The global pandemic crisis has officially and quite literally been plaguing the world for over a year, prompting many organizations to have no other option than to adapt to the turbulent and unpredictable nature of COVID-19.
However, how an individual business chooses to redesign or modify its operations is entirely subjective. It depends on multiple factors, including the specific industry and the overall accessibility of their particular product or service.
Of course, we all know the why behind these new requirements.
COVID-19 has impacted global society in nearly all realms of day-to-day life.
From social distancing to country-wide lockdowns to virtual at-home schooling, the consequences of this pandemic have created a ripple effect that impacts every person on an individual level in one way or another.
Whether you know someone who has battled through it or is economically affected by the changes, it’s no secret that, on a professional and personal level, people across the world have had no choice but to adapt as best they can.
Today, we’ll be focusing on a few specific examples of how businesses have pivoted their business strategy to adjust to this “new normal.”
By providing examples of real businesses, we will supply the necessary context to legitimize how remodelling your business strategy to accommodate the ever-evolving circumstances of COVID-19 is no longer an option but a necessary means of survival.
5 Ways Businesses are Adjusting to COVID-19
There is no denying that we exist in a progressively digital age even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
While there is a certain nostalgic charm associated with a standalone, brick-and-mortar business, updating your marketing strategy by establishing an online digital presence is arguably the most effective method of engaging existing customers and enticing new ones.
COVID-19 has only heightened the essential urgency of increased accessibility. As such, creating an eCommerce website and eCommerce store opens up the door to a critical revenue-generating resource.
Not only that, but it can also help supplement the decrease in in-person purchases due to rules surrounding social distancing, in-store capacity limitations and various other quarantine measures.
These new and ever-changing restrictions have created a necessity for efficient, tailored online customer service experiences. It has also contributed to an increase in demand for eCommerce purchasing alternatives, shipping and delivery services to limit potential exposure and minimize case numbers.
A primary example of businesses taking their services digital would be the countless number of dine-in-only restaurants that have pivoted their business models to reflect new demands facing the industry.
Namely, they were required to do so due to various lockdown restrictions worldwide. At one point or another, most restaurants had to close their doors due to different levels of quarantine restrictions. That said, although some have been permitted to reopen, it’s still only at a limited capacity.
As such, many food-based businesses have turned to digital delivery apps, such as Uber Eats, to supplement the loss of revenue caused by sectioning off tables to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
In some instances, digital services such as these are the primary resource for keeping these businesses afloat.
According to Uber’s financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2020, restaurants on the Uber Eats platform exceeded 600,000, promoting 75% growth in partnered restaurants year over year.
It isn’t far to venture that the various stay-at-home orders and lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 were a primary force behind this drastic increase.
Embracing Omnichannel Marketing
With the various limitations imposed on businesses to promote safety and decrease transmission of COVID-19, providing a unique sales proposition and customized customer experience is paramount.
One of the best methods to approach this financial frontier is through creating a comprehensive omnichannel marketing strategy.
Essentially, omnichannel marketing is a sales experience model that focuses on an integrated shopping experience for the customer.
This marketing strategy targets customers across multiple different sales channels, including, but not limited to, online eCommerce, social media, and physical retail locations.
It also spans across all stages in the sales funnel seamlessly and in a highly integrated way.
What sets this business strategy apart from others, such as multichannel marketing, is that instead of focusing on the various sales channels, omnichannel marketing focuses on what matters most – the customer.
In other words, the ultimate objective of this marketing approach is to create a user-friendly, seamless shopping experience for clients regardless of how or where they’re interacting with the brand or products.
With the altering circumstances imposed by COVID-19, customers have also altered their expectations when buying products and services. Most prominently, there has been an increase in demand for accessibility and versatility.
One company that has integrated an effective omnichannel marketing strategy is Walmart. Since the inception of the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart has created multiple offerings to help customers feel more at ease accessing their store.
Examples of these initiatives include allowing customers to book a store visit in advance to bypass having to wait to enter a limited-capacity physical retail location.
Suppose they don’t feel comfortable visiting a physical store. In that case, Walmart also provides options for contactless grocery delivery or free pick up, as well as free curbside pickup and fast, free delivery for orders over $35.
Walmart stores are also conducting asymptomatic COVID-19 testing by appointment only.
These various service alterations demonstrate the extra mile that Walmart is willing to go to ensure that their customers feel safe, seen and protected, precious pillars of the customer experience, all while being digitally accessible.
Pivoting to New Products & Services
As we mentioned previously, how a business chooses to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic relies heavily on the overall accessibility of their particular product or service. This rule can extend further to pivoting your strategy to incorporate new products and services entirely.
For example, when various global governments evoked travel bans requiring citizens to stay within their own country’s borders, the airline industry was devastated by the catastrophic revenue loss. As such, multiple carriers had to adapt to supplying various services outside of passenger transport to cope with the financial consequences.
For example, airline Virgin Atlantic pivoted to supplying a new service by retrofitting its charter passenger aircraft to transport essential medical and pharmaceutical goods from London to New York in March 2020.
The company then took it a step further in November 2020 by implementing a new Pharma Secure service for all “urgent, valuable and vulnerable shipments.” This initiative included a 24/7 support team, automated live status updates, periodical integrity checks, temperature-controlled facilities and more.
