What we learned in 2020

What we learned in 2020

It was a year of uncertainty; some will call it the worst year in living history. But the insights we can gain from such a turbulent time will inform our strategies for the future. What is certain is that things have changed, and now is the best time to review, look ahead, and adapt our plans for what’s on the horizon.

What have we learned from 2020?

Digital is not an option, it is essential

When the pandemic hit Malta in March of 2020, businesses had to close almost overnight. Many found themselves in a situation where their customers wanted to purchase products online, but they had no digital platform to enable this. Some used social media, mostly Facebook, to take orders and process delivery, but quickly found this to be inefficient. Handling a Facebook inbox with 100+ orders per day can get very messy!

The effect of the pandemic on the market was the final push necessary for some business owners who were previously resistant to digital. There was a scramble to set up e-commerce websites and get through teething problems as quickly as possible. The problem with unplanned digitisation is that it is often rushed and skips steps necessary for long term success. That’s why digital should always be a part of a business’s strategy.

Change is here to stay

Consumer behaviour has changed with the pandemic. As a direct result of the lockdowns, expenditure has drastically decreased on a global level. This is not only due to not being able to make purchases (shops being closed, distributers & manufacturers dealing with disruption in the supply chain), but also because the general sentiment is one of caution. This year workers were faced with the shock of unexpected lost income, caused by employer actions like downsizing, lack of funds, and redundancy. These factors are having an effect on spending patterns, showing that the change in consumer behaviour is here to stay.

Things can change at any time

Your business plan needs to be flexible enough to accommodate change, because nothing stays the same. Before the pandemic hit, food delivery was still a fledgling industry in Malta. Just a couple of providers had entered the market, and due to the country’s small size, many consumers did not see the need for food delivery.

Then COVID-19 entered the picture. With so many people remaining home, and restaurants closed, demand for food delivery picked up with lightning speed. A market that may have taken years to develop advanced with great swiftness. Demand was so high that even taxi companies shifted some of their workforce to serve this market.

It’s also really interesting to observe what happened in the video conferencing software market. For years, Skype was the go-to name, but after Microsoft purchased it in 2011, the brand’s popularity has been steadily decreasing. This year, we saw the rise of Zoom (and its stock price!) in a market where Skype could have been number one.

Time is more valuable than ever

Almost all events shifted online this year. From training, to conferences and annual general meetings, these events are being held online. This eliminates the usual time wasters – travel time, parking, etc. If a meeting can be held online, it should be. Earlier this year I attended an online class on coding. This was only possible for myself and other participants because it was held digitally. Between work and family commitments, free time is drastically reduced. That means it is so important to reduce unnecessary time wastage – and online events really appeal to this mentality. They are making it easier to learn, develop skills, and improve ourselves.  

Appreciation for spontaneity

While the popularity of virtual meeting spaces was on the rise in 2020, a very strange phenomenon took place. Instead of the neutral setting of the office, business meetings were taking place in the home – among the clutter, pets, screaming babies and houseplants. A person’s individuality comes to light where it hasn’t ever belonged: within the business sphere. My favourite aspect of this occurrence is the intrusion of pets into the camera frame – just the hint of a fluffy paw spreads a smile across my face. You wouldn’t normally get to see what your colleagues’ living rooms look like, but hey, 2020 flipped everything upside down.  Through the pandemic, I think we have gained an appreciation for these impromptu bursts of individuality.

This year has shown us more than ever that we can’t rely on things carrying on as they are. Traditional ways of doing things aren’t here to stay.  Even some types of marketing that were perceived as face-to-face only, such as B2B lead generation, are now being done online. Of course, in 2020 this was turned on its head. Now it is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities and the lessons that have come out of an unbelievably tough year, and make the best of things.