Steven's Blog

Hit the Ground Running

The only viable path forward for your business during this crisis is innovation. There is no percentage in tentativeness. It is the bold and the innovators who will hit the ground running and succeed when things settle.

At a recent CEO roundtable I held in Tokyo, one CEO talked about how he is implementing enclosed spaces in retail facilities across Japan that are meant to accommodate one customer and one sales person at a time. The space is disinfected after each use. Other CEOs who heard this idea realized they could do the same thing in their own businesses, even though the business of each is vastly different from the others.

An executive in charge of car dealerships told me that now, more than ever, virtual catalogs and digital car configuration tools that the company had developed previously are important and no longer nice-to-have add-on to a sales person’s tool box as customer interactions will likely have to occur outside the showroom for the foreseeable future. In addition, I suggested if you can’t bring the customer to showroom, bring the showroom to the customer. Even if showrooms remain closed, a sales person can still bring a car to customer for test drive.

The same is already happening at restaurants in the United States in places like New York. If you can’t bring diners into the restaurant, then bring the food to the diners. Even high-end restaurants that used to turn their noses up at take-out and delivery are now offering these, as there is no alternative, using convenient online services like Doordash. Even after restaurants re-open, I suspect take-out and delivery options will persist and become routine, even for high-end restaurants.

The CEO of a company in Japan that makes food products told me that he is seeing demand from large retail spaces beginning to flatten after an initial spike at the onset of the crisis, while noting increased interest from convenience stores, a segment in which the company had only had moderate success up to now. Consumers are apparently avoiding large retail spaces with lots of people, where one spends a lot of time in the store, in favor of small retail spaces with fewer people, where one can quickly enter, make a purchase, and leave within minutes. The company is now looking at innovating products, packaging, delivery, and sales methods to serve convenience store customers.

And what about large grocery retail? If you can’t bring the consumer to the grocery store, bring the grocery store to the customer. AEON, which has long had an online grocery shopping service, I suspect will see increased volume in the coming weeks. The AEON online shopping landing page features a variety of recipe kits with all the ingredients needed to whip up a meal for two, including meat, chopped vegetables, spices and sauces. As young urban couples and single people having to refrain from eating out and stay at home might be longing for a freshly cooked meal rather than delivery, the kits seem to hit the right spot.

Working from home, which had long encountered resistance in Japan, is increasingly a necessity. Communication services are already seeing a spike in demand, but so is demand for all the home office accouterments—devices, computers, and even furniture! Japanese manufacturers like Nitori are well positioned to service demand with their online shop.

So what are you doing in your business? What are your people doing? Whether your business is experiencing a spike in demand, a dramatic drop, or a shift in demand to a different product category or a different channel of purchase, the future belongs to the innovators and the bold.

No matter what your business is experiencing during this crisis, the future belongs to the innovators and the bold. Click To Tweet

In sports, there is no percentage in playing just a defensive game. In business it is the same. Keep moving, keep innovating, and hit the ground running after we are finally through this. And we will get through this.


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