Adapt and Thrive - Covid Opportunities

The Covid pandemic has impacted the business world like nothing since the Great Depression, forcing companies large and small, right around the world to rethink, adapt and change their business practices to survive.

Even SARS in early 2000 forced change and accelerated the adoption of e-commerce in China with companies like Alibaba and forging new pathways to become the biggest e-commerce companies in the region.

Right now, it is crucial for businesses to capture shifts in consumer behaviour shifts to not only ride out the impact of COVID-19 but be even better positioned in a post COVID economy.

Household name IKEA has joined many global companies to do more than simply ‘weather the COVID storm’ and instead put its foot down on the pedal to shift and shape opportunities especially around the digital marketplace and sustainability.

IKEA’s Australian CEO, Jan Gardberg, has focused efforts on enhancing digital capabilities to not only use technology to create a virtual home planning experience but to retrain employees and update their customer service models. Now over 35 per cent of their business happens online and Jan believes that demand will only grow and expand to other areas.

Other industries, including hospitality have responded similarly to the shift in customer behaviour driven by Covid crisis. Despite having to make drastic staff cuts and an unprecedented downturn in trade, the city’s hospitality workforce is proving resourceful, supportive and proactive. Heat-and-eat options that you finish at home, to pre-prepared freezer meals and produce boxes direct from their suppliers are proving popular and many cafes and restaurants are indicating that their takeaway service is here to stay.

Businesses that traditionally have been reliant on physical locations and on-site staff can continue to keep their ‘doors’ open by leveraging digital channels to deliver their products or services. E-commerce platforms like Shopify or virtual meeting tools like Webex, Teams, Skype have rapidly enhanced their capabilities and as Zoom reached 300 million customers its stock price surged further.

Increasing your customer base through the use of online communities and marketplaces is another business smart way to go. In recent years the number of online marketplaces has exploded due to the convenience and variety they offer to consumers. Participating in these marketplaces is also a great way to boost your customer base during these times, generating awareness and access to a large global customer base quickly.

Digital priorities need not overtake a business focus on sustainability, in fact for IKEA sustainability is now higher on the agenda. Operating in over fifty countries, with over 12,000 products and responsible for approximately one per cent of world commercial-product wood consumption, IKEA has embedded sustainability into doing business. A number of sustainability programs have been brought forward to super charge the commitment goals to sell 100 per cent recycled products by 2030, having 100 per cent delivered online by 2025 and being carbon neutral by investing in and using solar power and batteries at their stores. They will also share excess electricity generated for free with the local community and provide access to products and suitable waste materials for the community to collect and use - dramatically reducing landfill waste.

Jan as CEO, also the Chief Sustainability Officer, believes passionately in driving action throughout the supply chain and the culture. For ever-changing companies like IKEA it is that strong leadership and a willingness to challenge the ‘norm’ and strive to thrive in a brave new world of commerce that will make the difference.

Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum on 11 June with Jan Gardberg, CEO IKEA Australia as a part of a series on Resilience and Building Back Better.
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Media contact: David Peters 0413 872 491

Sydney Business Chamber is dedicated to creating, advocating and promoting Sydney as a City of Opportunity – a global city to Invest, Work, Live and Visit. Our program is based around the key issues of city building, business transformation and innovation. Please share this article and visit us here to find out about becoming a Member. 

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David Peters

Public Affairs Manager, Sydney Business Chamber