Business StrategyInnovation 7 Ways the Coronavirus is Forcing Businesses to Adapt
Like many of you, I’ve been doing very little travel during this pandemic. The list is down to three places I go: Costco every two weeks, the grocery store for things Costco doesn’t have, and Home Depot so I can tinker around my house.
I’m staying—and very much feeling—cooped up at home. That’s what happens when something like the coronavirus crashes into a globalized society and forces us into a new normal. You build new habits. You adapt.
My lawn has never looked so good. My garage has never been so clean. I’m even making my own lunch.
That’s on the personal side. On the business front, changes are much more profound than getting excited at the sight of a weed on my lawn. It’s hard because no one knows what’s coming next and yet businesses have to make, and continue to make, structural changes to how they operate in order to survive today.
I call these pandemical changes. Here are seven trends I’ve been noticing and some of the broader implications they’re going to have:
Work From Home
Every day I see a new announcement as more businesses are switching to a permanent work from home model. With the right accountability for employees, this will likely become the new net normal.
For CFOs it’s an unexpected way of saving money. They need less office space which means there’ll be less demand for office space. It also means that getting a job will be less dependent on where you’re located geographically. You won’t have to transplant your life for that position you’re eyeing on the other side of the country.
All of this will have sweeping implications for many industries such as construction, transportation and energy.
Add Zoom to your desktop because virtual meetings are here to stay. They’re safer in this pandemic, but they’re also quicker than their face-to-face counterparts.
Here again CFOs will see an opportunity to cut on costs. Travel is expensive and time- consuming. Less travel means fewer costs and a more effective use of time.
I thought delivery had already become mainstream before the pandemic, but the last few months it really kicked into high gear. It’s a way to save time but also offers convenience.
I’m not talking just about food delivery here, although they’re probably leading the way. Businesses that will thrive are the ones that will be able to deliver faster than the time it takes a customer to run out to the store. Ecommerce stores have never been more sought after as the entire retail sector looks to pivot online.
Shopping malls rose to prominence because they became a place to hang out, a social gathering. Their future is looking bleak. It’s not that people will never go out to shop; they just won’t prefer to.
Events and Social Gatherings
Trade shows have already moved online and we can expect this to continue. This allows more people to attend at a significantly lower cost, which in turn provides more exposure for exhibitors’ products.
People can use virtual meetings to speak to representatives and have their questions answered.
Exercise has moved home and outdoors and I don’t see that changing any time soon, even as gyms do start to reopen. There’s too much close contact there. Bicycle sales are up, home gyms are getting more popular and virtual coaching is making things easier.
This model offers convenience and you don’t have to travel far or be in contact with a lot of sweaty people.
Going to school or an institution is expensive. Besides the cost of the education, there are all sorts of hidden expenses such as travel, accommodation and food.
The one expense that students feel particularly sharply is the added cost of textbooks. These will now become online materials offered at a significantly lower cost.
It’s also obvious that sales are moving online. I’m not talking about eCommerce and retail (we’ve already covered that). I’m talking about salespeople trying to land a contract, who in a past life would have to present to a room full of stakeholders.
Those sales costs can be expensive to a business, especially if they involve travel.
For good salespeople, that face-time is critical. You can read the room, see how your pitch is landing in real time and adjust your strategy based on body language.
I can see many CFOs switching to virtual sales where you have a face-to-face meeting online to discuss the needs of the customer.
Adapting to Changes
This virus is going to change us as a society. It already has. Anybody who thinks we’re eventually going back to some form of normal is seriously kidding themselves.
I believe we’re only scratching the surface: there are going to be more changes coming quickly as businesses innovate in order to adapt and survive. There’s going to be a new paradigm and it comes with growing pains as we get used to a whole new world.
Eventually, things will settle down but I guarantee you—the businesses that will come out of the gate and become leaders in their sectors are the ones that are adapting today. Those who are sticking their heads in the ground waiting for the storm to pass are going to wake up to a very different world. One where they’re five steps behind.
Don’t get left behind.
Stay safe and wash your hands.