By Steven Greenstein, CBCI, Senior Advisor with Fusion Risk Management
It goes without saying–what we are facing is a protracted global crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Life as we knew itis being temporarily re-written ona nerve-wracking daily basis; it has startled and shaken all of us to our core. What do we do? We need to ground ourselves, act pragmatically, compassionately, and make sound personal and professional business decisions.
Companies with mature business continuity and enterprise risk management programs who have leveraged relevant big data are well positioned to respond. These companies have been creating actionable scenario-based continuity plans which have well-developed response, recovery and resumption strategies for workplace, workforce, supply chain and technology disruptions. As such, they hold a competitive and strategic advantage over those companies that have not.
As we analyze the unimaginable initial COVID-19 pandemic crisis impacts, we quickly understand that COVID-19 started as a workforce disruption (mass absenteeism), but soon thereafter morphed into a workplace disruption (mandatory quarantines of workspace), and now has disrupted the supply chain, logistics and distribution channel systems. To date, there’s only been some minor company or localized technology outages (VPN connectivity, equipment issues for remote workers, etc.), however, information security is now a much higher risk given the virtualization of the ‘at home’ workforce. Bad characters will certainty try to profit from COVID-19, so expect an increase in cyber-attacks, ransomware, and fraudulent money laundering schemes.
So how do we plan for the unimaginable? How do we move forward?
Within the past few years, many companies have invested significantly in digital capabilities, transforming business operations, developing business impact analyses (BIAs), process mapping/inventorying all critical business services/functions, simulating disruptions to their workplace, workforce, supply chain, technology partners, essential vendors, etc. From these BIAs and exercises, organizations have created actionable business continuity (BCP), technology recovery plans (TRP), and strategies. This has enabled businesses to improve decision-making with relevant and meaningful data, increase agility, and fortify a culture of resiliency amongst important stakeholder groups such as employees, customers, third-parties, suppliers and regulators. Those companies that have already chartered this course by embedding a culture of resiliency and operationalizing risk management are in a much stronger position to respond to COVID-19 and re-emerge to the market faster and with reduced impacts.
Areas of organizational focus and ongoing COVID-19 response should consider:
- Preparation for increased absenteeism
- Assess continuity of operations over time (30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.)
- Plan on how to manage service/product degradation over time
- Determine appropriate level of inventory, assets, liquidity, etc.
- Continuous monitoring of supply chains or providers for potential impacts
- Analyze potential delays and backlogs – update forecasting/modeling
- Setup reserve budgets (legal, professional services, financial, etc.)
- Daily cashflow forecasting and investment strategies
- Enhance info security policies, protocols and software amongst virtual/remote workforce
- Develop succession planning for essential personnel and executive leadership team
- Review HR and IT policy and procedure changes – engage external legal firm
- Maintain workforce morale – innovate, collaborate and connect
- Revise financial forecasts and reporting – engage external audit firm
- Test Emergency Notification Systems (ENS)
- Proactively analyze market and industry impacts
Coming out of this crisis, a post-COVID-19 wave of investment and digital enablement is likely in such areas as disaster recovery planning, processing mapping, big data harvesting and enterprise risk management and response strategies.
Brand equity and company reputation will be held to new standards and expectations post COVID-19.
When your organization is conducting a debrief, ask the following questions:
- Did your company respond well to COVID-19?
- Was your company able to continue to provide essential business operations?
- Was there a commitment to your workforce?
- Were those affected by COVID-19 taken care of?
- Did you transparently and frequently communicate with your employees, shareholders, stakeholders, interested parties?
- Did your company maintain its vision, mission and purpose while demonstrating its ability to strategically navigate in unprecedented and rapidly unfolding times?
These are extremely important questions to be answered as organizations respond to COVID-19. It’s imperative leaders monitor their business continuity, crisis management and pandemic respond plan procedures and steps. This way, they can document all issues and challenges that surface. These issue logs should be assigned to responsible staff for action and resolution.
This is a turbulent time in our lives. We are in unchartered waters where the social, economic and financial impacts are looming large. With lessons learned from COVID-19, preparedness and planning for the next crisis will make all of us more resilient and in a better position to answer the question, how do you plan for the unimaginable?
