A time to leadDawn

I would urge business leaders, in these times of uncertainty and real opportunity, to forcefully define where they fit into the future of business and to decisively lead their current and new customers into that future.

I will make two predictions about the consequences of the Corona crisis than I’d be willing to go ‘all in’ for:

• Loo roll companies, however well they may be doing today, will not be the long term winners of this crisis.

• Ocado (and other online grocers) will be.

Neither prediction is particularly controversial but, on a hunch, I called my elderly father in law — Keith — to ask him about his experience of Ocado. He has never used online grocery shopping before but had now used Ocado four times. I asked him if he was going to use Ocado after the crisis was resolved and the answer was an emphatic “yes”. He had three reasons behind his answer, reasons that every business can learn from in navigating this current crisis. They were:

• “The Ocado website is actually so easy to use and the service so convenient”

• “I feel continuity of my food supply is safe with them”

• “They took care of us in a crisis and I intend to be loyal in future”

Taking each in turn: “The Ocado website is actually so easy to use and the service so convenient”: I pointed out to Keith that the service was just as good before the crisis but he replied he felt no need to use it before as he enjoyed spending time grocery shopping with his wife, Susan. So I asked him if he was going back to shopping in supermarkets after the crisis and his reply was immediate, “I actually enjoy spending time with Susan in the house even more!”

We have here the example of a late adopter that within the space of a few weeks has leapt over the chasm with no intention of turning back. Similarly, in our B2B portfolio we are seeing extraordinary behaviour of B2B buyers changing the way they buy completely with an eye to expediency and no memory to how things used to be. These changes apply to speed of purchase, how companies buy and what they are actually buying (things purchasers wouldn’t have considered before (see below)).

“I feel continuity of my food supply is safe with them”: Although supply chain issues were never a purchase consideration before for Keith they were always an under-appreciated issue (ie in case of accident, ill-health, poor weather). In the B2B context, with the sudden escalation and overwhelming importance of supply chain issues in most companies in the current pandemic, surety of supply is unlikely ever go away as a key purchase criterion. Surety of supply — or redundancy — is but one of the benefits of digitalisation alongside scalability, access, ease of use and low cost. These collectively relegate the “old ways” of doing things to the scrapheap.

And finally, “They took care of us in a crisis and I intend to be loyal in future”: stepping up, doing the right thing, and leading your customers through the current turbulence to safe harbour has a real, long-term reward.

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