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Three quarters of companies see sales decline – survey

Growing appreciation of the value of going more ‘digital’ as they adapt to customer behaviour amid the pandemic.
Tough times for businesses as they struggle to adapt to the change that comes with Covid-19. Image: Qilai Shen, Bloomberg

With the changing landscape as a result of Covid-19, South African companies are struggling to adapt to changing customer behaviour.

According to the Customer Experience (CX) Business Research report by customer experience specialist Nlighten, more than 80% of companies say they have experienced massive disruption to their business and supply chains.

Polling local firms in June this year as the country was exiting its most stringent lockdown, the study sought the views of business leaders on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Nlighten CEO Nathalie Schooling says the challenge lies in companies not being able to adapt to the “altered reality” quickly enough.

“Customers are expecting brands to be able to deliver on service,” she says. “Companies that have previously lagged in their customer experience strategy are scrambling to keep up, while their more agile competitors win market share.”

Nlighten CEO Nathalie Schooling. Image: Supplied

Schooling says 77% of the respondents agreed that their companies need to become more “flexible and agile”.

The report identified that local brands have had to adapt quickly to retail and customer-facing environments deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the businesses are trying to balance their survival with safe practices in line with the regulations, major disruption to supply chains has left many struggling.


Three quarters of companies surveyed had seen a decline in sales, with 34% experiencing a drop of more than 50%. Only 14% reported no fall in sales. Education and training, automotive, hospitality and tourism were the most disrupted industries. Only 29% of respondents reported that their businesses had received government assistance.

Schooling says the challenges that lie ahead for businesses as a result of Covid-19 are enormous.

“Among the changes that respondents to the survey foresee are the expectation of customers for greater automation and digitisation of services. And this will have to be done despite 81% of respondents [having] said they also expect consumer spending to be lower in the short term.”

Schooling says the agility of a company and how it responds to its customers’ changing needs has been put to the test overnight.

“The pandemic has certainly heightened awareness of customer sensitivities, and companies unable to adapt are unlikely to survive.

“It’s somewhat ironic that it’s taken a global pandemic to force brands into placing customer needs and preferences higher on the agenda.

“This should have always been given importance, even before Covid-19.”

Growth in digital transformation

The report also revealed that there has been a sudden increase in investment for digital transformation and automation of services as 32% of respondents selected this as an investment of choice.

This was followed by product innovation and enhanced client experiences.

Schooling says there are definitely some positives to take from the pandemic and the way business leaders have responded. As many as 85% of respondents said the pandemic has influenced how they think about the customer, and 89% see the value in an efficient and flexible CX strategy.

Having more empathy with customers and taking all measures necessary to keep them safe by implementing strict hygiene practices is also a top concern.

“Given the visible and tangible measures that companies need to take to stay relevant, there’s no more hiding for anyone. Customers will immediately see whether a brand cares about them from how they respond to this crisis. And companies that don’t respond appropriately shouldn’t expect to survive,” Schooling says.

She says the crisis has emphasised that business leaders cannot sit back and leave “so-called soft issues” in the hands of line managers.

“They have to lead from the front if they’re to be successful.”




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The world needs a different economic system for the majority of humanity to remain relevant.

Your point is both a moral and a practical one. Economic systems grow from human action, not the other way around. Economic systems do not change human nature, it merely incentivises and rewards different mindsets and behaviour patterns.

At its core, an economic system is the exchange of labour for food. Man exerts himself to find food and shelter. This is the basis of any economic system. In the oldest, most under-developed archaic economic system, a small society, a family, shared the land, the wildlife and plants. Some hunted while others made clothes out of skins and others gathered nuts. They shared whatever they managed to collect. Resources were abundant and sharing improved the position of every individual in the family structure. This is communalism.

When the group grew too large and the resources became relatively scarce, the size of the group was controlled by starvation. The concept of sharing resources was not effective any more, because those who worked hard to provide for others, also starved when the shared resource became scarce. There was no incentive to work hard and there was every incentive to be lazy. This is the end of civilization if they do not get a better idea. Property rights developed out of this fear of famine. People had ownership of the food that they collected and later on, over the land they collected the food on. The lazy people died of famine while the concept of property-ownership grew stronger. The communalists died off while the property owners survived to fill the gap. This is capitalism with property-rights, rule of law, individualism and accountability.

In recent times with the appearance of democracy, individuals received new powers. Those individuals who are reluctant to, or less successful at the exchange of labour for food, could now use their power over the legislature to force others to share their property with them. Voting became the new tool to “kill a prey”. Voting became a way to get food and shelter. This economic system of voting is called socialism. To exchange your labour for food in the socialist system, you only have to walk a small distance to the voting booth once every 5 years. From that moment on, the socialist system takes the food and land away from the property-owner who worked for it, to redistribute it to the lazy person who voted. This is the modern economic system called socialism.

This innovative idea of lazy people to catch food actually takes the entire system back to communalism, where most in the group will once again die of famine because the size of the population is now many times larger than the available resources will allow.

The moral of the story? Free-market capitalism with property rights and the rule of law is the only solution for mankind because, in the end, it is every man for himself.

In agrarian economies, everyone is relevant. So its about the exclusionary effects of globalization, technology and mechanization that people and systems need to address, peacefully or violently.

In SA, we have the added complication of rampant corruption aided and abetted by BEE that makes some people irrelevant, up until the pot runs dry.

What a wake up call. Distribution and delivery services became an integral part of the sales cycle many moons ago, businesses in SA have by and large ignored this channel and are paying now for their shortsightedness. For those scrambling to get on board here are a few tips.

1. Your website needs to be fast.
2. You need to show prices, POA makes us click away.
3. You need multiple payment solutions. (no EFT via email gives us enough time to change our minds)
4. You need good descriptions of your products. It’s online we dont want to come to your shop to see it.
5. You need a good reliable courier service. We dont like waiting. Same day delivery is best 1 day will do 3 days is starting to make us go elsewhere.
6. You need a search engine on your site that works, (you want an example check out Amazon).
7. Dont profess to know your client in the online world, my mom is 83 and shops online from her tablet. So be clear in your descriptions.
8. Never advertise something you dont have or that is sold out never to be gotten again unless within the context of similar.
9. Remember we clicked to come to your site we only need one click to go away and buy from someone else.
10. Update regularly, dont lie to us we have the whole internet to available to verify your claims.

Good luck with your online experience.

End of comments.





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