It's no overstatement to say that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses in the US and around the globe are facing an unprecedented challenge that will reshape life as they know it.
In response, a wide variety of tech companies are making their own unprecedented offers. Some are aimed at all US citizens, like Comcast's move to open the Xfinity WiFi network up for free.
In many cases, companies are giving businesses — especially those in the hard-hit retail and restaurant industries — their products for free, to help them get through a difficult and uncertain time period.
We've rounded up the best free offerings, and have listed them here along with the details you need to know.
Shopify Offers Free Online Stores
Shopify, a commerce platform that lets business start and customize online storefronts, is offering a COVID-19-specific ecommerce deal. It's letting businesses run a free retail store website for selling online for up to 90 days.
Why is now the perfect time for a free online store? Because small businesses that earn all their income from in-store traffic are seeing massive drops in customers due to social distancing measures, and in many areas across the US, are even fully banned from operating. Starting a profitable online store now is easier than ever, thanks to tools like Shopify and the many potential customers who are now finding themselves stuck at home- with their laptops.
Once the pandemic's over, a small business with a successful online store will be able to grow in a new direction, adding flexibility now and in the future. Shopify is one of the best ecommerce website builders on the market, so this deal gives businesses everywhere a free three-month runaway towards a more sustainable future.
Other Shopify Perks
If you already have an account on Shopify, they've added a few additional coronavirus-related perks — for example, everyone now has access to the gift card functionality, as a way to let customers financially support their favorite businesses up front. Options for physical and digital gift cards will be accessible across all new and existing Shopify plans.
The ecommerce platform is also hosting weekly live webinars aimed at giving struggling businesses a helping hand, and it offers a way for physical locations to set up in-store or curb-side pick ups for online customers.
To sell online for 90 days for free you can get this Shopify offer here
Square Refunds Subscription Fees
Popular payment processor Square is also offering a great deal for cash-strapped businesses — refunds for the month of March, across the board and with no action required. Here's how they announced it on their site.
“We are refunding all software subscription fees for the month of March for existing sellers who currently use Square Appointments, Retail, Restaurants, Loyalty, Team Management, Payroll, Marketing, and Square Online Store. Square will manage the process for you—there’s no need to do anything.”
The company will release additional updates as the pandemic continues.
They'll waive additional fees, too
Also announced: Square Online Store has just released functionality supporting curbside pickup for businesses, as well as local delivery — two features that are obviously now more essential than ever. And, for the next three months, all fees related to both curbside pickup and delivery will be completely waived.
Square is working on even more features, so expect more announcements from the company.
Lightspeed Offers Free Point of Sale Software
POS company Lightspeed is also opening up its software offerings for a free three-month period. Customers will be able to adapt three different services.
- Lightspeed Delivery — for restaurants
- Lightspeed eCommerce — for retailers
- Lightspeed Loyalty — for omnichannel operations
The cloud-based POS software service is a great way for businesses to track and manage sales and inventory, among many other common tasks like marketing, reporting, and employee management.
The omnichannel software in particular will be attractive during the pandemic, as its whole purpose is to allow customers to place orders online through a process just as simple as walking into a physical store.
And once again, adapting to a POS service now can continue to help a business thrive once the pandemic's over, and not just in the short term.
#Lightspeedlocal and more
Lightspeed's other coronavirus responses include the #lightspeedlocal initiative, a program to encourage employees to shop locally.
It's an internal effort at Lightspeed, not just a hashtag: The program will reimburse employees at the international POS company's 14 offices with up to $500 for any purchases the employees place with any Lightspeed retail or restaurant customer.
The company is also offering free online resources covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other POS Providers ready to help your business during this unusual time period include Talech POS offering $0 contracts for the first year, Upserve POS offering virtual POS systems and Toast POS with their Toast Now online service.
GoToMeeting Offering Emergency Remote Work Kits
It's easy to see the need for video conferencing tools now that millions of people are working from home. GoToMeeting is stepping up to help here, offering three free months for “critical front-line service providers.”
The term covers categories of businesses including healthcare providers, educational institutions, and municipalities, as well as non-profit organizations. They'll get organization-wide use of the GoToMeeting video conferencing service, plus other products like GoToWebinar, which lets you host webinars.
It's an easy way to let a business's employees transition from their 9-to-5 job to a distributed workforce, and it saves that business from the unexpected cost.
Cisco Webex Offers Free Video Conferencing
For larger businesses, Cisco Webex is offering a free 90-day license for its video conferencing software. The deal includes some attractive features, such as no time restrictions, support for up to 100 participants, and the option for toll number dial-ins, in addition to their normal VoIP capabilities.
Granted, the businesses that would benefit most from this kind of high call volume software may already have solutions in place to cope with the increased demand at the moment. But for those that haven't quite needed it yet but may in the future, or were considering switching providers from their existing system, it's the perfect chance to try Cisco Webex out. It's hard to beat the low, low cost of “free”!
Microsoft lovers can get free video conferencing, too
Why stop at GoToMeeting and Webex? Microsoft Teams debuted its own deal earlier this month, a six-month trial offer that can power video meetings and integrates with an Office 365 workflow.
To compare multiple VoIP and video calling options at once you could also use our free comparison tool here
Moz Academy's Free SEO Courses
If you're serious about investing in online orders to keep your business afloat now and to make it bulletproof in the future, you'll want to know a thing or two about search engine optimization, or SEO.
Moz Academy offers crash courses on the ins and outs of SEO, from link building to page optimization to running a full website audit. And, until May 31, they're making a selection of relevant courses free.
You'll just need to sign up for a Moz account and then use the coupon code “wegotthis” at checkout. The deal covers an SEO Essentials certification, making this a great choice for small business managers who need to add an extra skill for the internet age, or for employees interested in branching out into online marketing.
Not to mention that taking on an extra online course might be just the thing you need to keep your mind off the news cycle.
Zoho Gives Small Businesses Free Apps
CRM software service Zoho also has a deal aimed squarely at the most vulnerable businesses out there. It's for small- to medium-sized Zoho customers with 25 employees or less, and titled the “Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program,” or ESAP.
For those who get it, the program offers a free three months of access to all Zoho apps they currently use.
The scope of the program is a little more limited than the other deals on this list, as it appears to only be available to current Zoho customers, and even then they'll need to apply, with waivers granted to the basis of factors like severity of disruption and industry among others. Still, for small businesses and startups, it's a valuable lifeline, and one that comes with no additional strings attached.
Did You Know? Tech.co has a handy comparison tool for comparing the best deals from a range of CRM providers
NPR's Pointing You to Free Concerts
Okay, we've covered the top seven free software and products being offered to small businesses, but we couldn't help but throw in a fun one, too. NPR has a regularly updated list of all the upcoming livestreamed music concerts on the horizon.
Not all the concerts are free, but most are, and they're a great way to relax after a long day of saving your small business.
Too Good to Be True?
Look, we know what you're thinking: Are these companies just jumping on the coronavirus PR bandwagon, or can they genuinely help businesses?
It's certainly possible that both answers might be valid. The simple truth is that banding together in times of crisis helps everyone. There's no reason why these companies wouldn't be genuinely trying to help small businesses, since they've built their reputations on doing just that.
In any case, these services and products are free for now, and can certainly make a big difference to those learning to cope remotely in the short-term, as well as growing their businesses in the long-term.
Take advantage of these resources and offers now… while you still can!