28 April 2020 | pacts insight | Views:

How businesses can innovate in the wake of coronavirus

‘Business as usual’ is a thing of the past. Crisis demands change, and everyone - from consumers to global companies and small start-ups - needs to adapt. For some businesses, that isn’t always good news - meaning lay-offs, furloughed staff, and reduced services in order to stay afloat.

For Pact Coffee, some of that has been the case. Closed offices, restaurants and hotels means half of our business isn’t operating. But we’re fortunate to still be fulfilling a need when it comes to delivering coffee to customers’ homes. That’s meant innovating and adapting to meet demand, keep sourcing sustainably, and continue to ship out world-class coffee!

Before we focus on what we’re doing differently, let’s take a look at other companies that have changed things up in the wake of coronavirus…

Businesses are… helping to produce healthcare equipment

While we’ll talk about businesses finding ways to keep customers happy, others are helping in a more direct way - by shifting their efforts to provide the medical equipment and healthcare products the world desperately needs at the moment.

Hand sanitisers are being produced by a range of businesses, from perfume companies to breweries, with surgical masks being produced by fashion houses across the globe. Aside from these physical products, there’s innovation in the tech space too - with software used for supermarket store checking adapted for contact-tracing employees, and fever-detecting cameras being developed from those that monitor large remote areas for human presences.

Whether switching production lines or finding new, relevant uses for existing tech, it’s encouraging to see companies helping (rather than profiting) through innovation.

Businesses are… changing to reflect their customers’ lifestyles

With high streets stripped back to supermarkets, and customers facing an indefinite amount of time at home, many companies have had to find new ways to trade. No restaurants or bars to visit and buy food and drink from, no need to buy new clothes to wear to them, no entertainment venues needed afterwards…

It’s essential to be inventive. And there’s some great examples - like alcohol brands banding together with JD.com and a Chinese music label, all to replicate a clubbing experience from the comfort of people’s homes. This let participants listen to music together and buy alcohol during the streamed ‘club night’, boosting some brands’ sales considerably.

Disaster can really breed success… heard of Alibaba? The multibillion company took off during the SARS crisis in 2003, where those self-quarantining needed to turn to shopping online - they happened to launch their consumer website at the beginning of the outbreak, and the rest is history.

On a smaller scale, companies that can no longer exist in their usual form are adapting too - like fitness studios offering online video classes and experiential entertainment providers like Secret Cinema finding ways to offer ticketed streaming events instead. Which leads us to our next focus…

Businesses are… adapting to offer relevant services

Some companies are adapting because they have to. Either their service literally no longer exists, or they’ve no longer got an audience. Maybe, like us, they served corporate clients and offices. That’s the case for Cheeky Food Events, a company offering cooking-related team building to business clients in Australia - so they shifted to delivering cooking kits to remote working teams instead, and providing a live video course showing them how to put it all together.

Similar innovations have previously been explored in the sports arena - as things like Formula 1 become impossible to carry out, no doubt risking great losses in sponsorships, they’ve transferred to virtual racing instead. That lets them keep engaging with fans - and when it comes to sports gambling in the past, similar ideas were explored with horse races.

Speaking of animals… in a weirder display of inventiveness, an animal sanctuary in California has introduced a service called “Goat2Meeting”. This aims to liven up your painfully boring, endless succession of video calls by getting to tour their farm as a team and virtually meet the animals. Ok then…

Businesses are… giving back to their customers and communities

Coming full circle, many companies have used this situation as a chance to give back. After all, a brand is as good as its following. Customer loyalty is a priceless commodity, so it should be rewarded from time to time.

In the UK, a lot of these loyalty rewards have been focused on NHS workers - with everything from discounted pizza and dedicated supermarket shopping hours, to skincare and fashion offers coming from a range of companies.

This sort of generosity has been seen worldwide, including storage solutions offering discounts to students, fast food brands offering free kids meals and many companies offering much-needed products for free - like Audible making 200+ of its kids books available for free.

Whether it’s genuinely out of kindness or not, these are all things customers are sure to remember in better times.

Pact Coffee has… adapted to keep trading and protecting farmers

We’ve had to do our fair share of innovating, both on the business end and at origin. From making important adaptations to our production line in the roastery, in line with social distancing standards, to changing the way our office-based team works, it’s been a shift for each and every one of us.

More complex though, are the changes we’ve had to make to our coffee sourcing practices and timelines.

The impact of coronavirus on coffee-sourcing countries is reportedly minimal - but tracing and recording cases is much, much harder in many of these countries, who can’t access medical testing or treatments as easily. That’s why it’s important we ensure the farmers we partner with are in as good a financial position as possible. We do that by fulfilling our commitment to buy their coffee.

In Honduras, this has meant committing to buy crops we haven’t sample-checked - as their couriers aren’t delivering, so we can’t get them shipped. In Colombia, it means moving coffee beans from farm to ports a lot earlier than usual, to beat delays caused by lockdown. In Guatemala, we’re buying and shipping coffee lots much earlier than usual too, costing us in interest and storage. In Kenya, we’re trying just 20-30 samples (instead of 600+!) of their best coffees so we can still commit to buying our usual quantities to serve our customers.

You can read more about the steps we’ve taken here, but rest-assured - we’re doing all we can to keep the coffee coming, and keep farmers significantly reimbursed - should they need access to medical care and safety equipment in harder times. Choosing Pact Coffee makes it possible for us to do that - so thank you for your support.


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