Reinventing for the never normal: your post-corona business model

by Maarten Jansen
We’ve heard it said many times now: the world will be completely different after COVID. At this point, we’re starting to forget what normal even feels like. But how much are business models really going to change due to the pandemic? Most of us are pining to get back to our old activities as soon as we can. Its true though that change is inevitable, and the digital transformation has been accelerated to a point of no return. So how can your company adapt its business model to prepare for the post-corona era? Let’s go over the basics:

Agile isn’t optional

As companies struggle to navigate the pandemic, many leaders are focusing on the present: keeping their businesses going and their employees on board, staying connected with their customers and managing supply chain disruption. At the same time, many have had to rethink their business approach to changes in the business landscape and in consumer behavior, paving the way for new paths to growth in the post-corona era.

While once we may have hoped to eventually go back to normal, it’s now becoming obvious that after the pandemic passes we will not only be in a “new normal,” but in a “never normal.” Corona has accelerated changes in societal norms, values and behaviors, and we are looking at a definitive break in history. Businesses have to strap on their seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride. Many businesses will have to quickly catch up with changes, and then build their capacity for change-readiness to be prepared for anything the future throws at them. To start with, they won’t be able to wait a moment longer to complete their digital transformation and become more digital, e-commerce friendly, automated and agile.

A shift in consumer expectations

The pandemic has had a fundamental impact on how and what we buy, creating huge changes in industries such as consumer goods. This is having a ripple effect on what we create and offer and how we sell and communicate. Of course one of the biggest changes has been the huge digital shift. Companies now need an online presence in order to survive, and many have expanded their digital commerce capacity overnight. Once corona has passed, businesses will continue to build on this shift, putting more resources into e-commerce, reinventing their digital strategies and expanding purchasing options such as contactless pickup and delivery.

The expansion of digital channels and offer have changed customer expectations, and they will demand stronger digital capabilities from businesses. Not only will transactions become more digital, but businesses will also have to put more than ever into strengthening their digital engagement with customers. Each company will have to look at which customer channels are worth the investment, and be ready to switch gears quickly to adapt to a constantly changing landscape. This landscape will be increasingly “phygital”: combining both digital and physical experiences, for example purchasing via app in a showroom. Or combining an online sale with curbside pickup.

Advances in virtual and augmented reality will also be part of the game: for example testing how an Ikea sofa looks in your living room by using an AR app. This mix of technologies, channels and physical elements will constantly shift and recalibrate to meet the needs of the moment as well as customers’ hunger for convenience.

Creating a change-ready business model

So how should businesses go about preparing for the Never Normal? Here are some basic steps to redefine your business plan to be more change-ready:

Step #1: Define your current model

Start by answering the following questions to assess where you are today.

  • Who makes up your core customer base?

  • What does your company offer to fulfill their key needs?

  • What partners do you rely on to deliver this offer?

  • What revenue model are you using for your core customers?

Step #2: Identify uncertainties & consequences

Next, identify potential uncertainties that could impact your business, including disruptions such as lockdowns, travel or supply chain disruptions or teleworking requirements.

Then identify the potential consequences: fewer in-person customers or a growing demand for contactless payments.

Step #3: Assess the impact

Based on the uncertainties and consequences identified, think about how these will impact the business, asking questions such as:

  • Which aspects of your business are affected?

  • What is the impact on time frames?

  • How does it impact business cycles?

  • How does it change your risk calculations?

  • What new opportunities does this disruption create?

  • What IT infrastructure or software systems will need to be adapted?

Step #4: Adapt the model

Think about how you will need to change your business model to address each potential impact. That doesn’t mean that you have to completely reinvent your business overnight: some of these may imply a more long-term strategy change. Focus on what technological changes you will need to make to allow for these changes. For example, investing more in the recommendation engine of your e-shop if your physical retail space has faced a drastic reduction in customers.

Step #5: Create a plan for change

Based on the above scenarios, create a timeline and action plan for change. Put agile strategies into place so that you can switch gears quickly when scenarios change. Make sure that everyone involved is aware of the changes and plans and that business and technology goals are aligned.

With a clear and agile plan in place, your company can shift its strategy and capitalize on new opportunities to not only survive, but thrive in the post-corona era.

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