To survive the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to adapt and fast-track their use of technology. But the benefit could be better ways of working, new products and more resilient business models. Below, we explore how some businesses are reinventing themselves – and are now thriving for it.
Amidst all the news of job losses, pay cuts and furloughs, it’s tempting to think almost every business has been in survival mode during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some businesses have been thriving.
Referral marketing company MentionMe, for example, reported that UK order volumes for home and garden clients were up 55% in April – and 83% year-on-year – as people took advantage of warm lockdown days to bake and tend gardens.
Grocery, pharmaceutical and DIY stores were lucky to benefit from an exponential surge in demand. Others, however, have had to be more creative and figure out how to adapt during a pandemic. Unable to rely on foot traffic, they’ve needed to develop new and alternative ways to reach their customers.
In most cases, this has meant creating digital and virtual offerings. For some businesses, this shift in operations might only be temporary. But for others, experimenting with new ways of working has made them think twice about how they currently run their business – and could result in long-term improvements.
Perhaps they’ve found a more efficient or cost-effective way to deliver services. Perhaps they’ve discovered a new product or revenue stream. Or perhaps a new omni-channel presence has grown their customer base.
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Either way, adopting an entrepreneur mindset and adapting to COVID-19 life has helped businesses thrive in new ways. Here’s a few stand-out examples, which might inspire you to reinvent your own business.
Signature Brew: Bringing pub life home
For many Brits, one of the most sorely missed luxuries of pre-COVID life is a trip to the pub. Signature Brew, the creator of music-inspired craft beers, decided to help by bringing pub life into homes.
The brewery created ‘Pub in A Box’ – a collection of craft beers, glassware, snacks, a music quiz and a playlist delivered to doorsteps by out-of-work musicians. They have even created a special edition Father’s Day box, with a card that doubles up as a voucher for a brewery tour post-pandemic.
In March, Signature Brew had to close several venues, including their E17 burger bar, so focusing on online delivery has been key. Before lockdown, Signature’s e-store consisted only of beers, event tickets and a small collection of merchandise. The ‘Pub in a Box’ concept wraps these all together in an appealing package (plus extras), which has shelf-life long after lockdown. It’s a product suitable for birthday parties, end-of-year functions and even dinner nights with friends. Many wouldn’t be surprised if they keep it as a new offering permanently.
Horderly: Cleaning through cameras
You wouldn’t think a professional home cleaning and organising business could do much during lockdown, but Horderly in the US figured it out. The answer? Virtual organising services.
Customers are able to handpick a professional organiser and book them for a video consultation. Experts do a virtual walkthrough of your space, discuss areas for improvement and then teach you their trademark 11-step organisation process.
Since many people had a lot more spring-cleaning time on their hands, customers welcomed this new DIY approach. Looking at the future, it’s a service worth keeping together with face-to-face consultations, as it saves Horderly on travel costs and time, and continues appealing to a wider DIY audience.
Xiaomi: Long, large livestreams
Like many businesses, Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi had big product launches scheduled, before coronavirus stomped them out. Xiaomi, however, pressed ahead – opting to livestream the launch of its Mi 10 5G phone.
Partnering with video platform Bilibili, Xiaomi hosted an entirely online event that lasted 72 hours. The event pulled in 12 million viewers and 2.6 million engagements on Bilibili, which lets users drop comments on the screen in real-time.
It’s unlikely a physical event would have garnered as much traction. Xiaomi also cleverly dedicated a portion of the event to shed positive light on the health crisis, which saw users creating and sharing uplifting content.
Virtual events, or any virtual interaction, has the benefit of reaching and engaging much larger numbers, without the high costs or logistical headaches. Sandstone Yoga, a fitness franchise, has used the functionality to host online yoga classes. After seeing such high demand, the franchise decided to recruit more franchisees to operate entirely online. Franchisees will have the benefit of working from home without needing an actual studio – a model supporting both new entrepreneurship opportunities and rapid, affordable scale-up of the franchise.
Reinventing with technology
Agile businesses that embrace technology have been winners in this pandemic. Willingness to go digital has helped them not just stay afloat and work remotely, but innovate for the future and expand their customer base. Technology-driven operations were inevitable, but having to depend on it has given many businesses their first taste – and they might be keen now to go further.
Dunsters Farm has supplied food to UK organisations for 60 years, but 95% of their business closed overnight when lockdown struck. Adapting quickly, they launched a website and offered home delivery to individuals for the first time. Hannah Barlow, managing director, now says Dunsters Farm plans to continue serving this new customer base, even when normality returns.
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The biggest business lesson of the pandemic, perhaps, has been this: A combination of physical and digital is key to building resilience against future disruptions.
And it’s clear that digital solutions, with a bit of creativity, can work for any franchise – from gym to food. So whether you’ve had to reinvent your business, or simply just reopen in a more COVID-safe way, it’s a good time to question your normal, and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic studier – equipped to weather any future economic or social crisis.
Feeling inspired to start a business of your own, or reinvent an industry? Visit our UK Franchise Directory and see all available opportunities by sector.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©