To say we live in interesting times would be a huge understatement. Everything we hold dear, from socialising to shopping, and even to how we conduct transactions, is changing before our eyes. We’re in a period of unprecedented change in the way we live our lives and, though the one true constant is change, it has usually been more gradual, sometimes taking decades or even requiring whole generations to effect it. COVID-19 has, however, caused significant – possibly irrevocable – change in a matter of weeks.
The New Normal?
We often take for granted the basic things in life, from buying a newspaper in a local shop, to trying on clothes in well-known retailers, to commuting to our place of work, to engaging with family, colleagues, at the groups favourite gathering place.
Yet, particularly in the West, severe lockdown measures have been deemed necessary to combat the spread of the virus. Undoubtedly, this has had a significant effect on many businesses around the world, with many staff either let go, furloughed, or, if lucky, working remotely from home. While a lot have and are suffering, it has allowed some businesses to experience significant and unexpected growth…from Zoom offering its video conferencing solution to Microsoft’s Teams becoming one of the market’s biggest collaboration tools for remote teams.
What is the legacy of COVID-19?
Consumers are already shunning physical cash all around the world, resorting to electronic payments such as contactless cards, mobile payments, mobile wallets, and bank transfers. This has huge implications for the payment rails, processors, and merchants alike. Many merchants in Europe still do not have modern POS and mPOS terminals to meet the new, larger demand from consumers – and even a minority breaking scheme rules by incorrectly applying “minimum spend” rules for their patrons. And, what of the card processors? They, like the banks, often have old legacy infrastructure which may struggle to cope with higher unanticipated demand. In addition, what will this mean for resolution of the weakness in the system – notably, the reliance on the internet and electricity supply? How will the schemes and banks support the resilience requirement?
Other industries will undoubtedly see changes, too, once lockdown measures are relaxed. For example, it’s likely many clothing retailers will see consumer behavioural changes that divert on-premise purchases to online channels, potentially increasing the returns, impacting the card refunds, and deliveries – all of which could increase costs at the till.
How will our cities adapt? Many cities are adorned with huge office blocks, and with such a potentially lengthy remote working time, businesses - and their staff - will have adapted, meaning increased demand for continuing to work that way, causing many office locations to become ghost towns, therein threatening the livelihoods of landlords, food and snack retailers, and business taxation levels.
A potential further headache for lawmakers could be the future of banking. What of the recent debate about branch closures and the impact on the vulnerable and small businesses? We could see an acceleration of the decline of the physical branch –this time driven by consumers, rather than banks enforcing that change.
And we could go on.
As Leon C. Megginson famously observed, “it’s the most adaptable to change that survive.”
The pandemic is throwing up all sorts of interesting outcomes for businesses. We have had – through government appeals – manufacturers of what we once thought specialist products adjusting their production lines to develop new products, such as Formula 1 and Dyson helping increase the stock of ventilators for hospitals, innovations from students to recycle old clothing into payments solutions and fintech firm Tully launching payment relief resources for financially impacted consumers.
From a cursory daily glance of the social feeds, it seems that some businesses are adapting well – and quickly – to remote working, with other sectors suffering losses, e.g. hospitality and travel. And, a greater respect for the emergency and “essential” workers has yielded a much-needed boost to volunteering and community harmony.
However, there is much yet to be done. For many, the digitisation of our economy was a slow, gradual, and often abstract change. Fighting the pandemic is causing consumers and businesses to demand greater adaptability in everyday life – from children pushing their parents to digital channels for grocery ordering, to shunning ATMs and cash through use of cards at stores, to the potential for huge transformative change to the volume of physical premises/our high streets.
So, who will recover and/or survive? The answer to this depends significantly on what consumers choose to do after the lockdown is lifted. Will they go back to type, or will remote-consumerism be accepted? Much of the change will be driven by those firms most able to adapt to this new normal. Those looking at their propositions, sales and service delivery channels, those able to offer scalability should we experience something as impactful as coronavirus again, and those demonstrating the most innovative capabilities that will ultimately survive – and thrive. This will, however, take a serious effort and willingness to transform their businesses…to remove legacy infrastructure, become more agile, embrace automation, and invest for future success.
It is unlikely that much of this change is temporary, and we, too, need to ensure we adapt.
The Bottom Line
While we’re currently coping with the lockdown, and the beginnings of enforced change, society will come out of this to a very different world. A different way of living. A different way of commerce. And a different way of socialising. We always thought it would be the likes of the big technology and social media firms that would drive change. In fact, it is us, the people (and some of the very people once opposed to such change), who are now in the navigator’s seat, directing and spurring on that change – at a pace being driven by our deadly new enemy, Covid-19.
At SRM, we want you to know we’re open for business, we’re here to support you, our valued clients and prospects, with advisory and transformation services in this challenging time. We know consultancy is often seen as an unnecessary spend in times like this; however, our very independence and ability to cast a critical eye on a business can identify logical aspects of operational improvement and improve your bottom line.
Our transformation expertise honed across many industries has delivered – and continues to do so – significant recent results for our clients, and can support businesses to adapt to the “new normal”, be it through organisational re-design, intelligent automation, payments advisory, operating model, a mix of all these, and more.
Why not drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help your business adapt and thrive?