Overcoming Barriers That Threaten Your Creative Output
By Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive, Imaginaire
Working in a creative field doesn’t happen by chance. Years of study and research – not to mention a distinct disdain for formal attire – help you climb the ladder one rung at a time. But what happens when the creative tap runs dry? Amazing ideas you came up with at the drop of the hat are now replaced with crumpled pieces of paper being directed towards the bin. All while the clock is ticking as your client drums their fingers on the desk, waiting for the brilliance that you simply cannot give them.
Many barriers exist that can threaten your creative output. They are out to get us all, regardless of how many years you’ve spent working in the industry. Even if you have a really successful project, that doesn’t mean the next will follow suit. The only solution is to knock your creative barriers down as if you were playing a game of skittles.
It’s your turn to bowl and you’re required to aim the ball at the following…
Your Stress Levels
A recent survey undertaken by YouGov found that 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. Given this survey was conducted pre-pandemic, it would be little surprise if that number isn’t more like 100% now.
Constant uncertainty and restrictions on how we carry out our everyday lives can soon affect your creativity too. After all, how can you let your imagination run wild while you are essentially being held captive in your living room, only dressed appropriately from the waist up on a Zoom call?
Stress of any origin isn’t a friend of creativity, because your brain goes into fight or flight mode and literally shuts off any non-essential processes. Then your sleep suffers and so does your diet. You don’t exercise which causes a lack of dopamine, etc. Therefore, finding a healthy output for your stress is the only way to truly rid yourself from it. Even a quick walk in the park will give you a change of scenery and will help your brain to relax, thus relieving some stress in the process.
A Lack Of Inspiration
Often, a lack of inspiration originates from playing it safe. It’s not a coincidence that ‘sameness’ and ‘lameness’ rhyme either. The likes of waking up at the same time and eating the same thing for dinner is terrible for fostering creativity. As Albert Einstein put it: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” That’s why you need to be switching things up now more than ever.
While all of us might be experiencing physical restrictions right now, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t tap into the wealth of content that’s out there. Films, virtual gallery tours and books all exist waiting to be discovered. Just like a footballer is required to train to stay on top of their game, you are required to do the same within a creative sense too.
Sometimes no matter how much you try; the ideas just don’t flow. Anything you do come up with lacks gravitas or has been done before by someone bigger and better. The irony in this situation is that the more you try and force the idea, the worse the mental block becomes. In such a case the only thing you can do is stop. Even though it’s the very opposite of what your inclination tells you to do.
Creativity in itself is a free-flowing entity. Once you try to constrict it to some kind of production line most of us inevitably find ourselves a part of, the wheels are going to stop turning. The problem isn’t helped by the fact most of us are constantly wired to emails, notifications and bad news popping up on our phones. These in themselves can all create the mental block to begin with. That’s why restoring the balance is key and this starts by going back to the drawing board. You need to find exactly what it is that makes you tick to get the power switched back on.
Your Inability To Say No
No is such a finite word and one that Jim Carrey went to great lengths to tell us to avoid in Yes Man. Though in the end, his character realised that you just can’t say yes to everything and retain your sanity at the same time. Rather, it’s about learning to embrace when not to turn great opportunities down. Many people could do with channelling this ethos, especially as if you try and please everyone all of the time this ultimately comes at a cost to you.
How can your creativity thrive when you are constantly feeling stifled? Whether you picture a work or personal scenario here, you can’t be all things to all people all of the time. The more you continue to take from yourself the less you have to give. If anything, your creativity switches itself off as a warning sign in response to being overloaded. No is a powerful word though is one you shouldn’t be afraid to use when warranted.
The Bottom Line
Creativity has never been about following the rules or sticking to the same patterns. Yet that’s often what those who struggle with generating new or brilliant ideas often find themselves doing. The only way you can truly break out of a creative rut is to challenge yourself. It might seem like an impossible task in the current climate, but it’s one that is essential to be able to give yourself and your clients the best version of what you can do.
