Becoming Innovative in the Face of Coronavirus is a Business Imperative!
In this article, we will break down the threats that Coronavirus is posing to businesses as well as action items and potential opportunities that can be seized given the current state of world affairs.
The Louvre has closed its doors, stock markets across the globe are plummeting and some countries have gone so far as to close their borders with the US stopping all flights originating in Europe!
Businesses are feeling the pressure and need to have a plan in place. Here are some ideas of how your business can be prepared and take action!
Service Sector Industry Analysis
The service sector is any business that is reliant on services and not physical products. Types of services in this sector include businesses which provide experiences, access, advice, attention and the like.
Based on our data, here is a breakdown of potential at-risk sectors with our insights on practical action items and possible opportunities:
- The food industry
- Individual service providers
This sector is at the highest risk due to the dependence on human interaction. This can present a multitude of problems if the current situation escalates resulting in restriction of movement and fear of contraction such as what we now see at its extreme in Italy.
Service Sector Opportunities to overcome Coronavirus
Instead of dwelling on the loss of business and revenue, service-oriented businesses need to start getting innovative. Here are a few examples of what can be done, try and think about how you can apply these to your individual business:
- The food industry - Many cafes and restaurants are seeing a decline in diners which is why they are increasing their customer’s accessibility to takeaway and home orders. Consider adding your establishment to a food ordering app the likes of Wolt. Alternatively, package and sell do it yourself ingredients with instructions for patrons to get their fill of their favorite dishes. Imagine getting the exact components of your flagship cocktail or muffin out in the world and available to all online.
- Individual service providers - This can be anything from a personal trainer, makeup artist or even handymen. Instead of having a frustrated clientele who either can’t take advantage of their memberships or appointments, make your services accessible to them virtually. Consider recording or live streaming sessions via platforms like Zoom or Gotowebinar or even a Facebook Live.
Create a course that provides real value and genuinely helps your customers whilst they could be potentially stuck at home for weeks. Help them learn something new, be productive with this newfound time or perform a simple household chore with a step-by-step guide. Your video content needs to be like a glistening white star on a velvety black sky.
You could charge a nominal fee or collect participants' email addresses and build a following on social media who can be converted to paying customers once life returns to normal. .
The common denominator for all service-based industries is simple:
You need to discover how you can integrate your bricks & mortar business model with an online service!
To paraphrase James Sinclair, a UK based business owner, and guru in the leisure industry:
‘We have got to find other ways, other strengths to solve our problems and technology can do that for a lot of businesses in the face of Coronavirus!’
eCommerce Industry Analysis
On the one hand, the state of and outlook for eCommerce is better relative to other industries, say the service industry, for example. On the other hand, Coronavirus is infecting eCommerce with:
- Manufacturing failures
- Supply shortages
- Global shipment disruptions
- Staffing issues
Many smaller companies are being hit the hardest as far as manufacturing and supply chains are concerned as many factories are now prioritizing larger orders from companies willing to pay a premium.
Action Items & Opportunities :
But online shops are not completely powerless and in fact, our data is showing a steep increase in eCom orders. This makes sense, more people are staying at home and are looking for ways to keep busy which includes shopping. Here are some ways you can take action as an eCommerce business:
- Keep communicating - Like any healthy relationship, even when times are bad, the key is to communicate. As Tony Robbins, the relationship guru says: “A strong relationship is built on honesty and trust!” You need to reassure your customer base in trying times as well as stay in contact with your team members who may be working remotely from home. Have a remote work strategy in place using tools like Google Hangouts and Slack to communicate in a productive way.
- Use social media effectively - Post timely and accurate updates and deal with negative comments (especially in terms of eCommerce reviews) quickly and politely. You need a proactive communication strategy so that your customers are made aware of supply and shipment disruptions.
- Support - Have a plan. Know what your customer’s concerns are/ will be and know how to deal with them. My brother’s business has a ‘Cobra’ meeting every day (named after the top UK government meeting) to discuss issues, overcome support concerns as well as keeping his team up to date so they can keep customers in the know. They have clear scripts, guidelines, and procedures in place. Look after your team so that your team can look after your customers.
- Have enough stock - Most businesses will be more concerned about having enough cash in the bank in order to survive a month with poor performance. But for eCommerce business, a major concern should be stocking up on merchandise so you are not left with your pants down when orders roll in.
- Supply and manufacturing - Seeing how most eCommerce businesses sell items which are manufactured and shipped out of China, supply chains are running thin. Consider looking for suppliers located locally in terms of your largest customer base. The actual cost of items may increase but you will save money on import taxes,and international shipping and you can even start marketing your brand as ‘locally produced’. Another great option to consider is adopting the print-on-demand model.
- Leverage interest rates - Interest rates are being lowered globally to support and motivate small to medium size businesses to prevail. In the UK, for example, it is currently relatively ‘cheap’ to borrow money with The Bank of England slashing the base rate to as low as 0.25% (compared with pre-coronavirus rates of 0.75%). Use this as a tool to improve short term cash flow to ride out the corona wave or invest in a long term plan to grow your business. Spend more on Facebook Ads, update your website, develop new products, replace outdated machinery. Success often favors the bold.
- Start investing in new audiences - Now is the ideal time to discover new audiences. Try using tools like Novarize to find new customers who are now forced to resort to eCommerce due to the current situation. Try and think about your audiences - who are they? Employees forced into home quarantine? Mothers at home with children whose classes have been canceled? Once you have identified a relevant segment, try and understand their current needs and unique situation so that you can make your offering attractive and helpful.
- Source new products - You can also use this as an opportunity to find new products to sell. Be sure to find new items based on real audience needs instead of picking products out of a hat. Remember to always stay customer-focused!
Summing it up
Yes, Coronavirus is hitting the economy hard and posing threats and challenges which we are not used to dealing with. But with a solid plan in place, businesses will be able to weather the storm. This is especially true for businesses in the eCommerce space. People may become increasingly accustomed to shopping online even after the virus has passed. This means that eCommerce may see even larger than expected growth in a post-Coronavirus economy.
To sum up, please remember to:
- Have a concrete plan in place.
- Keep communicating effectively with both coworkers and customers.
- Approach supply, demand, and shipping innovatively.
- Be on the lookout for new audiences and products that come into demand.
Some experts are suggesting that the coming warm weather will help stop the virus whilst others think it will peak next winter!
Media overreaction? Could be!
But whatever industry you are in and wherever you are located, your takeaway should be the same:
Take steps so that your business is properly prepared for the days, weeks and months to come!
Please comment below and let us know how you are addressing Coronavirus from a business perspective.