The COVID-19 pandemic has detrimentally impacted the majority of Welsh businesses. Few have escaped unharmed, with organizations of all sizes affected, from small independent companies to well-known brands and large enterprises.
But the positive response has also been astounding. And Welsh companies have shown remarkable levels of flexibility and innovative spirit. What were initially thought to be insurmountable challenges have, in many cases, turned out to be catalysts for change and diversification.
In this post, we’re going to look at five key ways that companies are adapting to the current crisis. While many of these shifts will only last for the short-term, others will likely continue well into the future, even when COVID-19 has been brought fully under control.
1. Greater reliance on cashless systems
Due to the dangers associated with traditional cash payments, many companies have fast-tracked their transition to cashless point-of-sale (POS) systems. Government information campaigns have also urged people to opt for cashless payment methods, causing a shift in general customer behaviour.
Welsh companies have taken advantage of an array of low-cost POS solutions geared specifically at small businesses. These apps are also often offered in conjunction with COVID-related discounts and payment holidays.
On a broader level, this kind of activity is part of a general trend towards a cashless society. Consumer habits show a distinct move towards contactless card and mobile payments. And technological innovations mean that setting up a point of sale system now costs hundreds of pounds where only a few years ago it may have required thousands, along with specialist technical expertise.
2. More home delivery options
UK-wide lockdowns and area-specific restrictions have severely limited the extent to which companies can offer in-person services. The hospitality sector, which encompasses bars, restaurants, and hotels, has been particularly affected by these measures. And even companies that are able to stay open, such as high street retailers, have been negatively affected by customers’ reluctance to put themselves in higher risk environments.
This has prompted many Welsh hospitality companies to offer home delivery options, especially through established services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Other creative examples of this include farmers and local product-based businesses that are selling items like home-delivery veg boxes.
It will be particularly interesting to see if companies continue to offer home delivery options as the pandemic eases. These services may act as a source of supplemental income when trade resumes as normal.
3. Renewed focus on ecommerce
While high street sales across the globe have plummeted, ecommerce figures show the opposite effect. Inability and an unwillingness to shop in-store have led customers to turn to the web. And small and medium-sized businesses are getting ahead of this trend by refocusing time and resources to growing their online presence.
One of the big drivers of the shift online among companies is the availability of ecommerce solutions aimed at small businesses. These tools are inexpensive (often offered for low-cost monthly subscriptions), require little technical expertise, and integrate with well-known logistics and delivery networks for easy set-up. This has allowed businesses to leverage their existing customer bases while unable to offer an in-store experience.
4. Hosting of online events and use of video conferencing
Video conferencing has become ubiquitous in the last few months, exemplified by the exponential growth that companies like Zoom have experienced. Tele-conference tools have acted as a lifeline for businesses that would otherwise have been unable to connect with clients and colleagues.
In-person events are also being conducted online. Taste North East Wales, an annual event which features cooking workshops, an artisan food market, and tasting sessions, is taking place online this year. An array of creative solutions has made this possible. Attendees can choose to receive food boxes by mail, for example, and attend tasting events virtually.
Companies have also been able to manage their teams effectively by building their tech infrastructures. Project management platforms, time-tracking apps, and virtual document workflows have all seen increased use among small and medium businesses. Often, it’s also been possible to integrate and automate these solutions to drive greater efficiency and savings.
5. Introduction of remote working wellbeing programmes
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, government regulations compelled most companies to instruct their employees to work from home. With new local and national restrictions coming into force, along with guidelines from the Welsh government, this trend shows no signs of abating.
Remote working has an array of benefits, including increased levels of wellbeing and productivity. And most companies have also saved significant amounts of money on office costs. But remote working also carries risks. And this has prompted businesses to develop wellbeing programmes geared towards employees that work from home. In some cases, government initiatives focused on mental health are also fuelling these moves.
Companies that have remained active and profitable during the pandemic are united by their ability to adapt. From offering home delivery options to focusing on ecommerce sales, Welsh businesses have shown a remarkable knack for adapting to the unforeseen and often unforgiving circumstances brought about by COVID-19.
It is also probable that many of these changes will last well into the future, even after the pandemic has passed and things have returned to normality. Innovations and adaptations occurring as a response to the present situation will continue to shape the Welsh business landscape in a myriad of interesting and noteworthy ways.