Seven easy ways to maximise online sales by expanding your marketplaces
By Nate Burke, CEO and Founder of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, shares seven ways ecommerce businesses can leverage tools and platforms to quickly expand their marketplaces to maximise sales opportunities.
By now, the rise of ecommerce due to shifting consumer habits in recent months is no secret to anyone. But as an increasing number of businesses experience rapid growth and traffic on the digital channel, scaling-up practices to keep up with demand is key.
- Raise awareness
With an increasing number of retailers joining or expanding into online marketplaces, businesses can expect to face greater competition. With this in mind, online advertising should form part of any brand’s digital marketing strategy.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising in particular is a useful way to raise brand awareness and drive traffic, conversions and sales regardless of whether the brand has a new or an established online presence.
But the advertising mediums you choose to use must align with the business’s commercial objectives and operational capabilities in order to generate a return on investment. For instance, ads should be placed in channels that will reach the target audience, whether that be Google search results or in the display network, for example, as well as in languages the website supports and the company couriers can fulfil to.
And with an effective management and monitoring tool, you will be able to maximise the performance of your digital advertising activity to drive the best sales results.
Volume management is essential to any business looking to expand its marketplace operations, but it can be difficult to identify early on when ecommerce integration is needed. However, issues such as keeping up with sales levels, inventory counts or even hours upon hours spent on manual data shifting should start ringing alarm bells for any business owner.
And by integrating your website to your other online sales channels and back-end systems, you will start to gain a number of noticeable benefits. Reduction in human errors, accurate inventory management and increased sales channels, without losing operational efficiency are just some of the topline benefits business owners will begin to experience.
In fact, without integrating stock and price data, you will not be able to expand to multiple marketplaces, as those such as Amazon require very high levels of accuracy which without, your account will be suspended. With orders coming in from multiple sales channels, it is generally not feasible to keep accurate counts in the different channels without automation.
As your ecommerce grows, there will no doubt become a time when current systems and processes become highly inefficient to your operations. Manual, repetitive tasks become laborious and can lead to disaster with overworked and unenthused employees tapping away at keys when they’d rather be strategising or working new leads.
Automation can churn things like inventory management, lead generation and strategy and decision making into self-fulfilling automated tasks. As you automate basic items like price updates, order inputting, returns and stock updates, you can then move into the second phase – automation of updated advertising algorithms based on margins, stock levels, competitor pricing and related factors, all of which drive efficiency and a competitive edge. Invoicing and financial data can be moved paperless and customer service processes can be automated or streamlined in a variety of ways.
The key in the automation process, is to start with a solid foundation of your website and finance system to fully automate order flows and marketing information. Following this, you can then continue a relentless cycle of manual testing, which will determine what works and what is truly repetitive on a daily or hourly basis, rather than trying to automate tasks that you may only perform from time to time.
- Own website/marketplaces?
While some businesses only focus on their website and others sell solely on Amazon/Ebay, a robust approach across the major channels that customers use tends to drive more value and be a more sustainable approach for any business.
For example, if a company only sells in the marketplaces, it is common for Amazon to suspend an account for not hitting performance metrics, which causes a major disruption in cash flow and sales. Additionally, the marketplaces tend to restrict access to the customer, so it is not possible to market directly to your customers.
Consumers that come and purchase from your website develop a relationship with your brand, are easier to communicate with in the sales and delivery process, and you can continue to market with email and other methods for a higher lifetime value per customer. Additionally, the larger buyers will tend to prefer to deal with you directly rather than through a marketplace.
However, particularly as you expand out of your home country, digital marketing can be costly to run and cultural differences, languages and currencies difficult to manage at small scales.
Therefore a blended approach of digital marketing to your website and marketplace expansion tends to reach more customers efficiently and faster, which you can adjust as you grow and master different areas of digital sales.
- Multi-channel approach
One of the best ways to scale-up a retail business is to adopt a multi-channel approach. This may include a mix of various ecommerce sales channels as well as a physical in-store offering, for example.
However, the channels you choose to use must align with the business’s ethos and goals in order for them to be effective in maximising sales. If not, they could end up creating a greater cost than return.
