The new reality of the coronavirus crisis is a bitter blow for many entrepreneurs, especially in the retail sector. Shops that are not deemed essential had to close their doors for the time being in order to contain the spread of the virus. Some businesses already fear for their existence should the current state of emergency persist for a longer period, which is why many entrepreneurs are forced to take creative and sometimes even curious paths. In particular, the demand for digital services is increasing.
The novel coronavirus is currently changing the lives of all people worldwide. It is particularly threatening to companies that depend on walk-ins and direct contact to keep their business going. Due to nationwide social isolation and numerous store closures, many operators now have to fear for their existence. The population stays at home, while the cash registers in the shops and restaurants remain empty. The economic effects of the crisis are not yet fully foreseeable, but the sheer explosion in the number of applications for short-time work and the bankruptcy filings of well-known companies give rise to fears. But many markets are now more permeable and the lifestyle changes are producing new needs. Amid uncertainty and helplessness, creative solutions and innovative business ideas are also being born.
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION: BREATHING MASK INSTEAD OF SEAT COVER
In addition to the undeniable risks for many companies, the crisis can also create opportunities, as previously established relationships between supply and demand have now shifted significantly. If the demand in their own industry falls, companies can convert their business at short notice and concentrate on the things that many people need now. This is currently being demonstrated above all by automotive suppliers and clothing manufacturers: instead of seat covers and clothing, these companies are now sewing face masks and suits for medical staff needs. Tailor shops are also involved in the production of protective equipment. The basic conditions for such products are already in place and a shift in production not only saves the company but also supports the fight against the virus. Well-known spirits producers, for example, have switched to providing high-proof alcohol for the production of disinfectants, thus also contributing to the maintenance of our health system.
SOLIDARITY AS AN OPPORTUNITY
However, even if there is no possibility of changing production, there are other ways of keeping the business going and at the same time contributing to society. The central question is what do people need? What helps in this time of crisis? For example, any company that has company vehicles can set up a delivery service in short notice, supply food to risk groups or deliver products from other companies. In times without customers, taxi companies in cooperation with hotel suppliers now transport food to people in need, craftsmen take over deliveries from the florist around the corner, while fitness studios call for working out in the living room. In numerous restaurants, meals can now be ordered by telephone and picked up. Products are being modified and portfolios expand. Vouchers and discounts also demonstrate solidarity, attract new customers and retain the old ones. Students do not have to miss out on their education thanks to many online offers, and there are even nightclubs that stream DJ sets live on the Internet. Many affected companies are also entering into cooperative ventures to support and benefit from each other. All these examples show that the crisis can be managed within many industries with unconventional methods and a little creativity.
Lifestyle changes and new market requirements sometimes offer an opportunity to make contacts, build networks and set the course for tomorrow. The crisis calls for creative ways to solve old and new problems and to adapt business activities to the new situation. However, in times when public health and safety takes precedence over everything else, one thing is needed above all else: solidarity. Many companies are currently providing impressive proof that special circumstances require special solutions. With mutual support, more companies than expected could survive the crisis.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING DIGITAL
In the current situation, one thing above all is becoming increasingly important: being digital. While being in isolation, the Internet is a window to the world through which we obtain all our information and with which we currently spend most of our days. For many companies, video chat software and online chatting apps have long been indispensable for internal communication having the ability to work from a home office. Software providers such as Microsoft, Slack and Zoom largely benefit from this.
Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are also recording higher user numbers. People have disappeared from the streets, making the Internet and social media the most important communication channel. Everything digital is now celebrating great success – for companies that can also market their products online or even offer digital products, the chance of suffering too much damage in the crisis is quite low. Although online giant Amazon has to reckon with supply shortages, in the long term it will probably even profit from the crisis and register even more orders. As a result, the threat posed to local retailers by multinational mail-order companies could further intensify.
The importance of digital has risen drastically as a result of the Corona crisis, which is why companies with professional online presences and digital ordering options are now on the rise.
ONLINE MARKETING PAYS OFF
In addition, social media, in particular, is becoming a marketing hotspot. Anyone who has built up a strong community there in the past can now quickly draw attention to short-term changes in operations or point out discounts. Intensive online marketing now pays off. And those who do not yet have a strong online presence should build one now at the latest. In addition, every website should display information about the coronavirus‘s influence on their internal business processes in order to reduce uncertainty among customers. Creating an online shop is currently very worthwhile, but even if a company does not have this option, many products can be marketed via social media, for example via Instagram. If online presence has been neglected in the past, communication with existing and potential customers could be difficult in the future. For these companies, it is important to catch up with digitally well-positioned companies as quickly as possible and, above all, create engaging online content.
This also applies to B2B communication, for which online media can be easily accessed. Via podcasts and blogs, companies can exchange information on industry-relevant topics and support each other during the crisis. Own knowledge can be presented in videos, webinars and e-books and made available online. Through targeted marketing measures such as storytelling with the help of “quarantine diaries” or vouchers for the time after the crisis, companies that know their way around the online sphere have a good chance of surviving the crisis unscathed.
WITH CREATIVITY AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS
Fortunately, people know how to solve problems by nature. This is demonstrated by the unusual activities of many companies, some of which are now active outside their original industry. Although the crisis is a threat to the global economy, it also offers opportunities to break new ground. New business models could give rise to new industries in the future, whose development we can influence today. The coronavirus can thus, in addition to all its dangers, also act as a driver for innovation – with far-reaching consequences for the future.