The concept of a global community has done two things through the Covid-19 crisis. On the one hand, it has shown how intrinsically connected we are, and the value there is in working together. On the other hand, Covid-19 has put a sizeable dent in international travel, and as time goes on it is changing the shape of relationships between countries both positively and negatively. On the other hand, we have arguably never been more dependent on online communications, and the lines between nations have never been more irrelevant. So what does that mean for your business?
Setting the scene: in a nutshell
2019 brought a phenomenal amount of aggressive and negative news headlines around the world. People were angry, frustrated and polarised in many ways. In the UK and Europe, Brexit was the topic of every story and at every dinner table. Then there was the US-China trade war, Trump’s impeachment, and whether Meghan Markle was spending too much money on her Royal wardrobe.
In many ways, Covid-19 has been the common enemy that has united us. In the UK we have seen the “army” of volunteers, scientists from around the world have teamed up to support one another with data, vaccine knowledge and PPE, and we’re largely in agreement that ingesting disinfectant isn’t an appropriate way to treat a highly contagious virus… or anything for that matter.
Now, some of that support has also started to turn to backbiting amongst global leaders. However, when it comes to business, are we in a different and more empowered position to take the lead on reshaping what it means to be part of a global community and use it as an opportunity to lift both individuals and the collective whole out of the gloom?
The winners, the losers and the people who see what others can’t
The impact of Covid-19 has inevitably meant that there have been changes, both good, bad and inspiring, to businesses around the world.
There have been some who are suffering disastrous consequences. In the UK, British Airways has warned of the need to make up to 12,000 of its 42,000 strong team redundant due to travel interruption caused by Covid-19, the department store chain Debenhams has gone into administration, and clothing stores Oasis and Warehouse have also gone into administration. Meanwhile, in the USA, J Crew became the first major US retailer to file for bankruptcy during the health crisis, as has department store company Neiman Marcus.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are some who are thriving. For example, in China, where citizens were in lockdown for months, the uplift that quarantine had on entertain-yourself-at-home services is obvious. TikTok usage has skyrocketed; online games keep crashing because of too-high demand; and Alibaba has built a system so people can buy groceries via livestream. Online education services, home gym equipment and online business communications platforms such as Zoom have also soared in popularity.
Then of course, we have all heard of the heroes who have been transforming their businesses into providers to support the fight against Covid-19. Not least, LVMH who started making hand sanitiser instead of perfume, quicker than most of us could blink.
However, amongst those who have been natural winners and losers, there have been those who have found ways to innovate and adapt to the current climate. For example, while alcohol sales might have taken a nosedive when people stopped going to clubs, pubs and bars, four alcohol brands decided to adapt by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Remy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience, streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door.
While London fitness studio Frame was forced to close its doors, it quickly launched Frame Online, an online fitness hub with a £10.99 per month subscription fee that allowed people who were stuck at home to get moving and keep fit with virtual classes. Another example comes in the form of Y Combinator-backed start-up Inokyo, which builds and installs autonomous checking for retail stores, has used its technical knowledge to build a product, Act, specifically to help companies deploy contact-tracing technology to their workplaces and warehouses.
A virtual global community
Inevitably, what has happened, is that we are looking at a world that is physically restricted but digitally connected. It seems reasonable to assume that international travel is going to take a while to recover. Even if Covid-19 was miraculously vanquished and travel restrictions lifted tomorrow, it would take time for consumer confidence to return.
However, many businesses have discovered, more fully than before, that they can operate much more effectively than they may have believed in a virtual space. We can work more remotely, have video calls and adapt what we do and how we do it. In doing so, we can broaden our horizons, interact on a different scale, and perhaps consider that expansion to different territories that we have often thought about but never quite had the confidence to action?
At gigCMO, much of our work is with companies that are looking to expand into different country markets. In particular, the UK remains a very attractive market as does the US and China. Different markets in different geographical locations require different business rules, regulations and processes as well as different social and cultural etiquette. While we may continue to be physically ‘locked down’, in some ways the collective experience of Covid-19 is making our global community more connected and more open to working together than ever before.
If the world wasn’t communicating virtually before, it certainly is now. We’re all looking to grow our way out of the current circumstances and navigate towards a positive future. So as a business owner, what role are you and your company going to play? Is now the time to take the leap and make plans to engage with a worldwide audience? In the words of Barack Obama: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” So how are you going to shape yours?
Speak to the gigCMO team about expanding your business in the UK or US.