to avoid mass gatherings and comply with social distancing.


10. Switch to online events

For example, the Saastr Summit – Bridging The Gap – switched to an online event where over 16,000 attendees came to learn from SaaS experts and leaders:

pivot during covid-19 conferences switch to online events


11. Switch to online sales

Sports recovery business MyoMaster creates and sells products that enable athletes to train harder and perform better:

pivot during covid-19 switch to online sales

Before COVID-19, all their revenue was generated at sporting events like the London Marathon or by visiting gyms and health clubs.

In the space of two weeks, they pivoted to a digital business.

Co-founder Lottie Whyte said:

We had everyone in the team focusing on updating our website, finding influencers, creating content, and figuring out how to do digital advertising – we’ve all been up late doing online courses and learning as we go – and we’ve created an online store.”


12. Switch to online tasting

Wine tasting event company Club Vino also found a way to move their business online. Previously, events were hosted in hotels around Manchester and Cheshire in the UK.

Now, customers can order an online wine tasting package, which includes:

  • 6 or 12 wines
  • Printable tasting notes
  • Printable glass markers
  • Access to an online video where founder Marco guides you through the wines.

pivot during covid-19 events switch to online tasting


How Museums and Art Galleries Pivot During Covid-19

Current conditions mean people can’t view or purchase artwork from museums and art galleries.


13. Form partnerships

Getty Museum in Los Angeles has formed a unique partnership with the video game Animal Crossing. Their unique open-source art generator converts paintings by famous artists such as Rembrandt or Van Gogh into pixelated images. So, players can decorate their “homes” with more than 70,000 artworks featured in the museum’s extensive open-access collection.

pivot during covid 19 museums art galleries form partnership getty animal crossing


14. Run online art auctions

Leading art expert and auctioneer Tom Best from the Auction Collective has moved his business online via live streaming auctions. Bidders now use downloadable bidding paddles to place bids during the digital auctions:

pivot during covid-19 museums art galleries online auctions


How Professional Services Pivot During Covid-19

Elsewhere, we’ve seen various professional services transform business operations from onsite into fully-remote services.


15. Convert to fully-remote services

For example, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are now conducting audits remotely during the pandemic. Traditionally, auditors always went onsite to audit their clients’ accounts.

pivot during covid-19 professional services CPAs remote accounting

But now they’ve had to pivot to connecting online and checking the books. Firms are using secure web portals to review clients’ documents and communicate with them face-to-face through video conferencing.


How Protesters Pivot During Covid-19

And finally, protesters around the world have also shown it’s possible to protest online instead of holding mass gatherings on the streets.


16. Protest online

For example, French sex workers organized a 5-day virtual protest in the Animal Crossing game. Worldcrunch reported that they used their online avatars to wave signs reading “sex is work” or “someone I love is a sex worker” before posting screenshots of the protest on social media.

And in Poland, there were anti-abortion protests, which forced the government to delay passing the bill:

pivot during covid-19 protest online

Photo: monica costa via Twitter


How To Pivot During Covid-19, In A Nutshell

Even when the economy reopens – and it will – it makes sense to have a robust digital business channel.

First, you’ll be able to provide a service to those people who may prefer to stay at home. And second, you’re future-proofing your business in case of new lockdowns caused by another wave of the epidemic.

Either way, it’s best to keep your options open so you can grow your business through an additional revenue stream.

Loomly is the Brand Success Platform that helps your marketing team better collaborate online. If you are switching to digital and looking for an intuitive tool to structure your efforts, Loomly may be just what you need: start your 15-day free trial.