In the first few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, companies began implementing crisis management and resilience measures. Most businesses have had to downsize staff, re-budget and manage their cash flow to cope with decreased demand or temporary closures. With the economy reopening and given all the upheaval caused by the pandemic, business owners now need to re-evaluate their business strategies in this new, very different context.
Strategic planning allows you to review all your business’ activities and functions and to take an in-dept look at market potential, competition as well as corporate vision, objectives and key strategies. Here are three priority areas for you to review in the current context.
1. Your clients’ needs and your competitive positioning
Demand for your products or services may have been affected by the current crisis. This disruption could have a long term impact. It’s therefore important to take stock of both your offer and market needs. To begin, ask yourself these four big questions:
A. What has changed in my markets?
Example: Will customer demand be as high for the luxury products I sell? Do we have any new competitors? Have we lost any competitors?
B. What are the new needs of my clients or potential clients?
Example: Will my clients still want to buy groceries online and opt for delivery?
C. Is my offer still as relevant?
Example: Do the office products I offer meet needs for remote work?
D. Are my competitive advantages still as relevant?
Example: If a big part of my value was location, is that still the case with online shopping? By being watchful and perceptive to the market and ready to react, you’ll be able to seize opportunities and carefully and regularly update your offer. You can download our supply and demand analysis tool to start your own analysis.
2. Marketing strategies
The COVID crisis has clearly caused a surge in online sales strategies for both B2C and B2B businesses. You can align these new marketing strategies with your more traditional ways of doing business by asking yourself the following:
- How urgently do I need to establish my online sales approach? Am I behind or ahead of my competitors?
- Which distribution methods do my clients prefer? Has the crisis affected their purchasing behaviour?
- How can I set up an omnichannel sales and distribution strategy (retail stores, distributors, direct online sales to consumers)?
The role of online sales
The crisis has put e commerce on the fast track. From our perspective, online sales should complement in store retail sales, and if you’re a manufacturer or distributor, you should communicate this to your retail partners. As a manufacturer, for example, several scenarios are now available to you:
- In areas where you have retail partners, you might consider selling your products online and having your clients pick them up in-store. Retailers could even be compensated for this: They play an important role in promoting your brand, maintaining inventory and allowing potential customers to see or try your product.
- In areas where you don’t have retail partners, you can use your online strategy to develop your sales for a new customer segment.
Whether or not you own your retail network, you should evaluate how it contributes to your sales, promotes your brand and provides customer service before making any changes. You need to conduct a detailed analysis of each store and possibly renegotiate your agreements.
Pros and cons of direct and indirect online sales
Online sales can be done directly through your own website or indirectly through private websites or online marketplaces like Shopify, Etsy, Newegg and eBay. By managing your own website, you have full control over brand positioning, but need the resources to keep it running, and you’ll likely have less visibility. Online marketplaces, on the other hand, generate much more traffic than your own site, but you have no control over product placement. Many businesses have opted to sell certain popular items in a marketplace setting to increase their visibility while offering their full range of products on their own site. We advise you to take the time to analyze your situation and weigh the pros and cons of each scenario.
B2B distribution: The importance of partners
As far as B2B is concerned, your partners’ strategic role depends on your line of business. If, for example, your distributors play a key role in sales, installation and after sales support, you should establish your online strategy in conjunction with them. Every case is different. Remember that it’s important to maintain or establish direct connections with your customers: You want to be able to collect strategic information about them to better meet their needs.