Nobody knows exactly how much longer COVID-19 will be around, how much longer countries will be in lockdown, how many people will be unemployed at the end of this saga. There are countless unknowns to the situation, and countless variables outside of our control, but there are many things that companies can regain control of right now in order to point themselves in the right direction for a post-coronavirus world – perhaps even setting themselves up for even greater success than before this crisis. This article will explore what to expect in a post coronavirus landscape and will highlight the opportunities that companies can start to prepare themselves for right now.
The coronavirus pandemic is almost single handedly revolutionizing technology within businesses. It is forcing companies to adopt new technologies to enable employees to work effectively from home. It is also reinforcing the importance of collaboration within teams. Whilst physically distant, it is important, now more than ever, to remain connected through technology, such as virtual meetings.
The coronavirus is giving rise to startups. For example, video conferencing companies like Zoom, HouseParty etc. These technologies are assisting people to effectively work from home and also to maintain social connectivity with friends and family. Many of these startups have become household names and it is likely there will be more to come in the near future as companies and individuals seek to identify opportunities for innovation. Since the start of the year, Zoom’s market capitalisation has grown by over 100% to 50.61 billion USD (at time of writing).
Innovation has also seen the rise to technology that intends to keep people safe from coronavirus. The Australian Government has developed an application (Covid Safe) that tracks people’s interactions using bluetooth. It records data whenever a user comes in close contact with another person with the app installed. This data is stored locally on a person’s phone. If a person is later found to have coronavirus, people who had come into contact with this person are notified. Innovation like this allows people to resume their normal lives (to some extent) and allows economies to begin on the road to recovery.
Within companies, various measures are being implemented to ensure employee and customer safety without compromising productivity. This can be as simple as staggering start times, to more technological measures like internal tracing apps (similar to Covid Safe), which some Australian mining companies have implemented. As an employer, acknowledge the role that technology can play in ensuring a safe and productive working environment.
Process and Structure Change
Due to the significant economic impacts of the coronavirus, many businesses across all sectors have been forced to make cutbacks. Whilst these cutbacks are extremely tough to make, they force management to look critically at which operations are essential to business continuity. This is not to say that the people who were made redundant were poor performers – it is likely that they just so happened to be in a part of the business that was not providing as much value as other parts of the business. In a post-coronavirus world, it is highly unlikely that these people will remain chronically unemployed. What is more likely to happen, however, is that these people will gradually reenter the workforce with the intention of securing a role that provides more security. Similarly, companies will look to rehire high performing individuals but are more likely to relocate them to value-adding roles. These structural changes made during the pandemic could very well last in a post coronavirus world. Many companies may even continue to restructure well into the years to come, with the intent of safeguarding their operations against future economic downturns, and with the intent of operating on a leaner workforce that adds more value to the business. The coronavirus, whilst undoubtedly tough at the present moment, has challenged every single business in Australia to adapt in some way or another. What is important is how a company views this challenge: the best thing to do is to view the challenge as an opportunity to improve your business structure, your processes, and your efficiency.
Changing Consumer Behaviours
A likely example of this will be the tendency for consumers to increasingly shop online rather than in a physical store. Consumers groups who may have previously preferred to shop in store, have now been (in many cases) forced to shop online for certain goods. Through doing so, these consumers have been exposed to the ease and convenience of online shopping, and it is likely some will continue to shop this way moving forward. Retailers, suppliers and delivery companies should all be preparing themselves for these kinds of behavioural changes and preemptively adapting their businesses to best comply with these new trends.
If there is one thing many countries will take away from this temporary state of disconnectivity between nations, it is the overreliance many of them place on imported goods. Many countries have suddenly found themselves short of supplies and products that they would normally take for granted. For example, the shortage of certain food products like pasta and rice seen in Australia. Many local companies have identified the gaps in markets and acted quickly to fill them. For example, in Australia, small fashion houses such as Ford Millinery have begun producing medical garments and face masks. While it is unlikely that these companies will continue to produce medical supplies once the pandemic passes, it does highlight the extreme dependency that we have on imported medical goods. Many people and organisations will call on the Government to localise manufacturing of medical supplies to avoid such shortages occurring in the future. Depending which country we focus on, this same logic can be applied to different goods and markets. Ultimately, a combination of government regulations and consumer demand will dictate how this plays out in the long run but companies should start to consider now whether their consumers will continue to buy imported goods or whether they should look at ways of localising production. A great example of this already occurring is Japan, where the Government is paying Japanese companies to bring manufacturing of their goods back to Japan and out of China. Another example is the recently announced “Made in Australia” campaign launched by the Australian Federal Government, urging Australians to shop local.
Company leaders should seek to identify if and how changing consumer behaviours will impact their business. They should prioritise analysing any changes that may (positively or negatively) impact their business and should act accordingly.
Supply Chain Challenges
Supply chains all around the world have been majorly disrupted due to the pandemic. One only has to take a look at the logistical challenges facing the oil industry right now to realise the severe impact. These supply chain issues relate to a decrease in demand for oil, leaving suppliers with extreme logistical issues and nowhere to store their excess product. Unfortunately for them, oil wells cannot be turned on and off like a tap. It is a complex and costly process but it is necessary for these companies to do so in order to increase oil prices back above production costs and remain in business. The lasting impacts of the current oil crisis are yet to be seen but this pandemic has highlighted the fragility of the market and the supply chain that sits behind it all. Companies should use these events to learn and develop ways of reducing supply chain risks in the future.
Supermarkets are another great example of how supply chains were pushed to breaking point (in this case from an unprecedented increase in demand). Products most people take for granted were becoming inaccessible for many consumers as there were simply not enough products reaching supermarket shelves in time. As a result, companies had to look at ways to improve supply chains. This included hiring more staff as well as increasing home delivery capabilities direct from warehouses by utilising third party delivery services.
Whilst these supply chain challenges will not last forever, it does highlight the importance of having a robust and reliable supply chain, particularly in the coming months as economies seek to recover as quickly as possible. The challenges companies face today in regards to their supply chains may actually increase their reliability and efficiency in the future. Company leaders should use this crisis to identify gaps and weaknesses in their supply chain and improve them for the future.
Throughout this article, we’ve discussed numerous issues impacting businesses all around the world. Whilst these issues are beyond the control of businesses, the approach they take to them is not. Embrace the challenge and create opportunity from adversity to set yourself up for the best chance of success on the other side of the pandemic.
If you need assistance with anything business related, particularly during this challenging environment, get in touch with Visagio via LinkedIn to discuss how we can best help.