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Can rethinking your business model during lockdown make all the difference?

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The world is in chaos right now. What’s more, this chaos has sparked major social, economic and technological transformations that are playing out before our eyes. What is clear is that we won’t revert to our old ways of living, working or doing business once the worst of the crisis has passed. Tomorrow is certain to be very different – which is why we must start reframing the future today.

Some say there is always opportunity in calamity. While there remains much uncertainty around how much consumers will be willing to spend, travel, dine out and go to sports and entertainment events in future, the impact of Covid-19 has forced businesses to act swiftly and radically to ensure business survival and long-term success. We explore a few ways to transform your business so that it survives, and even thrives, during and post Covid-19:

  • Technology has been the common denominator in most organisations’ resilience amid the pandemic, and there is no doubt that the current crisis has fast-tracked the use of disruptive technology and out-of-the-box thinking. Consider unique new ways to use technology to stay relevant. For example, if you own a restaurant or deli, you could launch a daily cooking show or virtual wine tasting on Facebook or YouTube to draw customers to your online marketplace. It’s also worth looking for ways to be more aggressive with social media and SEO (search-engine optimisation) to increase visibility and draw customers to your website or e-commerce platform.  
  • Evolving to address specific needs of groups demonstrates empathy and understanding, which communicates a message of solidarity beyond profit. By striving to make a meaningful difference to those around them, brands can foster brand loyalty and alignment both during the crisis and long after it has dissipated, while having a positive impact on people’s lives. For example, as lockdown eases level by level, consider setting up private shopping hours for at-risk customers, or using video or messaging apps to showcase stock to shoppers anxious about returning to crowded stores.
  • Reframe how you view the crisis, as it could be serendipitous: an accidental fortunate discovery. The outbreak has forcibly stripped away many people’s reluctance to meet and do business online, so if you believe your sales or consultations can only be done face to face, it might be time to re-evaluate your entire sales process – and transform it to expand beyond the city or even country you live in. This also applies to conferences and events, as there is no limit to the number of attendees of a webinar, and no need to take time out of the office for travel and attendance. This new way of meeting and sharing knowledge safely is illustrated by the dramatic increase in Zoom users – from 10 million users per day in December 2019 to 300 million in April this year, according to Statista.
  • If you’ve needed to retrench staff, consider freelancers to fill in the gaps, as this move saves money on salaries and benefits, giving business owners more flexibility.
  • Think about your core infrastructure and how it can be leveraged to diversify or create a new revenue stream. A good example is how Distell switched from making alcohol for human consumption to manufacturing hand sanitisers in a matter of days. Build greater agility and flexibility into supply chains, so you can switch to new suppliers and markets, if necessary.
  • It’s also important to be aware that, going forward, we are likely to see greater regulation by government, potentially in areas such as employment rights, accessibility of data and cash, and liquidity buffers held by large businesses. Consider how this new regulation may impact your business model, and factor it into your strategy going forward.

Although pivoting comes with risk, inaction can pose a far greater threat to survival. Those businesses that will make it through to the other side are those that take an honest view on whether they remain relevant and fit for purpose, and continue adjusting as the world alters.

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