The key to prospering in a ‘post Covid’ world
The impact of Covid
As mentioned in our previous article it’s clear that Covid-19 has had, and will continue to have, a devastating impact on society for many years to come. It has forced many companies out of business and changed the way people think and behave in their daily lives. The physical retail space has been particularly hard hit with dozens of leading retailers in the US, UK and Europe filing for bankruptcy and disappearing from the high street, despite having operated in some cases for over 100 years. Dozens of leadings. Many industries from travel through to retail, and even industries that you wouldn’t think would be impacted such as banking, need to adapt to the changes that have taken place.
…action needs to be taken by leaders to ensure companies can adapt to the changes that have been brought forward as a result of the pandemic. Adapting to the change can ensure both survival during the crisis and after the crisis has passed…
As a result, action needs to be taken by leaders to ensure companies can adapt to the changes that have been brought forward as a result of the pandemic. Adapting to the change can ensure both survival during the crisis and after the crisis has passed. When reviewing opportunities for innovation to secure an organisations competitive future, whether that is within a growing, maturing or legacy organisation, leaders can begin by concentrating their focus into 5 key areas and asking the right questions.
1. Human and financial resources. The allocation of scarce resources to drive the strongest performance and long term returns.
Many companies have struggled to survive during the Covid crisis, with many cutting costs and reducing resources in an effort to stay afloat and to ‘ride out’ the crisis. Consequently, very little if any resources have been allocated to new ideas or to exploring emerging opportunities. Yet one can argue that during a crisis, you need to put more resources into new ideas and opportunities and view the crisis as more of an opportunity than as a threat. This is especially true for those ideas and opportunities linked to changes in consumer patterns.
In order to thrive and survive, organisations need to continuously invest and adapt their go-to-market strategy to ensure they are consistently delivering products and services relevant to their consumers and what those consumers are looking for in the current environment.
For example, organisational objectives pre and post Covid will always be linked to consumer interest. In order to thrive and survive, organisations need to continuously invest and adapt their go-to-market strategy to ensure they are consistently delivering products and services relevant to their consumers and what those consumers are looking for in the current environment. This raises the question of what form or type of resources are currently available to customers, and what resources those same customers need in today’s environment?
Resources could be in the form of human capital, systems and processes, or software (such as Customer Relationship Management software and systems). Organisation’s need to evaluate opportunities in an adapting environment which includes the assessment of the allocation of resources and other forms of physical or financial capital to leverage those opportunities.
2. Changes in consumer behaviour. Adapting to meet a shift in customer needs.
Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on how consumers act and think. This is true in almost every aspect of their lives as people around the world have adjusted to the impacts of the pandemic. Dramatic changes in purchasing behaviour and engagement has been nurtured by the changes in the way consumers work, socialise and interact with others. It’s clear that traditional consumer patterns have changed and while some things will return, others will become embedded and the new norm.
Examples of changes in consumption include the shift to online learning (for universities), growth of digital shopping (and ‘death of high street’) and focus on local products & services (vs shopping in from abroad). Companies need to take a deep dive into their product to understand how customers are interacting with it, or have begun to use it differently as a result of Covid-19.
Amongst a range of other things to consider some key questions managers should be asking include whether the customers want to use the product differently, how new customers are discovering your company’s products and services and whether they value one aspect of your product/service more than the other. It’s also crucial to track what your competitors are doing in order to understand how they are innovating or changing their approach. This includes changes to their product offering as well as their communication channels that may have been designed to enable greater engagement with their customers to strengthen loyalty.
The alcoholic beverage sector was one of the hardest sectors hit by Covid as pubs and clubs were forced to close worldwide due to lockdowns. Many alcoholic beverage companies saw their sales collapse as their traditional sales channels closed down. Four alcohol brands adapted to the crisis by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Rémy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience that would be streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door. The project has been launched as a means of creating a virtual version of clubbing for people who have been forced to self-isolate in China because of the coronavirus outbreak. According to data released by JD.com, during one of the live shows, sales of imported liquor from a single partner brand increased 70%, and sales of its whiskey products increased eight times compared with the same period on the day before. Sales of beer increased by 40% during the show compared with the same period of the day before. Clearly these brands had found a way to create a new way to meet the shift in consumer needs from a physical one to an online presence. Quick and innovative thinking such as this shows how these companies were able to adapt to the circumstances and connect with their consumers in a way they never would have previously considered.
