What comes next? Understanding a post-pandemic nation
How our businesses will function in the aftermath
This is a situation like none of us have seen before. Approximately 22% of the working-age population is currently keeping the country running in key worker positions. Of the rest us, we are working from our kitchen tables, or are otherwise hopefully in some way furloughed, taking 80% of our wages from the government to lock-down in our homes to relieve the strain on the NHS.
We go to the supermarket once a week, and our only other outings are a speedy daily exercise regimen. It is mad…for now.
I have every faith in the fact that this pandemic will pass, and the world’s healthcare experts will find a solution. But as we emerge, blinking at the big open world once more, what will it look like? How will our economy and businesses function in the aftermath of this crisis?
We simply do not know how restrictions will continue across the UK in the coming months. But, for certain, we do know that the longer these measures need to be in place, the greater impact they will have on our economy and its businesses and individuals.
It’s not all doom and gloom
Though social distancing has been detrimental to the majority of industries, there are areas that have expanded and strengthened as a result. Many of these positive ventures are likely to continue in a post-pandemic nation.
Growth for ecommerce
As swathes of retailers have taken to the online world to continue trading, the abilities and quality of their ecommerce platforms have blossomed, allowing more customers to place orders from the safety and comfort of their homes.
When our high streets reopen, shoppers will certainly take advantage of the bricks and mortar retail once more, however, the emphasis on online platforms will not necessarily abate. The ease and flexibility of online browsing and ordering direct-to-door will not be relinquished easily.
We might even begin to see a greater mesh of retail and ecommerce shopping, as one will be expected to more readily and seamlessly flow into the other. Sales assistants will be expected to be armed with real-time stock and supplier knowledge at their fingertips, and vice versa, online platforms should be able to show stock-levels and in-store availability.
Walking into businesses retail lets, previous purchases, reward cards and discounts, lists of ‘liked’ products and even future recommendations should all be accessible via online customer accounts and machine learning.
After seeing such an online-centric system succeed, many warehouses might take a leap into an ‘Ocado’, or ‘Missguided’ business approach, taking their service entirely online and cutting out physical ‘middle-men’ department stores.
Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy have also prospered, offering ways for smaller companies to boost their visibility online. Many SMEs who have taken the time to use these resources are not likely to undo their hard work in the aftermath, and instead more likely to find a healthy balance between face-to-face and e-commerce retail.
Whatever the business, an increased focus on a successful ecommerce experience will be a priority, whether in-store or on the go.
Simplicity and security – Logistically speaking
Many of the measures designed to streamline logistical processes during COVID-19 will likely continue, to maintain the ease and security they allowed for end-users and supply chains alike.
More rapid and technologically advanced operations will be required from warehouses and supply chains to produce accurate inventory and order tracking, faster delivery, and shorter, more visible logistical chains. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) will become a given to optimise processes, giving greater clarity and connectivity to operations. Businesses will start to more widely incorporate robotics into their warehouses to support the tasks of employees and create room for growth.
After such disruption, companies will be more likely to create coherent contingency plans for the future. Though their chains will be as simplified as possible, with a desire for low or single touch logistics, a permanent shift in the supply chain industry might also be observed. Businesses will begin to increasingly diversify their suppliers, having back-ups and multiple options in case of a crisis event. Suppliers will find themselves in an industry shake-up, where everyone will be willing to move and shift for the best and most secure deal.
The light at the end of the tunnel
From start to finish, this pandemic is by no means going to be an easy ride, and in some way, every single person across the nation and beyond will be affected. For now, let’s stay home, stay safe and stay supportive of our key workers. A post-pandemic world may seem very far away at the moment, but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.