Even as recently as January 2021, Virgin Atlantic announced that its various teams were set to work with the UK National Health Service to assist in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to support the “national effort to save lives.”
Since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have found an opportunity in crisis. This resourcefulness continues to present itself in multiple ways, such as manufacturing particular items that have seen a substantial increase in demand.
One of the most significant examples of this is clothing companies producing face masks. These days, people aren’t permitted to enter a majority of restaurants, retail stores or other heavily frequented establishments without wearing the necessary face mask protection.
As such, many fashion retailers have sought to manufacture and sell their own line of face masks. From budget brands, including H&M and Hanes, to higher-end names such as Kenneth Cole and Ralph Lauren, retailers of every price point are cashing in.
Moving to a Full-Time Work-From-Home Structure
For over a year now, we have been told by local and federal governments to do our part to curb COVID-19 transmissions by staying at home and only venturing out for essential services. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for this to extend to the professional working world.
With this, many organizations shut down their corporate spaces or, at the very least, decreased the number of people permitted to be in the office to promote social distancing.
The result of this was what can only be described as a work-from-home revolution. Many businesses and corporations quickly embraced the practice of employees working remotely. Little did many of us know, however, how this new standard would impact overall operations.
Now that organizations have witnessed firsthand that employees are just as if not more productive working remotely, many businesses are giving workers the option to keep things this way even after the pandemic ends.
For example, Jack Dorsey, dual CEO of Twitter and Square, told his employees at both organizations that they could continue working from home “forever” if they so choose.
Similarly, Tobi Lutke, CEO of the multinational e-commerce company, Shopify, stated in a May 2020 tweet that the company was now “digital by default,” saying that they would keep their offices closed until 2021 to “rework them for this new reality.”
Finally, Lutke concluded that, following this decision, most employees would permanently work remotely and that “office centricity is over.”
There are pros and cons to a work-from-home structure, and it comes down to personal preference. Some people enjoy the social aspect of working with their peers in a professional setting. Additionally, many enjoy differentiating their living space from their workspace.
However, there is also an added level of versatility with working remotely, especially for individuals with families or particularly long commutes.
Furthermore, with the increased accessibility of communication-based platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, staying connected has never been easier.
Developing a Stronger Focus on Employee Wellness & Morale
Stating that the coronavirus pandemic has had a drastic impact on individuals’ mental health would be a massive understatement.
On top of the anxiety surrounding potentially contracting a hazardous virus, there is also the mental toll associated with being restricted from loved ones, isolated and pessimistic about not seeing a definitive end in sight. It’s enough to make anyone feel demotivated and distressed.
Employees are the backbone of any business, and ensuring that they feel seen and looked after is essential to employee morale. After all, the best way to provide a product or service to other people is by taking care of your people first.
Work-from-home is one of the most effective ways of ensuring employee safety. However, not all businesses are equipped or able to operate effectively on this structure. For example, many service industry workers’ livelihoods rely on restaurants being open, even if it’s at a limited capacity.
That said, it is their employer’s responsibility to ensure that they can perform their roles safely and effectively without exposing themselves to any potential dangers. One of the best ways to do this is by enacting strict health and safety protocols to ensure staff and customers’ safety.
One company that has gone above and beyond to ensure that its workers feel comfortable is everyone’s favourite store on every corner coffee chain, Starbucks.
The organization penned a detailed letter to its employees – or “partners,” as the company calls them – in March 2020 outlining the various preventive measures it planned to take to limit the spread of COVID-19 and “do what’s right” for staff and customers.
These measures included implementing additional cleaning and sanitizing tasks, pausing accepting personal cups, providing guidance on using gloves and ordering extra hand sanitizer, and more.
However, arguably one of the most significant policies introduced was “catastrophe pay,” which involves the company providing support for employees who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19. In the letter, the company explains that these individuals would be eligible for up to 14 days catastrophe pay, regardless of if they are showing symptoms, to permit them to self-isolate at home.
At the end of these 14 days, if the employee is still unable to return to work, additional pay replacement may be made up to 26 weeks.
“Starbucks is committed to provide comprehensive support for you because you should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself,” the letter reads.
More recently, the company shared even more policies to protect its workers, including two-hours of paid time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for each dose up to two doses.
Additionally, they also offered an extension on self-isolation pay through Q3 for two instances of self-isolation.
Actions such as these communicate to employees that their health and safety are valued above all else.
A New Way Forward
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most devastating events in modern-day history, impacting the world in countless catastrophic ways.
In troubling times such as these, the only real way to move is forward. The world is required to adjust to an ever-changing “new normal” on a near-daily basis, with many individuals and businesses alike doing the best they can to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That said, adjusting to these new conditions takes on many different forms depending on context and ability.
Whether it’s establishing a digital presence, updating your marketing strategy, implementing new products and services, or altering your day-to-day operating structure, all business adaptations should have workers’ and customers’ well-being as the motivating factor.
Ultimately, only time will tell if these COVID-era adjustments will be upheld once this is all over. If they prove to be effective, many businesses will likely keep them in place. However, others may choose to return to pre-pandemic methods.
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together and learning as we go.