How the Pandemic Has Impacted Businesses (And How to Use Data to Adapt)

by | Oct 29, 2020 | General BI

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on nearly every business sector, the ripples of which will continue to be felt for years after a vaccine is released. Most of these changes have been challenging for businesses, with thousands of companies being forced to close their doors permanently or make drastic changes to keep customers safe.

While the effects are universal, some industries have been hit much harder than others. Many have even been given an unexpected windfall from the changes. In this article, we will examine some of the varied effects of the pandemic and what changes companies can make to stay ahead of them.


The Way We’re Consuming Food and Drinks is Changing

It is no surprise that bars and restaurants took one of the biggest and most immediate hits from the moment the pandemic was declared. In the early days of the catastrophe, most of these locations were forbidden to serve patrons at all, and even now those who are fortunate enough to remain open are still dealing with greatly reduced capacity.

What have thrived are grocery and liquor stores. These “essential services” were able to stay open during the pandemic, and while they have had to make changes (such as limiting capacity, making aisles one-way, and sanitizing carts), business has increased. And delivery services for food and alcohol have fared best of all. Customers are increasingly utilizing services like Instacart and Drizly to have groceries and alcoholic beverages brought directly to them, which is beginning to have a major impact on the way that those business are run.

How can your business adapt to these changes? For those in the beverage alcohol industry, executives can examine their data to see where they can make adjustments to shift from on-premise to off-premise sales. It’s also worth exploring partnerships with companies such as Drizly. Other industries that sell to restaurants can investigate how they might be able to pivot their sales operations to shift to those businesses that have not suffered (and are even thriving) due to the pandemic.

The Way We Shop is Changing

People aren’t risking unnecessary trips to stores, especially if they no longer have immediate use for what those stores are selling.  Clothing stores have seen a sharp decline in business, since people who are working from home and not going out much have little justification for buying new outfits.

However, the story is very different for online retailers. Amazon has likely profited more from the pandemic than any other company. With people avoiding brick-and-mortar stores, they have naturally turned to online vendors who can deliver products right to their doorsteps. This is good for online giants, but bad for local stores. Customers are increasingly trying to avoid shopping from Amazon when possible in an effort to keep local businesses running. Still, it does not look like the company’s growth will be slowing down any time soon.

Brick-and-mortar stores that do not offer delivery or online orders may want to examine the option. Collect some data on delivery companies and see if partnerships might be worth exploring. In the age of COVID and convenience, delivery seems to be the way of the future. If delivery isn’t possible, online ordering for rapid in-store pickup can encourage customers to buy directly through you, rather than through an online retailer.

The Way We Handle Health and Wellness is Changing

Gyms are particularly hard to run safely in the era of COVID. Many were unable to reopen after the initial shutdowns were lifted, and even those that were able to tough it out suffered heavy losses. Stock for Planet Fitness, one of the largest gym chains in the country, fell from around $70 per share down to around $30. But like others that have been hammered by the pandemic, the fitness industry is finding ways to adapt. Gyms are offering more and more online fitness courses that can be done at home, which, for plenty of people, is reason enough to keep their memberships going.

But it’s not just physical fitness that has fallen by the wayside. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommended in March that elective surgeries and medical procedures, a major source of income for hospitals, should be delayed while the pandemic is ongoing in order to reduce the risk of infection to medical professionals and conserve PPE gear. Dentistry has been one of the most affected fields, although patients are finally starting to return. Although new safety requirements make it tougher for medical facilities to operate profitably, examining their data may offer new ways to maximize efficiency and revenue. With all of the changes being quickly implemented, there are bound to be hidden opportunities to streamline operations.

Meanwhile, businesses in the healthcare field that are directly related to COVID-19 are unsurprisingly surging. Demand for face masks exploded overnight, leaving manufacturers struggling to catch up. Now most American citizens own at least one mask, and will almost certainly need replacements by the time a vaccine is rolled out.

Sanitizer has been another high-ticket item since the outset of the pandemic. Massive quantities need to be produced every day for doctors and hospitals that need to sterilize medical equipment, for commercial businesses that have to sanitize their bathrooms, shopping carts, and other amenities, and for personal use by individual consumers. Companies that are able to offer masks, sanitizer, or other COVID related goods and services should strongly consider doing so.

The Way We Consume Entertainment is Changing

For many Americans, the moment they learned the NBA season would be suspended was the moment when they suddenly understood how serious this disease was going to be. Formerly packed stands of sports arenas around the country now sit empty, even as games take place. Concert season was also put on hold, with tours and music festivals being cancelled. Theaters, from cinemas to Broadway, shut down.

What do all of these have in common? An abrupt halt to ticket sales. This has hurt the business of all kinds of venues, which are notoriously expensive to maintain. Many will have difficulty reopening, but that hasn’t stopped some, such as AMC Theaters, from opening with limited capacity. Owners of venues may want to explore ways of safely reopening, even if it means leaving every other seat vacant.

But just because they’re trapped at home doesn’t mean people don’t still crave entertainment. Now, however, most of that entertainment is coming from televisions. Although the production of new shows and movies has been slowed, subscriptions for streaming services like Prime Video and Hulu have skyrocketed. Netflix, who maintains its lead over competitors, added 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of this year. Video game sales are also on the rise, with titles like Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: Wild World seeing a visible boost in sales from the pandemic.

Since they are no longer able to present shows in live settings, entertainment companies should focus on reaching audiences at home. Disney has provided two great examples of this. First, they recorded their stage production of Hamilton so that viewers could see it without going to the theater. Other companies can follow this example by selling recorded versions of live shows for people to watch at home. Second, Disney released Mulan on their streaming service, rather than in theaters, for an additional charge. Likewise, other movie companies can consider offering their films as premium viewing experiences, not unlike pay-per-view. This keeps excitement around the new releases high while earning a large portion of the money that would have been made from ticket sales.

Travel and Tourism are Changing

Most facets of the tourism industry have been severely hampered by COVID-19. International flights from the U.S. have been almost completely shut down, and even domestically people still seem nervous to fly. It is still unclear what the holiday travel season will look like for America’s airports. Delta has attempted to assuage these fears by extending its pledge to leave middle seats empty to help with social distancing until January of next year. So far this has proven to be a successful business tactic for them, which other airlines and travel companies should emulate.

Hotels have been hit hard, with 42.3% of associated jobs having been lost. With people conducting business virtually and most vacations cancelled, hotels are left mostly vacant. Pre-pandemic levels of occupancy are unlikely to return for several more years.

Data shows that economy hotels are doing better than luxury ones, and most travel taking place now is for business rather than leisure. Hotel owners should consider scaling down their operations, reducing the number of expensive luxury amenities available, and perhaps the number of rooms as well. Data can help show them which services are bringing in revenue right now and which services should be scrapped.

Conclusion

While most of the changes brought on by COVID-19 have been negative, there seems to be a windfall for every downfall. In order to thrive in this new environment, organizations need to shift their way of thinking. The businesses most able to adapt to the pandemic are the ones most likely to survive it, which is why it is important to pay close attention to the data you have on hand to see which way the wind is blowing and respond accordingly. Above all, taking visible steps to ensure customers’ safety seems to be the best way to earn their confidence and, in turn, their business.

Parker Jones

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