Isn’t it all over now anyway?
Society and business have undergone rapid and pronounced change over the last 18 months. While 19th July 2021 was branded as Freedom Day in the UK, it is only one step in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond to a new normal.
We are still in the midst of a ‘Pingdemic’ with record levels of notifications sent week on week, even though there are indications that the number of new cases has started to drop, for the first time without a lockdown. As such, Freedom Day is not a cue to return to the old ways of doing business as the world has moved on. Whilst the latest ONS figures indicate a retail footfall recovery to 74% of 2019 levels, in reality, the economy is not going to return to previous trends.
What does the future look like?
The ONS reports a 10% increase in company incorporations compared to the equivalent period in 2019. So there is a lot of excitement in the economy, not merely driven by necessity but by enthusiasm and opportunity.
Unsurprisingly the most successful businesses have either been online (e.g. Amazon) or those which have pivoted online. The Centre for Retail Research suggests that the pandemic has resulted in levels of online business not predicted until 2025 at the earliest.
Murat Soysal, co-founder of Segmentify, an e-commerce personalisation platform that supports online retailers noted that:
The Covid-19 pandemic introduced a new cohort of visitors to the online platforms of e-commerce stores; the loyal customer base of offline stores began their transition to the online space. Online engagement, in the absence of in-store experience, through personalisation & segmentation in search, recommendations and content was demanded to result in increased sales conversions. Segmentify helps e-commerce stores make the most out of this customer base, converting them into returning customers.
Mustansar Iqbal of Autocoincars, an online platform that allows consumers to purchase cars using cryptocurrency, said this of the challenges and opportunities arising out of the pandemic: “Founding a new payment system and building a unique marketplace is no easy task. However, when you have passion and drive for what you love doing, you find ways around these challenges, like with Covid-19. We built a new team to help us adapt and move with the changes in our customers’ habits. We saw a huge rise in cryptocurrency adoption as well as online spending. We used social media to spread awareness of cryptocurrency purchasing and our business. AutoCoinCars is breaking into new territory, and we are working hard to continue our growth.”
Is the future of business stuck behind a screen?
Whilst business has changed for good, some things never change. Opportunities arise out of Freedom Day for entrepreneurs who recognise people’s need for some semblance of normality and are able to deliver. One such sector is sport.
Adrian Melville of Golfscape has noted a significant increase in customers’ interest to shake off the shackles of lockdown and get outdoors, in particular on to the golf course. Golfscape provides an online booking system to enable golfers of all capabilities to get out on to the best courses in the UK.
Behind this, Golfscape is “striking strategic partnership deals with valued brands in other tourism verticals (i.e. AMEX, Marriott, Emirates) in order to support golfers getting out to their favourite destinations. We are also focused on gaining traction in areas where UK residents enjoy visiting – like Spain and Portugal – and have partnered with premier courses in those areas.”
Whilst the online business sectors can expect continued growth, and working from home either permanently or in some form of mixed mode is here to stay, the physical economy is recovering and offering significant opportunities for new and experienced entrepreneurs alike.