In the world of business, change is the only constant. To remain successful, companies of all shapes and sizes, from small family enterprises to international organizations, must continually adapt to shifting markets, customer behaviours and external conditions.
At no other time has this simple truth been more evident than in the last several months. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the business landscape in previously unimaginable ways. Shifts and transformations that might have taken decades have occurred in weeks.
A large number of companies will not survive the coming months. But others have shown a remarkable ability to adjust to difficult circumstances. In this post, we’re going to look at five industries in which many businesses have successfully adopted the “adapt or die” philosophy.
1. Music: Live-Streamed Gigs
Government restrictions have ruthlessly targeted live events, which are among the worst catalysts for the spread of COVID-19. And a host of employees that rely on the live music industry to make their living – backup artists, sound engineers, promoters, agents and so on – have found themselves without work. Even worse, while some sectors have returned to relative normality, albeit with greater restrictions, live events are expected to remain off-limits well into 2021.
Faced with this bleak situation, artists have used the web to connect with their fans. When Billie Eilish took to Instagram Live to chat with her followers, for example, she drew nearly 300,000 viewers in minutes. Norah Jones’ regular live-streams, fittingly titled “Live From the Living Room”, boast hundreds of thousands of views. Epic Games also hosted a virtual rap concert for Fortnite players that attracted over twelve million people.
It’s important to keep in mind that these large-scale online events require large support teams. While they do help the artists directly, they also support a broader workforce that would otherwise be reliant on live music events.
2. Retail: Greater Emphasis on Ecommerce
Government lockdowns have forced non-essential stores to close their doors for long periods of time. And even when they have reopened, buyers have been increasingly reluctant to put themselves in what they perceive as risky situations by shopping in person.
Both of these factors have contributed to a significant uptick in online shopping. In response, retailers have shifted their efforts online. In some cases, such as in the example of H&M, they have even opted to close significant numbers of their high street outlets.
Many stores that have moved online have sought to develop their ecommerce value proposition by offering several competitive benefits. These include next-day delivery, a larger number of home-delivery slots for online groceries, holiday-related offers (such as for Christmas and Black Friday) and the launch of budget brands for individuals who have taken a financial hit as a result of the pandemic.
3. Gyms and Fitness Studios: Virtual Lessons
On the surface, the transition to virtual workouts on the part of gyms might not seem like a significant move. It’s easy to interpret it as a short-term, relatively easy backup plan that will only last until gyms can reopen again.
But this view belies the complexity of transitioning to a fully digital infrastructure, which many fitness brands had to do in days rather than weeks or months. It also misses the existing trend of growing demand for virtual fitness products. Speaking in Fortune, CCO of Classpass Zach Apter said, “We have experienced a demand shock for online or virtual fitness that might not have happened in a non-COVID world.”
Companies have been forced to adapt in a myriad of ways, including by updating fitness apps, creating online workout classes that don’t require equipment, building video conference infrastructure and offering flexible online payment options. And those businesses that have been able to transition effectively have been able to take advantage of a boom in demand for virtual fitness services since the start of the pandemic.
4. Hotels: Buy Now, Stay Later “Bonds”
The hospitality sector has been impacted in a number of ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. And hotels are among the businesses most badly affected. With travel restrictions ongoing in many countries, and with cash-flow often halted due to last-minute cancellations, it has been difficult for hotels to find alternative methods of driving revenue.
But that hasn’t stopped some from coming up with creative solutions. Several hotels, for example, are selling “buy now, stay later” bonds, which increase in value the longer they stay unused. And some well-known chains have become much more safety-conscious, and are offering all-inclusive room service deals, spa packages, and even robot concierges.
5. Airlines: Flexible Booking and Cargo Flights
To get a full picture of how badly air travel has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can help to look at the figures. In April 2020, when national lockdowns were first being implemented, at least half of the planes across the world were grounded. Air passenger traffic was down 95%. Cancellations increased by 5000%. These are staggering figures by any measure.
One way that airlines have been able to recuperate some lost revenue, however, is by moving over to cargo flights. Cathay Pacific, Korean Air Lines and American Airlines have all taken this approach. Other carriers have opted to offer flexible booking options such as free flight changes.
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As the world continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and companies begin to make sense of a dramatically altered business landscape, innovative and talented leaders are needed more than ever.
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