Creating New Products In This Crisis

Last week we looked at remote work as one of many technological changes driving the “New Normal” in the era of COVID-19. This week, I’ll explore how new products and
23 May 2020 16:21
Creating New Products In This Crisis

Last week we looked at remote work as one of many technological changes driving the “New Normal” in the era of COVID-19. This week, I’ll explore how new products and delivery models are a critical consideration for businesses during this crisis.

We are already seeing that businesses which are dependent on the physical presence of their customers now are looking to deliver products and experiences online.

One option is to consider a shift of the product/service delivery medium from in-person experiences to digital platforms. For example, 4k streaming services, high- fidelity videoconferencing, virtual reality, and online customer communities can in some cases substitute the in-person experience.

What does online retail mean for my business?

Online retailers like Amazon, the tourism industry, and even real-estate brokers have used tools like these for years to allow customers to browse, narrow down options, and make informed choices remotely. Best-practices and sample policies are readily available for businesses to tailor and apply to suit their needs.

Fortunately, the shift to digital experiences coincides with increasing consumer preference for channels like streaming video, mobile applications, e-commerce, and live chat. The investment in bringing retail online at this time will not be wasted. This crisis is an opportunity for businesses in Fiji to upgrade their services to provide an international standard—and to likely reach new customers in the process.

What does this mean for small and micro-enterprises?

Many small-scale vendors and businesses in Fiji have already figured this out, and have used social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote their products and manage sales.

Those selling physical goods are also exploring new product models, so you can expect to see supply chain pendulums swing back to emphasise more local sourcing and manufacturing.

This can be good news for local start-ups and small and micro enterprises who can fill those niches and meet those needs.

Cyber Food Fiji is an example of one such business using technology and linking businesses to its customers.

It is now working with financial service providers to create APIs to allow customers to be able to transact using card schemes such as VISA, MasterCard or China Union Pay. An area that is already working abroad and we are familiar with is online shopping & delivery services applications. An online shopping comparison mobile application would be good in the current environment where consumers can search for products to buy, compare the cost across different stores and locate the nearest store based on GPS location, further cutting down on travel time and shopping.

How can organisations leverage this aspect of the new normal?

Don’t wait to line up a full-scale enterprise rollout – time is of the essence, so start with a quick proof of concept project targeting a specific customer or use case. Validate that your selected choice of channel and digital platform does – or doesn’t – resonate with customers and expand from there.

Willingness to tolerate fast failure in pilot projects is essential until the right mix of service delivery channels and platform can be found – then move quickly, using outside resources where possible, to scale up.

Once a pilot is deemed to hit the mark with the customer group, it’s incumbent on IT to have the policies, practices, and procedures in place to scale it up rapidly – either in-house or by selecting the right strategic vendor and implementation partner.

What about businesses that rely on in-person experiences?

The pandemic is hitting some sectors – entertainment, sports, arts and culture, and events – particularly hard, as they have historically relied on in-person experiences. Social distancing is therefore an existential threat.

For these organisations, the change to their business strategy needs to be transformational rather than incremental – the existential threat warrants taking a leap of faith.

Here in Fiji, the dance company MATA, where my daughter is a core dancer, has been a great example of an innovator, taking such a leap. When lockdown sent all the dancers’ home, they continued to rehearse using the ZOOM application and even created collaborative videos in synchrony from home.

They took advantage of free online classes being offered by internationally recognised choreographers to expand their skills, and have started a new term of online classes for different age groups this week.

This is a great opportunity for school kids who have been stuck at home for weeks without many outlets, and it allows MATA dancers to reach new students outside of Suva.

Similarly sports trainers and enthusiasts can also use these platforms to setup content and provide packages to allow its students to continue with their training drills or sessions in this new normal.


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