The global pandemic took us all by surprise and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that most businesses were thrown into a period of uncertainty. As lockdown was imposed and it became apparent there wasn’t going to be a quick fix to the situation, businesses had to think about survival. For some it would be an adapt, or go under situation. This was unknown territory, no amount of planning or risk assessment could have foreseen the speed at which changes were taking place.
As the initial shock is subsiding, resilience and adaptability have come to the fore. Many businesses have had to make radical changes to the way they operate and have gone to great lengths to incorporate new working practices. However, if there is a second wave of the pandemic, how will the adjustments businesses have made help them cope better with a future crisis?
Flexibility was one of the major factors in being able to adjust to the evolving lockdown measures. Overnight offices and work premises were closed down, those unfortunate enough to be in sectors such as hospitality, lockdown dealt a devastating blow. A couple of our clients were hit hard, especially those who provided large conference facilities. And so it began to emerge that for some, due to the nature of their business, diversification or modification was impossible. For others it was the perfect storm, their businesses boomed as society was forced to go online and it quickly became apparent, the big players like Amazon and Assos, were going to forge ahead in the economic stakes.
So what did the smaller business do, in order to try to survive and keep some revenue coming in?
Companies who already had a strong online presence had the greatest advantage, as the infrastructure for providing services to clients was already there. For these businesses all they needed to adapt to the new situation would be a few tweaks and some fine-tuning. However it wasn’t all plain sailing, bearing in mind supply chain problems did result in delays and upheavals.
For others, the push to survive resulted in radical changes to the way they not only reached out to customers but also to consolidate the client base they already had. The underlying driving force being the fear of losing revenue and subsequent closure and if they can’t supply their goods and services to their current customer base, then people might start looking elsewhere.
What has been emphasised during this crisis is a fundamental aspect of marketing and that is to ensure to the best of your ability, to keep your current client base, rather than put too much effort into attracting new business. Looking after and reaching out to those who have been loyal to your brand is important and should be the main focus of any business when there is a disruption to normal working practises. Brand loyalty can suffer if loyal customers are overlooked. There are some companies who have made quick wins from the situation and attracted new custom, but to do this at the expense of offending your regulars, could have a negative effect in the long term.
It’s worth noting, customers who turn to you in a crisis may stay with you afterwards, however there is a greater likelihood that these customers will go back to their previous brands afterwards. Those companies who focus on attracting new customers during the pandemic may find that they have short term gains. Plus the marketing costs of acquiring new customers is higher than focusing on customer retention. Those companies who put their energy into retention and focus on methods to keep their regular customers will come out of the crisis with a more stable revenue base.
Online Communication Provides Connectivity
The way in which businesses have adapted in order to reach out to customers highlights the ability of people to find solutions in adverse situations. Across the economic landscape, there have been fantastic examples of how businesses have tried to overcome the barriers faced during the lockdown. On a local level we have seen for example small grocery shops, village garden centres even chip shops all getting online to provide ordering and delivery services. We have seen nail artists and hairdressers being creative on social media to keep in touch with their customers and to keep the dialogue and attention going. Instead of easing back, these businesses have fully embraced the online community and social media and used it more than ever to promote themselves.
Decentralised Working Practises
The pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity to experiment with flexible working, there was little alternative for companies whose premises had to close and in a situation where they could continue to function remotely. Decentralisation would have been a big step for those businesses who practice a traditional hierarchical model of working, where the physical presence of the workforce is an important factor of company management and control. However having made the transition many are finding it a positive experience and embracing the connectivity of the virtual and digital world. Plus there is the added benefit of decreasing office space and in the long term saving money.
The losers in all this will be those who find working from home difficult, through problems such as a lack of space, not everyone has a spare room, home office, or even somewhere quiet where they can work. Also recently lockdown has raised the issue of the negative impact on the isolating factor relating to home working on mental health and the detrimental effect on those who suffer domestic abuse.
Another concern which has been recently highlighted by the government and has been the driving force in their recent campaign to get people back to the office is the negative effect home working has had on town and city centres. Businesses that relied on the workforce for income such as cafes, bars and convenience stores that are situated near commercial centres have either had to close or struggling because of a loss of trade. London and the larger commuter cities have suffered more, whereas the smaller towns seem to have been less affected as people are using local services more.
When in the future we are able to look back on lockdown and what we have learned from the experience, one of the outstanding features will be the tenacity in which businesses put their efforts into finding new working practices and their ability to adapt to the changes that took place. We can take from this the experience is the benefit of knowing that we will be better prepared if such a situation should happen again. So what can businesses learn and take forward for the future:
- To put plans in place should a similar crisis happen in the future, or we have a second lockdown.
- Experiment with different working practices, such as working from home and quickly be able to mobilise change and to minimise business disruption.
- Ensure all those within the business understand and know how to access and use online technology in order to better communicate with the workforce and customers.
- Evaluate marketing strategies and get a better understanding of who you should be focusing your efforts on.
- Use the lessons learned to improve future response to a crisis.
We would love to hear your experiences of how your business has been coping throughout the pandemic? How has it affected your company and how you have had to adapt? You can leave a comment or contact us here.