The coronavirus pandemic is still affecting businesses almost a year after it came on the scene. However, the virus has not had an even effect on businesses.
Sometimes, it seems like the virus is abating, so business can move forward. Other times, it seems like the virus is getting worse. People get nervous, so business slows down. What is true is that this ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the bottom line of many businesses.
Many businesses developed a standard mode of operations. They prided themselves in being able to stay the course, stick to their principles, and follow a set pattern of behaviour. In the years leading up to COVID-19, this stick to its attitude of businesses led to success. Now, it is becoming clear that moving forward agility and flexibility are going to be the most important things if businesses want to survive what the future will bring.
Businesses have needed to adapt how they work. This has meant allowing employees to work from home. For some organizations, this has meant adopting technologies they didn’t use previously, such as cloud computing and VPNs. The businesses that have been hurt the most during 2020 are those that lacked flexibility and agility on multiple fronts. They were hit with so many changes that they just could not keep pace.
In Australia, like in many other countries, cybersecurity for remote workers remained a key challenge. The Australian Cyber Security Centre warned about COVID-19 related scams and an increased number of cyberattacks since the pandemic started. They published a set of cybersecurity tips to help remote workers adapt to a new way of doing things as secure as possible. That included using secure password managers, antivirus software, highly encrypted VPN service for Australians, implementing multi-factor authentication, and so on. To shed more light on the importance of cybersecurity in 2021, we spoke with Will Ellis, an Adelaide-based network security expert at Privacy Australia, who said: “What’s most important is to access your data, operations, and communicate with your team in a secure environment.”
As most businesses were going through many changes when it comes to the way they operate, their customers, as loyal as they had been for years, now prioritize availability, flexibility in ordering, and flexibility in payment options over brand loyalty. COVID-19 has changed societal norms. The focus now is on health, social economic concerns, and an increasing what a person can purchase for their money. The following are three lessons that businesses have had to learn the hard way in 2020.
Lesson 1. If you don’t give the customers what they want when they want it, they will leave
Many businesses built their fortune on strong customer loyalty. They offered an excellent product that reached a niche market, so customers were willing to put up with delays in delivery, not being able to order what they wanted online, or higher than average prices. Customers felt a sense of commitment to the brand they were purchasing.
Now, the pandemic has caused customers to focus on flaws they were willing to ignore before. In fact, the pandemic has amplified these flaws. For example, if a business did not have a digital presence, customers were willing to go out and visit the store to purchase what they wanted. Now, organizations that don’t have an online presence are seen as obsolete. Customers who are concerned about health would prefer to purchase from a different brand that delivers and allows ordering online as opposed to risk contamination by going to a brick and mortar store.
Even some organizations that had a digital presence were forced to realise that their digital presence was not as strong as they thought it was. If a business will survive in 2021, it needs to examine customer buying habits. By having a strong digital presence, organizations can give customers what they want when they want it. It is realistic to expect that the speed of business and the speed that customers expect service will only increase.
Lesson 2. Not having a globalised market will lead to failure
For a small business in the middle of Iowa, the concept of globalization might not have meant too much. They could’ve been focused on local customers and customers within the country. However, COVID-19 has really brought to the fore the power of globalization.
In the opening months of the pandemic, many governments were shedding at their borders. Many governments were putting pressure on local businesses that operate internationally to focus on providing services nationally. However, this creates more problems.
No matter the field, there is no country or company that has all the expertise. In order to function at the speed customers require, global cooperation is typically needed. Having a globalized market mindset will be a must.
We can see the importance of globalization; one may look at how businesses have been evaluated during 2020. Several startups could disrupt traditional players in the field. Many of them have been valued as much as, or even more than organizations that have been around for decades. What’s the difference? Globalization, and a readily accepted way of working with people and players from around the globe, gives the startups access to knowledge and skill that allows them to provide services quicker and at a higher quality than those who are focused locally.
Lesson 3. Failing to set a realistic plan for the future leads to failure
Most organizations appreciate the importance of planning for the future, and transitioning to digital business. The problem that was seen at the start of the pandemic is that many organizations continued on with the same business structure, business plans, and technology. They thought that in just a few weeks or a few months things would return to normal. But in reality most of their operations remained in digital space, they continued their communication using the best and most secure video-conferencing tools and webinar software, basically they had to embrace the “new” normal.
However, by summer 2020, it became clear that businesses that believed that things would return to normal and did not make realistic plans for the future failed. Business leaders are always talking about the future, but this pandemic has clearly shown that talk is cheap. Organizations that lack imagination or have no structure in place to make major changes end up closing their doors.
Setting realistic plans means being able to think about the future, lay out a plan, and execute the plan based on strategies and data with the goal of realizing transformation. The type of plans that are needed in 2020 and in the years to come are not the rigid and flexible plans of the past. Instead, these are flexible plans based on having the capacity to scale up.
Several businesses have been successful during 2020. Many of them increased their value. They have been able to do this because they invigorated their customer base, surprising them by offering products and services in a beneficial way that was not thought of before.
There is a lot of excitement about the vaccine that is on the horizon. Many wonder how it will impact business in 2021. Talk of a vaccine should not put businesses at ease. Now is the time to take a cold, hard look at how your organization is faring. What plans are in place for the future? How adaptable is your business structure? What steps can be taken to make sure that your customers get what they want when they want it?