Due to the UK lockdown, the move toward online and digital meant an overwhelming increase in online shopping and deliveries, a global dependency on virtual meetings to replace face-to-face meetings, and companies relying on virtual events instead of in-person exhibitions and sales. Previously many businesses relied on exhibitions and in-person events to bring in an expected level of sales. These businesses are now having to work harder to use different approaches to ensure they achieve the forecasted sales.
Although the digital mandate isn’t new, and there has been significant movement to accelerate the transformation to digital, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this need into sharp focus. The situation has served as a reality check for businesses that were steadfast on remaining offline and are now forced to embrace virtual services and tools in order to stabilise and maintain their business. Many businesses have found themselves completely unprepared and require support to not just move into the digital landscape but also remain competitive against businesses that have been doing it for longer. Businesses that developed basic digital strategies and executed them before COVID-19 are now in a prime position to use that advantage to remain at the forefront of their customers’ minds.
With the shift towards online, businesses have had to ensure that their online presence is able to cope with the increased reliance on the virtual landscape. Some adaptions and alterations include: ensuring contact information is up-to-date, developing efficient customer journeys to keep their audience engaged, adapting and improving communications, production and stock fulfilment adjustments, and adapting their websites to e-commerce sites.
Some of the biggest surges in business trends include omnichannel communication, contactless payments, remote working, and cybersecurity. The surge in these trends is not just because businesses are looking to adapt in order to maintain their customers but are working on ensuring the efficiency of their online services in order to stay competitive and keep their businesses functioning. Hybrid-working systems that embrace remote and flexible working are now seen as viable options for businesses, and with that comes the expected increase in cybersecurity. Contactless payments were an option before, but now are even more prudent for businesses to ensure they can cater to their customers’ needs.
Support providers need to be aware of what businesses require to meet these new online demands. They are currently looking for how to adapt their business models efficiently to embrace digital, in order to keep their business functioning and improve productivity. The COVID-19 Impact Survey from Hertfordshire Growth Hub, powered by the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and delivered by Exemplas, gives key insights into the areas Hertfordshire businesses are struggling with. The top three negative impacts to businesses were decreased sales and bookings (83%), cashflow (73%) and access to domestic customers/supply chain (54%). In order to meet this concern, support required includes digital one-to-one advice, adapting business models, and re-evaluating the way they do things. To cope, businesses are increasingly looking towards digital solutions and have identified the digital landscape as fundamental to the survival of their business. In fact, many businesses, particularly in the retail sector, have identified the online portal, especially e-commerce, as the key to their survival during these times.
At Exemplas, as an SME ourselves, we understand the pressures and challenges businesses are experiencing during these uncertain times. We handle a number of key public sector contracts, including Enterprise Europe Network (part of the Innovate UK family) in the East of England, the Department for International Trade and Hertfordshire Growth Hub. With the current COVID-19 situation, the public and private sector contracts we deliver have adapted to reflect the needs of current businesses and provide them with the support they require. This includes aiding with digital transitions, economy and environmental factors.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses in a multitude of ways, it has given a glimpse into a digital future. There is digital potential everywhere, and a future where automation and business models work in a hybrid fashion, allowing businesses to expand their customer reach and promote agile ways of working. The services we deliver at Exemplas are designed to aid businesses with developing strategies for growth, resilience innovation and internationalisation, and much more. Through our services and projects, we are on hand to support businesses through these uncertain times.
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