Business Strategy: Radically Different or More of the Same?

I recently created a vlog on “When to Change Strategy” and wanted to share some interesting observations (at least to me!) of changing business because of the pandemic. There’s little joy in Mudville from the pandemic, but there are always lessons!

The grocery industry has had to pivot (heavens I’m tired of that word!) dramatically since COVID reared its ugly head. My recent trip to Whole Foods found me swimming upstream with many other bodies, but most of them were Whole Foods employees picking orders for delivery. The interesting question is: How much of this omnichannel behavior will stick? I’d rather get my eyes on the Brussels sprouts, salmon and Point Reyes blue cheese before I buy them, but a can of diced tomatoes needs no discernment. Would these stores be better off enlarging the perimeter (produce, meat, fish, dairy, bakery) and reducing prepackaged goods? They could store green beans and toilet paper in cheap space if they believe that consumer behavior will stick. What would your bet be?

As I write this, the cost of labor may rise — significantly for some. How much automation will this generate? Some believe it’ll lead to service jobs focusing on high-end, high-touch positions. There might be interesting training and development or outsourcing possibilities. What opportunities could optimize labor-intense activities in your business?

Many of us have been ordering semicustom items during quarantine, giving rise to the term C2M (consumer to manufacturer) vs. B2B or B2C. This shift leverages digital ordering and manufacturing and eliminates middlemen and retail. This isn’t really new technology so much as new buying behavior. What’s your customers’ preferred buying behavior? Will it snap back once we’re all vaccinated?

Two of our favorite restaurants quickly adapted (OK, pivoted if you must!) to takeout. Their food is OK, but we used to go for the people and the service. I bet folks will return to the brick-and-mortar facilities when able, but if delivery sticks, what will their competitive advantage be?

Video workouts have proliferated, and there are many free options. Exercise equipment has been flying off the shelves. However, determination is still in short supply and the need for “community” still exists. Will the “home-gymers” return to the gym? Same question about those who started baking sourdough bread and chocolate chip cookies. Will it stick?

Many headlines shout, “There will be no return to normal!” I believe that’s way overstated. People’s underlying needs haven’t changed. How those needs are addressed may have shifted in some areas, but I believe that two years from now (unless we find another boogeyman like COVID) airplanes will be full of business travelers and restaurants (perhaps new ones) and gyms will be as full as they used to be. Not a snap back, but a gradual magnetic pull.

However, on the fringes, there are opportunities for new business models, and there are incremental advantages to be gained in the way you operate.

Have you thought about what your future will look like?