3. Taking advantage of change. Identifying new opportunities in the form of products and services.
One of the things that has arisen is the emergence of new opportunities as a result of the crisis. Industries such as health-tech and edu-tech have seen significant growth directly as a result of users needing to use resources from, or connected to, these sectors directly as a result of the crisis. For example, due to lockdowns across the world children now need to be educated remotely at home. This has led to an explosion in the number of solutions and products that help to make the learning process easier for children, teachers and more importantly for parents who have had to adapt to become educators for their children.
companies can also exploit these opportunities if they are quick enough to identify them and to pivot, or refocus their systems and resources, to develop and launch a product or service to fill the gap in the market
Crisis such as Covid-19 can also lead to the creation of entirely new products or services that arise as a result of the changes in people’s perceptions and habits. Like all products, these new products fill a gap in the market that emerge and entrepreneurs nimble enough to see these gaps can move quickly and create a product or offering to fulfil the market demand. However, companies can also exploit these opportunities if they are quick enough to identify them and to pivot, or refocus their systems and resources, to develop and launch a product or service to fill the gap in the market. In doing so, this presents opportunities for companies (who are fast enough and those with the right lean approaches) to actually grow as a result of a crisis, rather than simply survive.
Prior to Covid-19 the interest in developing an online therapy market was relatively small as therapists were hesitant to use technology in this way and preferred to meet and treat patients in person. However, with Covid-19 creating lockdowns and enforcing social distancing measures and with a resulting increase in people struggling with anxiety and depression as a result, therapists needed to embrace remote mental healthcare. New apps such as Wysa, Talkspace, and AbleTo saw a significant surge in demand with Talkspace, a subscription-based service that matches users with therapists based on specific needs and goals, seeing a 65% increase in users between March and April 2020. The online therapist market as continued to see an explosive growth and is likely to emerge from the pandemic as a strong sector in its own right having been barely in existence prior to the pandemic hitting.
4. Lean and efficient. Preparing for the worst, but hope for the best.
Whilst crisis such as Covid-19 can present opportunities they also mean that companies need to make radical decisions to streamline their business and to anticipate future trends. In doing so they can help to ensure that their operations are lean and efficient enough to identify, adapt and alter to these changes as and when they take place. Having a centralised approach will ensure nothing is missed or duplicated and to streamline these initiatives. In effect, they need to build a foundation for growth in order to remain competitive in the recovery period. In doing so they can move faster and more efficiently as a result and recover more quickly than other companies who are likely to be more slow moving.
5. Upskilling and talent. The importance of education in the workforce.
One would think that during a period of crisis companies need to make cut backs in order to survive. Whilst this is true in some sense, it’s more important than ever to ensure that employees are upskilled. Companies need to ensure staff are supported as organisations go through rapid change and where new approaches to working or delivering for customers are need to survive and thrive. Education is crucial to embrace new ideas and concepts that are needed to enable growth.
One would think that crisis are inherently bad for business, yet we perceive them to be more of an opportunity for businesses that are quick and lean enough to adapt and to pivot to the changing environment. Not only to survive but to also prosper. The ability to think innovatively is absolutely crucial for your organisation to take advantage of the opportunities.
McKinsey’s have identified six best-practice actions, ranging from the immediate and tactical to the strategic, that they believe can help maintain the momentum and benefits of workplace-learning programs and help build a new foundation for effective virtual learning. These actions are 1) establishing a learning-response team, 2) protecting employees in in-person programs, 3) adapting delivery, 4) promoting digital learning, 5) exploring alternative digital strategies, and 6) practicing and preparing for multiple outcomes. We believe that McKinsey is right that organisations that expand learning opportunities and in improving learning overall will ultimately emerge out of the pandemic in a stronger position than they went in by being resilient and better equipped to handle new opportunities in the post-pandemic new order.
At Proto Innovation we are working with companies to understand, not only how they need to become more innovative internally, but also to crucially understand how they can and should interpret the changes taking place in the society and world around us as a result of Covid. In doing so they are better equipped with the right internal toolsets and mindset needed to prosper. Whilst Covid has had a devastating impact we believe that it also presents new opportunities to innovate and leap-frog ahead of their competitors if they are equipped right and take the right steps to emerge stronger.