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Businesses across South Africa are showing tenacity, innovation and real time digital disruption in the face of Lockdown and its tiered, vague levels of protocol. Many are pivoting their business models to adapt to the current operating constraints. During this time of economic upheaval these innovators have remained positive, proactive and relevant.
“This crisis has fast-tracked digital disruption and out-the-box thinking,” says Derek Cikes, Commercial Director at payment fintech, Payflex. “COVID-19 has forced digital transformation to the top of the agenda, with companies pivoting their business model to provide service offerings that are compatible to COVID-19 lifestyle changes.”
Cikes looks at some interesting examples of how South African businesses have pivoted in response to the current lockdown, providing insights into actionable steps to restructure and transform their business offerings to radically transformed conditions.
At face value it would seem like the opportunity is currently lost for many retailers whose business deals directly with consumers. However, bathroom company, Bella Bathrooms and Tiles, has used digital transformation to pivot their business and change the entire landscape of their business’s operating model.
The bathroom company is providing an innovative décor service allowing homeowners to download the Bella Bathrooms décor app which accesses the person’s cell phone camera (with the relevant permissions of course). In this way, homeowners can enjoy a virtual consultation from the safety of their own homes with their bathroom designer.
“If you believe your sales and consultations can only be done face-to-face, it might be time to re-evaluate your entire sales process and transform it,” says Cikes.
This ‘new normal’ demands that businesses find innovative ways to digitally engage with potential clients and to figure out how existing services can be offered in new ways.
“By using technology to create alternative avenues of communication and engagement, businesses can enhance their service offering while accommodating lockdown regulations to support customers’ goals of staying safely at home”.
Closing the (social distancing) gap
During this time when alcohol sales have been prohibited, boutique liquor company, Dry Dock, has been providing innovative, virtual wine tasting events, discussing various wines in online webinars. Participants who have a wine collection at home can open the same bottle of wine, or if they have the same type of wine such as a sauvignon blanc from a different brand, then the sommelier webinar host will discuss the differences between their wine and the other brand.
“Here’s a perfect example of how a company digitally updated an age-old way of doing something in order to accommodate the current restricted parameters. They’re staying relevant even at a time when many businesses in their industry have ground to a halt”, says Cikes.
Business can pivot to transform tangible, interactive experiences into online alternatives. This allows for a personalised environment where participants can enjoy a one-on-one engagement with the host. Using a digital platform also extends audience reach to include a potential global audience that could experience your expertise at the click of a button.
Servicing the COVID-19 Economy
Epione, a healthcare technology platform, has added a COVID-19 pre-screening symptom checker onto its platform which provides seamless access to health professionals. This new facility enables patients to monitor and evaluate the progression of their symptoms remotely.
“An important lesson from this crisis is creating flexible solutions to meet people’s needs within the current environment,” says Cikes. “By using expertise in your particular domain, business can focus on a key feature that addresses consumer demand and pain points at a given time.”
Pivoting doesn’t always mean reorganising your business for gain or profit. Some businesses and organisations have pivoted to bring their solutions to frontlines to pull South Africa through the pandemic.
A shining example is Kim Whitaker, a hospitality broker who decided to lend a hand while her own business had come to a halt by founding Ubuntu Beds – an initiative that aims to unite hospitality businesses that now stand empty, with our healthcare workers who are fighting the virus on the front lines.
Another example is the Sasol Foundation sponsorship of The Lockdown Digital Classroom – a voluntary virtual classroom created to support student learning during lockdown.
Buy Now Pay Later fintech, Payflex has also used its digital platform for good, providing a payment infrastructure for the Solidarity Fund that allows donations to be paid over 4 instalments.
“By giving South Africans the opportunity to donate in instalments, we are providing a more flexible option to those wanting to make a difference, accommodating different budgets in the process,” explains Cikes.
“Pivoting to address specific needs of groups such as the educational community allows a brand to demonstrate empathy and understanding. This communicates a message of solidarity with a focus that goes beyond profit.
By striving to make a meaningful difference to those around you, brands can foster brand loyalty and alignment both during and long after the crisis has dissipated, while making a positive impact on people’s lives,” says Cikes.
Leveraging Current Infrastructure
Website developers Redshift have onboarded local supermarkets and suppliers onto their platform, allowing shop owners to accept orders from shoppers during lockdown. The pivot has enabled Redshift to expand their business offering and help to support retailers providing essential services.
“This is an example of using current digital infrastructure to expand offerings to remain operational and viable in a challenging economic time,” says Cikes. “Think about your core infrastructure and how this can be leveraged to create a new revenue stream.”
The solution is in the problem
Facilitating the signing of legal documents has enabled innovative digital disruption in the legal arena. Registered Communication is an electronic communications provider which has transformed the traditional paper paper-based notification and hard-copy delivery of contractual documents into a legally compliant digital alternative. This business has found a way to solve a new problem, creating services that solve the challenges of this new normal.
Think of the problems companies or people are facing as opportunities to find the relevant solutions: we need to rethink the problems we’re solving. Leveraging technology can help restructure your service offerings to meet new demand and generate welcome revenue.
Pivoting has always been an integral part of innovation even in everyday business management. However, the COVID-19 disruption is accelerating the need for radical business transformation to ensure business survival and long-term success.
“Businesses are re-imagining themselves. Although pivoting comes with risk, inaction can pose a far greater threat to survival in times of disruptive economic change,” concludes Cikes.
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First published on: ForbesAfrica