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Necessity is the mother of invention and the socially distanced landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic has made changing the way we do business a necessity. Now is the time to take the energy of your business’ crisis response effort and apply it constructively to #ThinkForward and innovate how you’re delivering your products in this new landscape. Technology, Digital Optimization and Digital Transformation are key to your success and sustainability during this pandemic and in the post COVID-19 world. 

The ability to #DriveChange is paramount, yet many organizations lack a framework to successfully navigate through the crisis at hand. We’re all in this together and LockData is committed to supporting our business community. It is in that spirit that I’d like to share with you a core concept that will determine your brand’s ability to successfully come through COVID-19: the Intersection of Innovation and Crisis Response.

Crisis Readiness

No matter what size your organization is, the best way to practice crisis readiness is by having a strong crisis management plan in place. The importance of this can’t be stressed enough. If your organization was one of the large number of businesses that didn’t have a crisis plan in place before COVID-19 hit, then I’d be willing to bet you were caught fully off guard by the pandemic and all the changes it brought. Without clear next steps and quick action it can be tough for any business to survive a crisis especially one as widespread as the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Building a Crisis Resistant Brand

In a recent webinar at OTC Live, Melissa Agnes, the founder and CEO of the Crisis Ready Institute, spoke about building a crisis resilient brand. While attending Ms. Agnes’ session, a few points stood out to me:

  • In any successful crisis response plan, effective communication and effective action must take place simultaneously.
  • There are a few key stages to a successful crisis response: Anticipate; Mitigate; Prepare; Implement; Monitor and Repeat.

These concepts rang true for me not only in terms of crisis response, but also as important ideas for the process of innovation. The introduction of new methods, ideas, and products is as crucial to any organization as their crisis response efforts and follows the same guidelines. 

Modeling Innovation in Your Crisis Response Plan

As in any successful crisis response, the duo of communication and action are necessary for innovation. Furthermore, the structure Ms. Agnes laid out for Crisis Response lends itself well as a framework for the application of the five stages of successful innovation: Idea Generation and Mobilization; Advocacy and Screening; Experimentation; Commercialization; and Diffusion and Implementation.

The First Stage

We’ll be exploring each of these stages over the next few weeks. Each week will focus on a specific stage, factors to consider related to the current COVID-19 situation, and examples. Let’s get started with stage one:

Anticipate | Idea Generation & Mobilization

The first stage for creating your crisis response plan is to anticipate changes in stakeholder expectations as well as consumer needs and behaviors both for the now and the future. Taking stock of available data to drive the insight needed to anticipate these changes lays the foundation for the first stage of innovation, Idea Generation and Mobilization. As you anticipate needs and behaviors you can come up with and share possible solutions to meet those needs.

COVID-19 Factors

  • State of the economy – affect on stakeholder and consumer expenditures, concerns on current and potential future crises create atmosphere of save more, spend less. 
  • Government Guidelines – what is required of your business, is there a way to operate while being in accordance with government mandates?
  • Current behaviors – anticipate how current consumer behaviors within your market will affect how they interact with your product or service.

Example | The Garden Center

For today’s example, imagine you’re the proprietor of a garden center. Like most non-essential businesses, you have had to close as part of continuing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Spring has arrived and with your community under stay at home orders, gardening has certainly not been canceled. While government guidelines have required you to close your doors physically, they allow for online sales to remain open. Without a crisis response plan, you may choose to leave your current e-commerce section of your website the way it is. However, you’re not seeing the numbers in terms of website visits and sales to keep the digital doors open. 

Data Driven Insight

Something needs to change in order to sustain your business, that is where stage 1 of crisis response and innovation comes in. You take a look at the available data and find that:

  1. While already having an e-commerce website puts you ahead of the curve, try putting yourself in the place of the consumer. They are used to browsing your products in person, being able to see products first hand to choose what’s right for them. You find that you have lists of some available products, but others are left off completely. Your customers can’t find many of the products that they are looking for and the few products you do have listed don’t have any product images, so the customer cannot see what they are getting.
  2. While you are a go-to place for in person sales year after year, your largely local customer base doesn’t have much to engage with online to keep you top of mind for e-commerce. 
  3. With the hit to the economy from the pandemic, people are becoming more cautious about what they spend their money on.
  4. You state will be reopening in phases, requiring changing policies each step of the way. 

New Ideas for the New Normal

With this information at hand, you quickly realize that your customers need a better online shopping experience, alternative shipping options, and a better way to engage with your brand online. 

  1. Think about giving your customers a great online shopping experience while your doors are closed. Adding all your products, inventory controls, and media to each product listing will have you utilizing your e-commerce site to the fullest and giving an online customer experience that meets your quality standards.
  2. It’s important to connect with your customer base so consider social media campaigns. Create business accounts for your brand on multiple platforms thus giving you the opportunity to target your community and further engage with your customers.  This is a great way to build stronger relationships with your customers and interact with new customers.
  3. With financial concerns being strong throughout your customer base, take a look at your pricing structure to make adjustments. While you were able to cut some costs and lower some prices, you want to make sure your product is seen as something that your customers need, so you come up with a marketing strategy to add to the perceived value of your product.
  4. Start to create a road map for how you will handle reopening when the time comes.  Your customers will be looking for multiple ordering options, such as curbside pickup, and will need guidance on the return to in-person visits.  

With ideas in place and your crisis response plan starting to form, you’ve locked in great solutions that will sustain your business through COVID-19. Join us next week as we discuss the second stage, and explore more examples of how these steps can help your business.

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