By Professor Jonathan Deacon, Professor of Marketing at the School od Design, Digital and Marketing, USW and Vice Chair of the European Marketing Confederation.
Reality check: this winter has been tough. A host of businesses have reached the end of the road, and have either chosen or have been forced to shut up shop. There will be no quick and simple ‘V’ shaped recovery in 2021 and the economic shock of C19 will only be exacerbated by Brexit. However: some businesses – those with innovation, creativity, customer service and adaptability at their core – will be able to use the 2020 crisis to transform their business models.
OK, the current economic crisis has amplified and accelerated change, but, as the economy moves through 2021, such change will (with any luck) continue to accelerate and offer even greater opportunities for agile and customer-focused firms and organisations.
The strategic reality is that C19 has changed everything for some businesses, but it has also changed some things for all businesses.
Such will be the outcome of the current crisis and the long recovery we face in its wake, some firms will have embraced the shock to make well overdue changes, while others will have adapted and adopted technology to ensure their customers have a better quality of service, better value, more accessibility, connectivity and support than before. They have become agile.
Of course, some will not have taken any notice and are, I’m afraid, destined for the business history books.
Again, I’m reminded of an analogy I started using in 2008 (and have recently re-purposed for C19): imagine you are in a yacht race, and you are sailing at pace into a storm that has blown up from nowhere.
You have three options 1) abandon the race 2) pull in the sails, batten the hatches, get below deck, clip yourself into a bunk and hope that when the storm is over that the boat has survived and you can continue on with the race, or 3) get all hands-on deck, put up the largest sail you have, set a course that harnesses the power of the storm and come out the other side ahead of the competition.
Of course, option 3 requires bravery, leadership, communication and effort… but the rewards can be transformational for the business.
A recent McKinsey report suggested that 40% of the economy will need a major change in order to survive post-C19 – therefore those who have begun that change will clearly be at an advantage as we ‘build back better’ throughout 2021/2. Those firms with an agile perspective will be the beneficiaries of new consumption behaviours that have hardened over the past year.
Clearly the move to what has become known as ‘outside in’ trading will become a key component within many Business to Consumer (B2C) and Direct to Consumer (D2C) business models.
We have seen a huge growth in home deliveries and online shopping during lockdown, with many SMEs at the forefront of changing their businesses to a ‘outside in’ model at pace.
Now, the big question is: will these firms be able to capitalise on this trend?
Observable too is the fact that it is not just B2C and D2C firms making the change, but B2B professional service firms have embraced the concept – delivering services direct to those working from home and doing so more effectively and efficiently than before.
Thus, a successful marketing agility model for 2022 and beyond appears to be based upon empathy, plus creativity, plus relevancy.
So… come on: let’s embrace the change – get up on deck, harness the power of this storm and power through to a place that would have been thought impossible a year ago – a better place for business, society and the environment.
And, dare I say: transformational?