Moving Beyond COVID-19 into 2021

By Sam Kon

Online presence allows businesses to transcend beyond domestic markets and increase visibility in the era of online shopping

Over the past nine months, businesses have been adjusting to the pandemic and in a few months’ time we will be wrapping up for 2020. Even if a vaccine is found soon, it will still take at least a year to go through tests, clinical trials and produce the capacity for mass distribution. In short, the world cannot be idle and one more year is a long way to go for any businesses who strive to survive through the “new normal”. Now is the time for all of us to review how we’ve adapted to the current situation and how we want to build a better future. 

Online Presence & Experience

The recovery rate for businesses since implementation of social distancing measures have been slow, especially those that depend on physical foot traffic. Majority of city dwellers are accustomed to searching or shopping online. By now, businesses should already be online and even be analysing their data.

One of the major benefits of having online presence is that businesses are not limited to domestic markets. Businesses can choose to set up an online presence in international platforms for higher visibility. With domestic sales not being promising enough, this can be supplemented with international customers. 

Based on a recent study, Accenture (2020) pointed out the 2 areas of emphasis for consumers now are safety and convenience. So businesses need to retire old information; instead, be quick to update and understand individual wants and needs. The sooner they launch themselves into online and gather these customer experiences, the sooner they can tweak and provide an unparalleled online user experience. Speed is key. 

Data, Trends & Decisions

Making a decision without data is like driving in the dark without your headlights on, not knowing where you’re heading. The power of data allows us to interpret and explore upcoming trends. The merchandising industry can use these data to help them identify trends, plan and schedule their purchases; ensuring minimal wastage within the supply chain especially when resources are limited now.

Be on the lookout for current trends and market needs. Covid19 may have sparked off a sharp increase in demand for masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and gloves. It has even created new necessities and behaviours such as the increased demand for personal laptops and tablets. This is due to businesses needing to work remotely while education institutions had to conduct online classes.

Interesting to note is that market trends are never permanent. They constantly evolve over time. Previously, disposable masks were in high demand; now, consumers are more conscious minded and prefer reusable masks instead. Pairing data with a pinch of common sense, businesses can be more prepared for the next trend.

Softwares and digital platforms are key to springboard the workforces’ transferable skills and experiences

Acquiring vs Retaining Strategy

Budget slashes, marketing initiatives temporarily halted and any form of spending have to be justified with a certain return of investment (ROI); cash flow being tight during such times calls for a more sustainable growth strategy. Instead of passively communicating through advertisements as a costly acquiring strategy, businesses should consider retaining strategies such as engaging with customers and building a genuine relationship with them. 

Taking it to the next level, you can even adapt your business model from consumption to co-production. Traditional consumption business model is about producing products and pushing to consumers. Whereas the co-production business model is a reverse engineered process of designing a product suitable for the current consumers. 

Co-production involves businesses diving into customer data, collecting interactive inputs, understanding customer behaviours and building a product together with them. It is a product created by the consumers for the consumers. This approach not only increases engagement with your customers, it also significantly reduces risk of a product that doesn’t meet the current market demands. In the current market, there is very little room to invest in trial and error.

The New Workplace

Companies have been exploring lean and agile processes to help their employees to work efficiently. Technology has definitely opened new doors in the way we can interact and work. As offices now begin to reopen their doors, every business will be reassessing how they have been working thus far, balancing between productivity and their capital expenditure.

In the current market condition, it is inevitable there will be a surplus of the talent pool in the ecosystem. Therefore, human capital services and softwares with algorithms will need to relook into catering to the current situation, where the workforce needs a platform to springboard their transferable skills and experiences. Whether the next platform could build a new synergy in a gig economy business model will define how these talents’ skills and experiences can be made accessible to the global market.

Survival of the Fittest

The pandemic has been disruptive; all aspects of businesses have to be revisited. Only by embracing the digital transformation, businesses are able to make informed decisions with data. With reliable data, businesses can be more resilient and operate sustainably. 

The international arena is by no means a big sea. Previously the rule to survive is the big fish eats the small fish; now, the rule has changed - it is the fast fish that eats the slow fish. Reliable data and accurate interpretation of the data will get you up to speed.

Sam Kon is an e-commerce consultant from Beyond Infinity Consultancy. He is also a certified e-commerce trainer by Alibaba Business School and Taobao University; Enabling and empowering businesses to boost their revenue by going from offline to online (O2O). 

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