Five ways businesses can prepare for 2022

If there’s one lesson businesses have learnt over the past two years, it is the value of being prepared for anything. While we have high hopes that the worst of the pandemic is behind us as the Omicron wave subsides, we can expect markets and economies to remain unpredictable for the rest of the year. To survive and thrive, businesses will need to be agile and responsive to the changing needs of their customers.

Here are five ways businesses can get that all-important edge as we head towards the end of one tax year and prepare for another:

 Review your business plan

The world is moving at high speed, with the ebbs and flows of COVID-19 still setting the pace for businesses. Waves of infection, shifts in lockdown levels and rapidly changing customer behaviours mean it’s important to constantly review the assumptions your business plan is based on. Which of them have held up? Which were proven wrong by events?

 

Now is a good time to review what your business is about and where it’s going. Reassess where your revenues come from, your cost base and other elements of your business to check that your plans are still relevant. Then craft a new plan according to the changes expressed by your customers, the competitive environment, and a fluid regulatory space.

 

2.Advance your digital transformation strategy

If your business is like most, you may have made significant investments in digital tools and technologies to support the growing need for hybrid working and online customer interactions. You now have the opportunity to build a future-focused business on this foundation. The next possible steps include using cloud-based tools to facilitate a culture based on data-driven decision making, strengthening, and refining your e-commerce presence, and digitising paper-based processes.

 3.Relook your customer journey

In 2020, we saw explosive growth in e-commerce in South Africa. At the same time, customers are also eager to get out of their homes at times amid fewer COVID infections and social distancing regulations. It’s hard to predict what this year may bring, but businesses should ideally be ready to serve customers at their touchpoints of choice.

A good place to start is by mapping your customer journey to understand the role of different channels and touchpoints in attracting, inspiring, converting and retaining customers. From there, you can create multichannel customer journeys that will support different customers and different phases of the COVID crisis in the year to come.

 

4.Align with employees’ new priorities

The pandemic has changed employees’ behaviours, priorities and values over the past year. The Great Resignation is sweeping the richer parts of the world, as employees quit their jobs In large numbers, opting for flexible working hours and arrangements, a growing focus on mental and physical health, and a desire to work for employers who share their values.

South African companies aren’t immune from this trend, despite our high unemployment rate. There is a shortage of management, accounting, technology and other professional skills, and employers face stiff competition for top talent. Leading employers will be looking at how they can offer better work-life balance and the purpose-infused work experience so highly valued by today’s employee.

 5. Watch out for emerging trends in social media

As noted in point three, customer behaviours and journeys are evolving. Nowhere is this more evident than in social media, which is a key platform for any business that wants to drive awareness and build strong relationships with its customers. Usage patterns are always changing, and many brands are falling behind the expectations of their customers.

The tactics that worked in 2019 before the pandemic may no longer be as effective, and proactive brands will always be looking for ways to boost engagement. Two trends worth watching out for are social commerce and influencer marketing. With social commerce, social media platforms enable your customers to make digital purchases within social media apps. This can help take some of the friction out of e-commerce and boost your sales.

Influencer marketing, meanwhile, is about partnering with popular social media content creators to reach your customers. These may range from celebrities with massive social followings to micro-influencers with small but devoted fanbases. According to a Google survey, 40% of millennial YouTube subscribers say their favourite creator understands them better than their friends.

 Be world-class, but offer a local touch

COVID-19 has exposed how fragile global supply chains are, and it has also prompted consumers to re-evaluate their relationships with brands. One global survey found that consumers increasingly believe it’s important to shop from small local businesses to reinvest in local economies, keep money in the community, and drive job growth.

Businesses that can offer a local touch, showing care for and engagement in the local community, can benefit from this trend. They can offer world-class products and services, but it’s important to nurture close relationships with existing loyal customers. This can be balanced with a view towards expanding into new territories in the future.