The business landscape after coronavirus: Adapt and thrive

Sebastian Palus

Director, Business Design

12 min read

We’re all experiencing an unprecedented situation. Worldwide lockdowns, social distancing, limited access to many services and closed shopping centers are impacting the global economy on a massive scale. Thousands of businesses are going through a rough patch and many are now close to bankruptcy. However, some are skyrocketing or at least maintaining a healthy balance. Putting aside service industries such as catering or the travel industry – immediate casualties of the necessary restrictions – how is it possible to maintain business continuity during a global health emergency? While many businesses struggle, others are thriving – let’s take a closer look at the mechanisms behind bulletproof companies and their astonishing readiness for the unknown.

If your business is heavily dependent on physical contact, you are very likely to experience a massive hit during the lockdown. This applies mostly to small service businesses like barber shops or beauty salons, but also to the travel or retail industry. All the parts of your operations that aren’t yet digitalized pose a risk to your business’ resilience. Grocery stores have stayed open and are trying to do business as usual,  and yet they’re struggling as well, even though the overall demand for food has not decreased: Whatever happens, we still need to eat. Closed shops are not the only reason of revenue decline, arguably it's rather the #stayathome recommendation. Even the supermarkets/grocery stores that have already offered a home-delivery option are having difficulties because of not being able to scale up the supply to match the demand that has shifted the primary channel from physical to delivery-based.

 

Of course, there are many industries that either haven’t felt the impact just yet, or even doubled their profits overnight. Apart from the predictable spike in pharmaceuticals, we’re also observing great results in verticals that were already digital, on demand or originally targeted at remote-first. OTT services and online communication tools have been enjoying a substantial boost in revenue. In the face of the global pandemic, Zoom Video (teleconferencing software) has become a top performing stock on NASDAQ, with up to 130% gains, or nearly a 160% spread when considering the 30% decline of the market. The streaming giant Netflix has recorded 16 million new subscribers worldwide as coronavirus keeps people at home. The same applies to delivery services which have been seeing a surge in demand mostly related to food delivery.

 

Given the current situation, businesses must act fast to limit the catastrophic effects. Time-consuming and well-thought-through initiatives are not the way to go when market dynamics are changing rapidly. We’re at a point, where an agile mindset is the only guarantee of quick wins (and manageable losses). Considering going mobile – after all it’s essential during COVID-19 – or rolling out some form of digital customer service? Start with prototypes and minimum viable products (I mean, REALLY minimum). They will work out much better now than complex, sophisticated solutions. The quicker you can go back to market, the faster you will be able to regain at least some part of the lost revenue. If you’re not able to launch a full-fledged e-commerce site to kickstart your online channel, you can still get your orders via e-mail, phone or online tools such as Google Forms. Build, inspect and adapt.

 

Wait. I can sense your hesitation: “Do I need to react at all?”. The coronavirus pandemic will fade at some point and you might be able to survive and get back to normal soon, right? Well, even if the future is brighter than some forecasts predict (recent Harvard study says we might still need some social distancing measures into 2022 to keep the coronavirus in check), consumers' behavior might not be the same as before. In China, there is already a 55% increase in consumers intending to shift permanently to online shopping for groceries when COVID-19 goes away.  As the US president John Adams (1791-1801) once said: "Every problem is an opportunity in disguise". If you can innovate now, you can lead the "new normal" and shape the post-COVID-19 world. 

 

In order for that to happen you’ll need to forget the "standards" you know and instead connect the worlds of business, users and technology to get the most out of it all. Digital-first and omni-channels will play a large role here. By utilizing Design Thinking techniques you can come up with the best Customer Experience (CX) for your business case. You will need to change or innovate business models or perhaps pivot your business altogether. 

Some innovative directions which had already been forecasted prior to the pandemic are now more likely to pick up speed due to the change in customer habits. We could see more virtual fitting rooms very soon, mimicking the in-store experience remotely. For the medical e-visits to work, we might soon be equipped with medical wearables that are able to measure much more than just your heartrate or body temperature and enable remote examination or maybe even diagnosis based on AI. Virtual Reality might become more accessible, enabling realistic online meetings or virtual cinemas and theaters. People could be willing to sacrifice some of their privacy to ensure more safety (using computer vision and big data algorithms on data from city cameras and mobile phones). Who knows: Maybe we’ll soon have devices at home that’ll manage our hairstyles and apps to check out our desired looks beforehand. And all of the above are just based on technologies we already have at hand. 

 

To summarize, remember to be:

1. Agile in dynamic times (#agility)

2. Customer-centric (#empathy)

3. Willing to innovate digital models (#enthusiasm)

 

All of the 3 points are intive’s own core values – we’re here to support you along the way. From our Agile Consultants, through Business & Experience Designers to AI & Cloud Architects: We can help you ideate and build a strategy, also remotely. And then, support you in developing the digital solution you need, to make that strategy come to life. The time is now. Reach out to us and be the leader of the new business landscape.

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