The past few months have forced enormous change across many businesses around the world. Rapid and agile responses to the pandemic have altered processes, adjusted lead times and forced experimentation at a rate never seen before. As organisations embrace these changes and start to live their new reality, it will be interesting to see which of these ‘forced innovations’ are retained for the long term and contribute to securing the ongoing future of businesses.
Across all sectors we see swift morphing in order to survive. Take automotive for example – whilst not true across the entire sector, some showrooms have successfully dodged the challenge of a test drive whilst maintaining social distancing. Cargiant, the world’s largest used car dealership no longer allows test drives – instead, prospective buyers view the car and then proceed to purchase. After a period of 48 hours and/or up to 50 miles, if there’s a change of heart, the car can be returned for a full refund. It seems a big pill to swallow – buying a car before even driving it off the forecourt, but no doubt this extended period of getting used to the car, and without the sales rep watching your every move, may well prove to be a positive – for the customer and the business.
The real estate sector has also had to navigate the hurdles of stalled house viewings. Virtual viewings have grown in popularity allowing viewings to take place 24/7. Filtering out unnecessary viewings on the part of the vendor, the buyer and the agent – ultimately is saving time and wasted journeys. Of course nothing replaces touching the walls and feeling the vibe of a potential future home, but there’s lots of positives in using technology to bypass some of the laborious steps of house buying. The same goes for house removal companies – virtual consultations to provide a quote on a move – quick and efficient for all involved.
In hospitality, many restaurants and cafes have adopted takeaway services only to find a huge audience waiting in the wings. Pubs have toyed for years with the idea of how to expand the offer – being forced to find new revenue streams has created a path of experimentation, which may prove a lifeline. Many suppliers to the trade have seen orders stop. In response – delivery box offers have sprung up across wine, fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, fish and more. The ability to receive restaurant quality produce to your door from some of the country’s leading suppliers seems to have found a hungry audience. Will these players continue to supply direct to the consumer? What impact are these new options having on the grocery sector?
Across healthcare – telemedicine has long been rejected by many GPs, but with the closure of surgeries up and down the country phone consultations have proven a life line to many, and shown the need and benefits to those unsure of its viability.
Of course education has seen huge shifts in online learning – right across the board from primary to adult education. No doubt parents, teachers and children alike are equally keen to return to their educational settings, yet the rapid adoption by which all parties were forced to embrace technology for the learning environment may well encourage more of this type of learning moving forwards. Online tutoring businesses seem to be popping up at a tremendous rate – capitalising on the desire to catch up, coupled with the realisation that all ages have been forced to immerse themselves in digital learning and therefore are now comfortable with the format.
Certainly not every forced COVID modification is a positive one. The sport experience is one. The crowd makes the atmosphere and with the Grand Prix set to restart in Austria this weekend things will feel very different. With an average of 150,000 typically in attendance, the prospect of no spectators, no media and no podium celebrations certainly will make this year a very different viewing experience.
What’s interesting about this pandemic is that nothing has remained the same. Habits, behaviours and basic need states have all been ruptured, shaken and redefined. Being forced to change, or to innovate, is different to seeking to do things in a different way. In the latter it’s a desire to do things differently, but in the former, it’s a real need. What this has proven is that change and innovation can happen very quickly. Businesses have surprised themselves. There are different ways of doing things. Often big players within a sector have set the path for how things are done and others follow suit, perhaps with a slight deviation. What this period has illustrated is that to truly innovate and disrupt you have to approach the prospect of innovating based on a firm need to change – if we had to do things differently in order to survive – what would we do and how would it look. This new way of thinking may well unlock some opportunities previously hidden from view.