How to Adapt Your Business Model in the Face of Evolving Customer Needs

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A lot has changed in the last 12 months, and businesses have been forced to review and alter their strategies to meet new requirements and preferences. If you’re looking for lessons on how to make your business more viable, you can learn a lot from the trends we’ve seen so far. Here are the best insights we’ve gathered on how to adapt your business for the future.

This year has brought a whole swathe of unfamiliar and unexpected challenges to businesses across the industries. While some have refocused, offering different products and services, others have played the waiting game, throwing all their energy into maintaining ‘business as usual’ for deserving customers. 

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on changing market conditions, but in the current climate, business development is more relevant than ever. Keep reading for tips on how to adapt your business model to changing consumer behaviours. 

1. Simplify your operations 

Businesses with straightforward processes will be able to change their models quicker and easier than those with complicated systems. Before you even consider making changes, think about how you can strip down your strategies. Then you’ll be able to make fast decisions and implement changes without having to transform your whole business. 

2. Assemble a communications team 

In times of change, it can be difficult to work on adapting your business while trying to keep it afloat and maintain a high standard of service at the same time. Having a team of people to lead the change in direction can be useful while the business owner or franchisor makes sure performance doesn’t drop. Assemble a group to communicate with all stakeholders, from business partners to employees and customers, and manage the transition smoothly. 

3. Think about your business’s priorities

If you want to adapt your business efficiently, now’s the time to consider your priorities. Are there any other avenues you’re pursuing which can wait until life settles down? You may be able to postpone some of your efforts to focus on the most pressing issues, saving money you can put towards helping your business stay afloat.

4. Work with experts

There’s no shame in not knowing how to equip your business for future challenges. But there are people out there who can help you identify ways to boost your productivity, brand awareness and income. Use the resources out there and contact specialists in your field. They’ll be able to help you plan and implement new approaches, and the long-term benefits should more than outweigh the initial cost of hiring experts. 

5. Ask your customers what they want

There’s no better way to find out how to adapt your business to changing consumer needs than asking your customers directly. Use surveys, group interviews or just informal conversations to discover their thoughts on the company and the aspects they value most. The results may surprise you and take you in a new, exciting direction.

6. Go digital 

No article on evolving customer needs would be complete without some mention of digitisation. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re capable of carrying out much of our work online. Since the spring, 58 percent of businesses have used technology they’d ignored in the past, and nearly 70 percent have accelerated their take-up of cloud-based platforms (Cisco). 

As time goes on, many of us won’t go back to our old ways. So, to stay competitive, you’ll need to consider using a website and social media profiles, as well as internal communications software and, if relevant, an ecommerce system. 

To survive, our organisations (and governments) have to become truly agile, able to adjust or even change their business models with extreme rapidity. It has become apparent that digitalisation is critical in helping organisations to adapt at the necessary speed, and so is a primary driver of resilience in this new era.

Michael Davies, ContinuitySA CEO

7. Test and test again 

It can be easy to make mistakes when you’re under pressure to adapt your business model quickly. Even if you feel pressed for time, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of trialling your intended changes to make sure they work well. Spending a bit of time on this step could save you a lot of trouble in the long run if you discover an issue too late.  

8. Collaborate and share the load

When times get tough, we turn to others for support. The same should go for businesses; by teaming up with another company, you can share insight and ideas, as well as certain costs, like those related to HR. In the current climate, it pays to look for potential business partners, either on a local or national level. 

Ideas for adapting your business - by sector 

Here are just a few ways businesses in certain industries can change direction to support evolving customer needs. 

  • Cleaning - Offer deep cleans and sanitising services, ideally with clients in retail and healthcare. 

  • Beauty - Produce or sell hand sanitiser alongside your normal offering. 

  • Fashion/retail - Manufacture or sell face masks and other PPE. 

  • Food - Take advantage of local delivery services like Deliveroo and JustEat. 

  • Fitness - Offer virtual classes and online health consultations. 

  • Live entertainment - Stream performances and talks on the internet. 

  • Manufacturing - Create products in high demand. For the Covid-19 pandemic, you could develop PPE. At the moment, Fiat is making face masks in China, BrewDog is producing sanitiser for the NHS and LVMH, the company behind Dior and Louis Vuitton, is creating hospital sanitiser. 

  • Technology - Work in automation to help find solutions to current issues. 

In China, drones have... disinfected public spaces up to 50 times more efficiently (and much more safely) than spraying by hand. Drones have also helped move Covid-19 test kits and samples around faster… In a Wuhan field hospital, robots have brought meals, drinks and drugs to patients, cleaned their wards and even taken their temperatures... Danish business UVD Robots has ramped up production after a sharp rise in orders for a robot that cleans rooms with UV light.

— Jo Scarlett, PA Consulting

Find out more

See our articles for franchisors to read more on building a resilient business. Or use the search box to find guides on a particular subject. 

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