The pandemic has affected all of us in numerous ways, but the stay-at-home message is the biggest change. Working from home and shopping from home have become the new normal. Businesses are being forced to adapt as the changes are unlikely to be temporary. You need to plan for a different future that takes into account the impact of the virus and resulting economic and societal change for many months if not years.
Many businesses that didn’t previously sell online have been forced to start, or risk going bust. Others have expanded their digital offering to take advantage of increased demand. Local pubs and small local shops are now all selling online, and even farmers have been flocking to Shopify to set up local online deliveries. If you’re not doing this already you need to get going or you’ll be left behind, no matter how large or small your business is.
According to a new McKinsey Global Survey of executives, their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years. Nearly all respondents said that their companies have made at least temporary solutions to meet many of the new demands on them, and much more quickly than they had thought possible before the crisis. What’s more, respondents expect most of these changes to be long lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick. When they asked executives about the impact of the crisis on a range of measures, they said that funding for digital initiatives has increased more than anything else.
Advantages of Selling Online
Taking your business online can reap great rewards, tapping into a huge, new, global audience. One major advantage over premises-based retailers is the ability expand your market beyond local customers very quickly. You may discover a strong demand for your products in other areas of the country, or entirely different countries, opening up whole new markets you hadn’t considered before. Website analytics can give you really useful customer intelligence, allowing you gain insight into your customers’ needs.
Another benefit is reduced overheads – selling online can remove the need for expensive retail premises and customer-facing staff, allowing you to invest in better marketing and customer experience on your e-commerce site. You will have the potential for rapid growth – selling on the internet means traditional constraints to retail growth – e.g., finding and paying for larger premises are not major factors. With a good digital marketing strategy and a plan to scale up order fulfilment systems, you can respond and boost growing sales.
More than half of respondents to the McKinsey survey said that technology transformations have lifted revenues, reduced costs, and improved employee experiences in the past two years.
Adapting to the new Economic Climate
During a crisis like this, the businesses that survive will be those with open-minded leaders that can adapt quickly to change and inspire their team to do the same. The pandemic has had a worse impact on the economy than the 2008 financial crisis and affected the lives of every single person in the UK (and most of the world). We’re living and working in a very different way. Instead of feeling disheartened about the current situation, try to see the opportunities available to you and your business. With everything going online, there may no longer be the same geographical barriers (imagined or otherwise) limiting your customer base. You may even identify a new market for your product or service in an industry you had not yet explored.
Even big, successful companies have been forced to adapt. Spotify, the global leader in music streaming, you’d think would have flourished in lockdown – with customers trapped in their homes who need to escape from reality by listening to songs streamed on a device. However, Spotify relies on advertising revenue to enable its free streaming service, and when this dried up as the crisis hit company budgets, it struggled. To overcome this, it started offering original content in the form of podcasts. The platform saw artists and users upload more than 150,000 podcasts in just one month, and it has signed exclusive podcast deals with celebrities and started to curate playlists. Creating this new revenue stream enabled the company to survive the economic downturn.
Another large company that has been forced to adapt is Airbnb. Faced by the sudden collapse in travel, Airbnb moved swiftly to help hosts financially and connect them with potential guests. Hosts can now offer online events focused on cooking, meditation, art therapy, magic, song-writing, virtual tours, and many other activities, with users joining for a modest fee. Expanding their digital offering has helped them through the crisis.
What else can you do?
So what measures are you taking to adapt to the current climate? If you’re not already maximizing your digital opportunities you need to start thinking about it now as your competitors will be. Ross Pike of Koreti, a web design company, said “We have seen a huge increase in companies wanting to improve their website and to start selling online over the last 12 months. Businesses are very aware of the need to adapt to these new circumstances or risk getting left behind”.
If your business isn’t suited to selling online there are other ways to maximize your digital potential. Social media is now part of all our lives – use it to promote your business and your activities. Speed up your website – research shows that most visitors will leave a page that doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Make sure your website is responsive – nowadays over half of internet traffic is conducted through a mobile device, it’s vital your website looks good on one. Create a blog page – adding regular new content to your website not only keeps visitors coming back, but also boosts your rankings in search engines. Run an email marketing campaign – research shows that email marketing is a great way to increase your outreach, visibility and attention. Use google analytics to see exactly what visitors are doing on your website. Host webinars to provide information to your customers – video is the fastest growing marketing medium at the moment.
Now that we are hopefully coming out of the other side of the pandemic, the businesses that have expanded their digital offering out of necessity aren’t going to revert back to their old website or remove functionality that has opened up a new revenue stream. They are going to boost their business by running this alongside their traditional selling methods, boosting their business. So, if your mindset has been to “wait it out” with a plan to go back to normal after the crisis is over, you will find that your competitors will have taken a permanent step forward online and you’re left behind.