Why it is imperative to innovate your business constantly: Learnings from the pandemic

The pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives and businesses are no exception. In order to survive, businesses need to be agile, adapt quickly and constantly innovate to keep pace with changing customer preferences.
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At the best of times also it is imperative to keep innovating and changing business strategies. As the saying goes, change is the only constant. The age-old mantra – innovate or perish – still holds true as many case studies have demonstrated. The pandemic has driven home this point, leaving no scope for any ambiguity, as nothing else could have been done.

First the fear, and then the anxiety, that the pandemic has generated, has taught the world a few lessons, most important of which is not that change and innovation is good but that change and innovation are the most important tools for survival.

We have been forced to learn, adapt, innovate and change in every walk of life, be it economic, health, global relations or, most importantly, personal relations.

Other factors combine to push personal relations aside most times but this has now come to the fore and, very often, determines how we address other issues. True, our priorities will never be the same again.

It has to be appreciated that there is no way of putting the genie back in the bottle.

Business models that have stood the test of time and led to great successes are now undergoing a sea change. Businesses are moving to doing things in completely different ways or even venturing into completely new directions. Individuals, who are most affected, have branched out into professions they would have shunned just a few months ago. Education is forced to offer completely new avenues for learning and the ever-resilient students are adapting well.

Just taking a few examples:

  • Alcohol manufacturers have diversified into making hand sanitisers. Who would have thought hand sanitisers would become the savior of the alcohol industry.
  • Garment manufacturers have switched to making face masks and other PPE materials. Face masks have become fashion statements and are being sold in up-scale shops.
  • Pilots have taken to driving cars and bikes, to deliver food and passengers.
  • Governments are encouraging their population to re-skill and up-skill.
  • Small time vegetable vendors have started accepting orders online for home delivery.
  • Online classes are teaching the older population how to get the best out of their smart phones and other devices.

The world was fast moving towards digitalisation and adopting AI but these are no longer options. Developments in these fields are moving forward very rapidly, with businesses and individuals appreciating their benefits.

The need to innovate and change is driven by two primary factors:

  • Changes in consumer preferences
  • Cost cutting

Change in consumer preferences

The biggest change that has driven consumer preferences is the need to work-from-home (WFH). This has changed the way people conduct their daily lives, from the way they use their households (creating work environment), to the way they need to commute (travels to work have reduced significantly), to the way they eat (eating more at home rather than eating out) and to the way they seek entertainment (watching Netflix and other online channels rather than going out to the movies or even plain, simple going out for picnics).

No wonder online shopping has fast-tracked the fortunes of companies like Amazon. Online entertainers like Netflix are other major beneficiaries. It is not only these majors who have benefited by innovating and changing but even much more humble businesses have.

Businesses which have geared themselves to recognise the changes in consumer preference will have an edge and benefit the most.

Consumer media habits have changed, necessitating a change in marketing and communication strategies for most businesses. With cinemas and theatres locked down, people have moved their entertainment and information needs to online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, media publications, etc.

Corporates too have pivoted during this quickly changing landscape and positioned their marketing and advertising strategies on these platforms, something that was not envisaged to happen so quickly.

Cost cutting

This is a no-brainer. AI and net services have provided information and data tools to businesses that enable them to carry out their work at significantly lower costs. This is all the more applicable to service providers who can then offer their services on much more competitive terms. Lower costs can be achieved not only by product innovation but also by innovation in issues in the production process itself.

Innovation, just for its own sake, is of no use. It is important that changes brought about by innovations translate into added value for consumers – in terms of better products/services at more economical prices and at a faster pace. Speed of delivery can help steal a march over competition.

With these goals achieved, an addition to the bottom line will follow naturally, without which all innovations would be of no commercial value to an organisation.

Today’s leaders should be capable of having broad strategies and be geared to adapt and change fast. They should have the acumen to recognize such changes in trends, quicker than others. When pandemic slows down everything, speed matters and one has to be just ahead of the competition. Those who can pick up these trends, innovate and evolve faster, will emerge victorious.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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