Insights Gleaned from the Pandemic

Taking the great leap forward for many businesses world-wide, happened quite abruptly. There was no other choice. Traditional ways had to be revamped at an expeditiously fast rate. It was a matter of survival - the embrace of technology, the move to online. The scramble to reimagine how one does business created a digital transformation boom never seen before and injected a colossal spike in the e-commerce space.

This was no mean feat, especially for many enterprises designed to be experienced in person - your book stores, cafés, yoga studios, art galleries, gyms. Designed for the tactile experience of thumbing through a book, the aromatic sensory stimulation of coffee or fresh baked croissants, the visual fusion of colour face-to-face with an artist's brush strokes. Reshaping the way they do business and jumping into an unknown digital landscape was their survival.

Overnight, doing business in person was not really an option anymore, so everyone scrambled to get online. We saw a three-year adoption cycle get compressed to three weeks. —David Rusenko, General Manager e-Commerce at Square

But now what? 
How do we move beyond this? How do we navigate a pandemic that is still unruly, changing shape and scope on a daily basis. I'm sure we all felt by the end of 2021 we would be well ahead of this. And we might well be, because we now have the benefit of hindsight, "The most fertile source of insight", as the great professor Morris Kline so eloquently puts it. With a brush of optimism we gathered up some of the insight we gleaned and how a positive future is possible.

Pause, take stock, and look to the future

If you haven't evolved from just surviving COVID-19, most likely there will be less opportunity to thrive in the imminent future. This perhaps has opened the door to allow your competitors to be more equipped. But the good news is you can put things in place to change this. Wherever you are on this pandemic journey, this is an opportune time to explore new ways of thinking and reimagine what can be possible. The call to action is to look beyond the immediate need. Whatever form the pandemic continues to take, more than ever, it is vital to make time to pause, take stock, and build in robust strategies that are future-focused. Understand the impact COVID-19 has had on your business - What's worked? What hasn't work? Take steps to reach out to your employees, to your customers to understand the impact they've faced - How has this influenced their behaviours, their expectations? The reality is the landscape of doing business has changed and along with it the expectation of doing business has changed. You need to understand this from a business view, and also from the perspective of all your stakeholders. Doing this work will provide understanding and bring to light opportunities that exist in this space. Being able to see opportunities within this complex uncertainty will help set you up for the future.

Tend to your digital presence

Everyone has made a huge step in digital. Quite a number of organisations are surprised by the extent of the digital shift they took, more than they had imagined. And for many, their digital transformation has become a permanent change to their business. For others it has morphed into a hybrid mix. Online interaction, online sales, digital collaboration, etc. is a natural, ongoing projection. The rate at which new technologies and digital trends are being developed is quite exciting. So much of this is being fed by creative strategies and the design of new digital innovations spawned by the pandemic. To stay viable and ensure your part in this, it's important to tend to your digital presence. Now is a great time to optimise user experience. Do your research to understand how your customers want to engage with you. Don't be afraid to try new technologies, and new ways to connect. It might just be the difference between you and your competitor.

Tend to your customer care

Interactions in person are very different to those online. But whether you are virtual or face-to-face you need to ensure you deliver good customer service. Especially online, make sure you're tending to your customers as you would if they were in the store. WIth the influx of e-commerce, we saw some businesses were able to ride this better than others. Don't just rely on automated online transactions, or under value the power of looking after your customers beyond the digital systems you have in place. It's important to adapt your customer-experience strategies for the long haul. As mentioned above, you need to do your homework so you are well informed of how people want to engage with you and what they think good customer service is.

In the e-commerce space, it is vital in fulfillment. The pandemic has created a record of online buying that has had a huge affect on delivery service. The number of parcels being sent around the country and coming in and out of Australia has impacted the likes of Australia Post who are struggling to keep up with the demand. On top of this, the extended lockdowns has meant fewer flights, less air freight capacity, and suspension of domestic and international routes.

We observed the businesses that were more successful in navigating around this didn't settle for a second-rate fulfillment process. Their emphasis on customer care was their incentive to find ways around obstacles that offered better solutions, and enabled them to continue to provide quality customer service. For those businesses that didn't have the ability to change their fulfillment process, the more successful ones were those who kept open communication with their customers. Keeping them in the loop of where their package was, updates from the carrier, news of any unforeseen issues etc. This type of attention will make a huge a difference in customer satisfaction and in retaining those customers.

Be prepared

You have to be prepared for change at all times. This certainly isn't new thought but the pandemic forced businesses to adopt it. The speed at which the move from in-store to online happened at such a rate it didn't allow for much time to brainstorm ideas or develop strategic plans. We observed organisations that integrated and embraced change as part of their business strategy were more prepared when the pandemic hit. They could more easily adapt and transform. It's important to understand the necessity of being prepared. This doesn't mean you won't hit turbulence on your business journey, but it will help you manage that turbulence. Whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or flourishing, we have to be ready. Omar Abbosh, Chief Strategy Officer for Accenture worldwide emphasises 'A company needs to be willing to continually evolve every aspect of its business over time in a whole series of pivots.' In changing times you need to revisit your assumptions and make approprate pivots to stay relevant. Getting back to 'normal' isn't really an option. Businesses need to welcome change. Adaptability is the difference between coping and thriving. It comes down to risk management and minimising the impact of unforeseen events while maximising the awareness of opportunities. Managing risk is about identifying risks, assessing the impact of these risks, and the application of strategy to minimise these risks - staying on top of your cash flow management, reeling in your debtors, diversifying your services, implementing robust and secure digital systems etc. There are a multitude of things one can do to mitigate risk, what's vital for business longevity is ensuring your commitment to this.


Image Credit
'Online shopper' by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

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Change is the only constant in life. Ones ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life.

Benjamin Franklin