If ever there was a year to define the phrase “pay it forward,” 2020 is it. From our frontline and essential workers, to parents, educators, and school children, to small business owners in every sector, our human family has supported one another in innumerable ways. Restaurants provided free meals to anyone going hungry because of the pandemic. Non profit organizations leveraged teleconferencing to encourage children to keep taking good care of their teeth. Cafés gave away free coffee to medical staff and first responders, and raised funds for local community services. From celebrities to business people to regular folks in every walk of life, Americans have stepped up in their local communities and also reached out through their online networks to help complete strangers hundreds of miles away. The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every facet of life and business—from the small corner café to the large national chains.
Our immediate reaction to the first hints that the coronavirus might impact small businesses was to reach out to our merchants to understand their concerns, work through potential long-term scenarios, and begin internal discussions about what we can do to help. We knew we’d need to move fast.
One of the first steps we took was to publish a COVID-19 list of financial relief resources and options for small businesses (see this blog post). We also put together survival guides for the restaurant, retail, and services industries. Given the recent news that Congress passed a new relief package for 2021, we’re following the developments closely and will be posting an update in the New Year on what this means for small businesses.
To support our merchants, we pivoted our pre-pandemic product plans and reset our teams’ priorities. Our primary payment processing product had traditionally been the “card present” form of payment. Responding to the sudden need for contactless payment and more online commerce, we pivoted fast to “card not present.” For our restaurant merchants, this meant fast-forwarding the launch of Clover Online Ordering; for our retail merchants, we did a broad outreach campaign to let them know they can integrate their Clover systems with our ecommerce partners.
We also directed our customer service teams to be on stand-by for merchants navigating a rapidly evolving new landscape. But one of the most important areas in which we felt we could be of service, was direct financial relief. We waived fees for Clover Rapid Deposit and worked with our partners to help small businesses apply for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Most importantly, together with our parent company, Fiserv, Inc., we are helping Black and other minority-owned small businesses, which have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, get back on their feet. The Back2Business initiative earmarks $10 million in grants, mentorship, and other support for businesses in select communities across the country.
They say it’s the toughest challenges that bring out the best in people. In those early days of the pandemic, when every day seemed to bring more confusion and uncertainty to the small business community, our teams pulled together and went above and beyond their usual roles and responsibilities. No one ever said, “that’s not my job.” We knew time was not on our side, and we did what needed to get done to help our merchants keep their businesses running.
This is how the Flex Extender—an extension arm making it easy for merchants and their customers to socially distance at the point of payment—became a reality. This is how Clover Online Ordering and Scan to Order launched months ahead of schedule, helping our restaurant merchants expand their online orders with no additional fees. This is how we fast-tracked the invoicing feature of Virtual Terminal, useful especially for service-based businesses. And it’s how the Clover app brought numerous improvements to consumers earlier than planned, adding mobile order management to its rewards features. Other noteworthy milestones of 2020 include the new Clover Flex, Scan to Pay, Coursing, Customer Engagement, and the ability to sell digital gift cards online.
Our long-standing practice of listening to our merchants and addressing their concerns as part of our product planning cycles took on a particularly strong focus and meaning this year—because the reality of so many of our small business merchants changed, often in drastic and life-altering ways. The vaccine and the latest COVID-19 relief bill are all encouraging, but we still have some way to go before we can claim victory as a society and as a national economy. One thing we are sure of is that there is no going back to business-as-usual even after the pandemic ends.
With all of its world-changing impacts, this year’s number, 2020, holds an uncanny reference to the phrase “20/20 hindsight.” We like to think of it as “20/20 foresight.” The speed and breadth with which COVID-19 upended small businesses across the country and throughout the world brought unexpected and unprecedented challenges, but those challenges also presented us with a powerful opportunity: to turn the insights, processes, and efficiencies we put in place this year into an engine of resilience, growth, and innovation.
Every lesson learned and insight gained are already shaping the way we’re building our products and services, and how we serve and support our merchants. Stronger health and safety guidelines are now a permanent criterion in our product design. Online commerce and contactless payments are no longer a nice-to-have for our merchants; they are now critical business tools. All of our upcoming customer engagement features take the new ways people shop, eat out, and utilize services into full account.
We’re more than ready, as you no doubt are, to get past this pandemic and get back to business, better and stronger than ever. Watch for developments in these areas in 2021:
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all of our small business merchants for being a part of the Clover community. It is an honor and a blessing to work with you, and we look forward to serving and supporting you in 2021 and many more years to come.
The Clover Team
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