Updated on 26th June 2020
COVID-19 has proven disruptive and dangerous to businesses and consumers alike. It isn’t, however, the first global crisis to pose unprecedented challenges to businesses across the globe.
In 2003, the SARS outbreak struck China before spreading to more than two dozen countries. It caused public anxiety around travelling and human contact - which saw e-commerce site Alibaba (and its owner Jack Ma) rise to fame with a successful new online payment system and e-commerce platform that directly met a newfound public need.
And then in 2008, the global financial crisis, sparked by the US housing market crash and consequent international banking crisis, saw a huge recession which pinched the pockets of millions around the globe. In response, Airbnb experienced huge growth with an innovative business model that allowed people to share assets in the form of spare rooms.
You can probably see where we’re going with this. With every crisis and set of challenges also comes a new set of opportunities - consumer needs change and society as a whole evolves and adapts to a new way of living. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the possible opportunities that could emerge from the coronavirus pandemic - in the hope that it may help you find new opportunities to grow and improve your own business.
Before we dive into new business opportunities, let’s outline some of the key events that have impacted consumers and businesses so far:
Unsurprisingly, consumer buying habits have changed significantly since the lockdown was first imposed. Criteo’s shopping trends analysis reveals that, in the UK, there has been:
That last figure is not a typo. Needless to say, there’s a good chance that companies operating within these growing product categories may see an increase in sales and growth regardless of what their market share is.
Criteo’s study reveals which product categories have grown during lockdown. The main one being technology accessories with products such as computer monitors, network cables, citcuits and TVs, which is unsurprising given the large amount of the UK population now working from home.
If your business is not clearly linked to these categories, it may be worth looking at diversifying your product offering to capitalise on new growth opportunities - or pivoting to alter your main business’ offering if it isn’t performing as well in the current climate.
Not only are the actual products and services people need changing but the way in which they shop is evolving too. E-commerce, for example, is on the rise - as social distancing measures have halted traditional sales models - causing many shops to make transitions online.
Some new shopping methods that have emerged from the lockdown include:
With non-essential stores being closed during lockwdown, the usage of delivery services has increased substantially throughout the UK. As a business owner, it may be worth considering whether you’re in a position to make your product more accessible via a delivery service - or whether you could in fact utilise your resource to sell a delivery service to other businesses.
With more and more people spending time online, it may be increasingly important for businesses to improve their online presence to ensure that they can continue to reach their customers.
While some companies are pulling back on advertising spend, (due to seeing decreased demand for their products or through having a lack of products to sell because of supply chain issues) others are realising the potentially huge digital opportunity in front of them. Consumers are spending 25-35% more time online globally, so it may be the perfect time to invest in digital marketing and connect with them online.
For businesses who do not currently use any digital marketing techniques, such as paid advertising or content marketing, it could be the perfect time to develop those skills and start running some projects to boost sales.
Or, for those with some expertise in digital marketing, there could be new business opportunities revolving around teaching others how to use platforms (e.g. Google Ads), or creating marketing campaigns.
While it’s incredibly hard to measure this, we suspect that lockdown may have made people more sensitive to local issues. From having to support our nearby friends and neighbours with food deliveries to seeing local businesses closed down when we pop out for a walk - it’s hard to ignore the real-world impact lockdown has had on local communities.
In response to these hardships, it’s possible that people may feel an increased sense of community spirit - which may drive a desire to invest more into local businesses and support local workers going forward.
Businesses may be able to tap into this heightened local sentiment by:
Following these steps could help customers build a preference for your business over competitors - and drive more advocacy from your most loyal customers.
With a recession impending, there’s a good chance that many businesses will be hesitant to take on large numbers of employees. After all, signing employment contracts and making large time investments into training a new team could be a huge risk if the financial state of the company is at risk.
Instead, there’s a good chance that companies will make use of the growing gig economy - which simply means outsourcing more work to freelancers and sole traders rather than tackling certain projects in-house.
Aside from traditional gig workers, there’s also the B2C gig economy to consider; where companies such as Airbnb, Amazon and Deliveroo connect employees to their customers. As a business owner, are you prepared to make good use of the growing gig economy to save money, time and utilise your resources in a more profitable way?
If not, it may be a good time to put some procedures in place and conduct some research yourself to identify which businesses could help you maintain and improve your operations. This could also mean that your company is better equipped to face challenges, should it run into financial trouble.