For instance, a downloadable software provider may see more value in investing in online routes than in a bricks and mortar store offering. In this case, the multi-channel mix may include different marketplaces or use of various marketing and communications methods instead.
But either way, a multi-channel approach maximises the amount of touchpoints between a brand and customer and in doing so, the likelihood of the brand sticking in the mind of the consumer is increased.
- Streamlined management processes
When expanding into different marketplaces, a common problem businesses encounter is effectively managing the ramped-up level of activity. But with an insights platform, businesses can manage and monitor their digital activity across various channels on a single centralised dashboard, as well as automatically update prices, stock levels and order management.
This provides a more transparent and holistic view of performance, with data and insights that can be used for reporting and informing future decisions.
Not only does this create greater efficiency, but it also reduces a lot of the admin burden placed on employees, allowing them to focus on other business-critical tasks.
- Customer service
Due to the distance and physical detachment between customers and brands in the online realm, customer service is often overlooked. But, providing high quality customer support should in fact, be a core business activity, especially as the brand and consequently, the customer base, grow.
In doing this, you will keep both new and existing customers satisfied. This can encourage loyalty, repeat purchases and positive word of mouth, which can then be spread through customers’ personal social media networks to generate greater traffic and sales for the business.
So, remote customer service providers must be responsive, helpful and well-informed in order to have the desired effect. And to make their jobs that much easier, CRM tools can equip providers with the data and insights required to offer an efficient and effective service every time.
Online retailers to accelerate growth plans to combat the COVID-19 crisis
New Paysafe study reveals that despite the impact of COVID-19, businesses are still innovating to maintain plans for future growth
Three quarters (75%) of online UK businesses are experiencing a negative impact on their business due to COVID-19 and even in the long term, the number that say the pandemic will have a negative effect on them (45%) outweighs those that believe it will have a positive impact on their business (31%). That’s according to new research out today from specialist payments platform Paysafe as part of its ‘Lost in Transaction’ report series, in which 1,100 small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) globally which operate online were asked about the effects of COVID-19 on their business.
However, despite the negative forecasting, overall more businesses remain optimistic about opportunities as a result of changes to their business model following the pandemic. 30% of businesses have seen an increase in profit margin (versus 26% which saw a decrease), 36% have seen an uptick in customers (versus 27% which saw a decline), and just over a quarter (26%) believe they are better positioned to enter new geographical markets, as opposed to 20% which say they aren’t.
Businesses have had no choice but to welcome change with over a third (36%) suggesting that COVID-19 has increased their ability to innovate. Around 84% of organisations have had to alter their operations to appeal to a broader target market with adapting digital strategies forming a core part of this. Of the businesses that made changes, 78% specifically diversified their payment offerings and as a direct result, 66% saw an increase in sales.
The importance of a seamless online checkout has been reinforced with the introduction of new consumer payment preferences. Some 37% of online brands have already integrated at least one new payment method into the checkout whereas 55% plan to introduce at least one more in the near future. With an increase in the variety of different payment methods used by consumers since the outbreak of COVID-19 — 37% of businesses have noticed an increase in the percentage of consumers using digital wallets and 20% have observed customers using crypto more often — over half of businesses (57%) now view their payment offerings as a priority.
As with all shifts, consumers are also thinking differently about how they make payments and what they use them for. Over a quarter of businesses surveyed (32%) think consumers are using new methods to track their spending more accurately, while 27% believe consumers are re-evaluating the role technology plays in their lives. As people are becoming more familiar with digital payments, according to businesses almost a third (29%) of consumers are valuing a more seamless experience online.
Paulette Rowe, CEO, Integrated and E-commerce Solutions, Paysafe Group, comments: “The shift to online has forced retailers to take a fresh look at the checkout experience and assess whether it is user friendly as well as secure. Though many SMBs believe the future is less than positive, there is still hope, as we have seen that some of the simplest innovations can spark growth. Now that customers are more willing to use different payment methods there is an opportunity to innovate at the checkout. Creating a seamless digital experience will help eCommerce services appeal to all generations and give businesses that all-important competitive edge.”
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