Reinventing during COVID-19

The innovation lessons all businesses can learn from lockdown.

Reinventing During COVID-19
<p>Desperate times call for desperate measures and that was certainly obvious during - and after - and still during - lockdown, when a range of New Zealand companies reinvented quickly in order to keep operating. For most, these changes were a necessity and while it's true that some new businesses have risen like a phoenix from the ashes to capitalise on these new opportunities and some existing businesses completely changed their business models, there is a lesson that all businesses can take away from this period of forced innovation. Reinventing can be used to describe a wholesale change of direction to a business but it can also be applied across a business unit, a process or other aspects of a business that make sense right now.</p> <p>At ASB, we’ve been working with many businesses to help them through the pandemic and have identified some common themes and tips that any business should consider and apply.</p> <h3>1. Take Stock</h3> <p>What are the assets you currently have in your business, and how can you repurpose them to your best advantage? Assets can range from a reputable brand and a loyal customer base, to physical assets such as vehicles, premises, stock, shopfronts and even a willing and adaptable workforce.</p> <p>We've seen businesses in vehicle leasing or touring take advantage of existing vehicles and workforce to support the growing demand for couriered goods. We’ve seen traditional events businesses with large tracts of land converted overnight into temporary accommodation sites to house tourists stranded in New Zealand. We've also seen Kiwi businesses band together to help redeploy workers from businesses that have had to reduce staff to those in need of extra help due to increased demand.</p> <p>Take stock and think; what have you got that someone else may benefit from? Or, what does someone else have that you possibly need?</p> <h3>2. Take note</h3> <p>How have customer expectations changed? How has the enforced change from traditional shopping behaviours to a digital experience affected how your customers choose to shop? And are those changes likely to continue into the future?</p> <p>We’ve seen businesses with strong brands and traditional physical footprints translate well into virtual experiences. Many people are now choosing coffee shops because they offer the ability to order online and in advance and remove the need to queue. And others are vowing to never go back to the supermarket after experiencing online grocery shopping.</p> <p>A more novel example is a high-end Kiwi fashion-retailer that offered virtual personal shopper appointments during lockdown. It has meant the store has been able to service a customer base, and will carry this approach forward, allowing new and existing customers to &quot;visit&quot; the shop at times previously unavailable to them.</p> <p>Some experiences can translate into a more virtual environment, but others just won't. So apply some pragmatic thinking for the short, mid and long-term around:</p> <ul> <li><p>What can you no longer do?</p> </li> <li><p>What can you still do?</p> </li> <li><p>What can you do now?</p> </li> <li><p>What can’t you do now?</p> </li> <li><p>How does all of this fit with your customers' needs and expectations?</p> </li> </ul> <h3>3. Do the scratch test</h3> <p>If you were to build your business again from scratch, would it look exactly the same as how it looks today? Probably not! Therefore, is this the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to make those changes?</p> <p>We’ve seen a new digital payments channel originally targeted at the Not-for-Profit sector, shift its focus to Hospitality. It now offers payment capability, coupled with contact tracing, to enable hospitality sites to open under Ministry of Health Guidelines.</p> <p>Another example is in healthcare, with some doctors’ surgeries now opting to carry on using virtual appointments as their new normal way to practice, with physical appointments only given if and when required.</p> <h3>4. Tap the ecosystem</h3> <p>Who is in your wider ecosystem? How are they faring after the last two months? What are they doing differently? Are there any common denominators between your businesses (markets, suppliers, products, assets) that could benefit from collaboration?</p> <p>An innovative example is the convergence of a gourmet meat company with an online sporting gear and car parts business, to form a new joint venture. The new partners started a delivery service of gourmet meat direct to houses during lockdown via the existing distribution network of the online retailer. This new revenue stream is still going strong despite lockdown restrictions lifting.</p> <p>It’s been heartening to see the amount of collaboration between businesses, organisations and government. If you haven't already, now is the time to map out supply chains and wider industry players, work out who is in your wider network and give them a call - or Zoom.</p> <h3>5. Check out new tech</h3> <p>How can I translate my service offering to be more digital? How can I use digital tools to unlock greater efficiencies, strip cost out of my business or reach new markets?</p> <p>Through this pandemic there has been an enormous shift in business taking their operations digital, to allow them to not only trade through the lock-down but to engage new customers. SaaS subscription services abound with anything from ecommerce options, collaboration and CRM tools, virtual experience design, stock management and supply chain tools.</p> <p>Covid-19 has demanded that companies maximise efficiency and streamline processes via automation to make the best use of every dollar. A prime example is a Local Government body that was already thinking about robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. The current pandemic has sped up their exploration of these technologies due to the tangible benefits that can be realised quickly. It has recently switched-on a new robot to streamline back-office processes with support from a third party specialist.</p> <h3>6. Look to the horizon</h3> <p>What will your business model look like in 6 months? And, as the environment changes around you, what will your business look like in 12 – 18 months, and 2 years?</p> <p>There are many things we can’t forecast in this environment, but we do know that in New Zealand, things like pandemics, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, do happen. It’s important to view your business changes strategically with a short-, mid-to long-term view.</p> <p>How are you shaping your new business model to be more resilient? How can you stress test your new model so that you are confident it can weather a changing environment? Whether it be your workforce, your IT and cyber security practices, your environmental footprint or your distribution model to market, how can your business be as robust as possible?</p> <p>As an example, here at ASB, our workforce is still largely working from home, and like many businesses, we are still working out what our new ‘business as usual’ looks like for our individual team members. The pandemic has served as a successful stress test for our ability to work remotely with fully functioning IT and collaboration systems. One of the key components to help get the majority of our staff working remotely was embracing new virtual meeting technology, which makes team meetings and collaboration easier.</p> <p>Uncertainty is a common feeling in business. And all companies, regardless of size or complexity, are working though these areas and more. We are all in this together. Our ASB teams are here to provide you with a sounding board and share other first-hand examples that may better suit your future direction. So, get in touch.</p>