Picture: THE HERALD
Picture: THE HERALD

Recurring waves of the Covid-19 pandemic and the likelihood of further lockdowns require that businesses build resilience and adaptability if they hope to achieve growth.

A recent Financial Mail Redzone “in conversation with” digitised event focused on the SA-specific findings of Kantar’s eight-wave global Covid-19 Barometer study as well as its Global Business Compass Survey.

The survey was conducted among 4,500 business leaders, including 900 members of the C-suite. It aims to help businesses navigate the unknown with insights to contextualise, align and inform their recovery strategy. The Covid-19 Barometer study, on the other hand, tapped into the ever-changing attitudes of more than 150,000 consumers, helping marketers keep their fingers on the pulse of changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in order to assist brands to better understand the impact of the pandemic and ensuing changing consumer behaviours.

The conversation was moderated by TILT chief creative officer Arye Kellman.

From a social perspective the pandemic has underlined the stark social and economic differences between SA’s rich and poor, said Kantar SA CEO Ivan Moroke. Among the biggest concerns facing business leaders are an economic recession and financial issues. In fact, a higher proportion of business leaders are concerned about their customers and political changes than are the norms globally.

On the African continent consumers have similar concerns to those of the rest of the world. There is reduced demand, customers face financial hardships and a global recession is possible. What is very apparent, said Moroke, is that businesses need to accept the “new normal” and adapt to it. “There will be a resurgence of the virus, and further lockdowns are likely, given that our vaccine rollout will take time,” he said.

While some businesses have exploited the opportunities that became available, others have been forced to adapt their operations completely. Taking no action has not been an option.

Businesses that have been positively affected by the pandemic have been more likely to adapt to new conditions and invest in e-commerce innovation and marketing, with 75% of respondents in the Kantar study saying they have increased or introduced an e-commerce focus, 67% have pivoted their businesses to adapt to new conditions and 75% have invested in marketing and innovation.

However, businesses that have been negatively affected by the pandemic have been more likely to put investments on hold. A total of 74% of respondents said they had cut or reduced staff-related costs while trying to retain jobs, 37% said they had reduced marketing investments and 40% said they had deferred or cancelled planned investment.

How should businesses be responding to this environment? Moroke said businesses have been forced to adapt or be forced adapt. “Not acting has consequences. If Covid has taught us one thing it is that it’s not a zero-sum game; it doesn’t need to be an ‘either’ or an ‘or’,” he said.

Businesses need to consider new segmentations, recalibrate what they do, focus on meaningful collaborations and remember that consumer behaviour is likely to continue to change. Decisions should be made based on data rather than on gut feel.

In summary, said Moroke, Covid-19 demands a response from businesses regardless of their sector or category. Local businesses need to be even more resilient in order to weather SA’s self-created storm, which Covid added to. Consumer-led growth is the only sustainable business growth – and that requires insights to achieve. Innovation and creativity are required to respond to consumers under pressure effectively.

Moroke added that employing short-term tactics at the expense of sustainable brand and business growth is a bad investment while digital transformation is fast shifting from being a key differentiator to being a critical business basic.

“It is less about cutting budgets and more about leveraging a limited budget, using data-based understanding of the impact of Covid consumer behaviour, as the starting point,” he concluded.

To watch the recorded event click here.

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