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Protracted lockdown measures and safety protocols created rapid shifts in customers’ spending patterns and service expectations—and the future is likely to bring more change. Keeping pace with these shifts and hitting your growth targets is possible with the right tools and approach. Consider these six areas to help your business meet evolving consumer demands.
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Move to e-commerce

The ability to sell to customers online is now critical to your business’ success. If you’re considering launching an online sales platform and unsure where to begin or have some experience and want to achieve greater growth, it’s essential to have a plan that:

  • delivers excellent customer service and experience
  • includes adequate logistics and infrastructure
  • incorporates payment and transactional support
  • builds in employee training or new hires with the skills to manage the platform
  • utilizes data collection and analysis tools

While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of new sales models, the digital journey isn’t over. Start with a plan that addresses the essentials to get you moving in the right direction – and once you’ve accomplished that, there are additional steps you can take to build on your progress.

Leverage customer data and data analytics

Foster sales growth in two critical ways: identify opportunities to reach new customers and increase engagement with your current customers. Leverage your existing consumer information and any new data generated through online sales platforms to adapt and grow in both directions.

Start by analyzing your existing information and processes and how they can be used to enhance your business. You may be surprised to find you are already collecting much of what you need.

Next, explore the best way to extract more useful insights from that data. For example, use information on buying habits to improve customer experience, develop future promotions, or design new products and services. Combining customer data with information gained through supply chain management, marketing and other business operations can be used to find efficiencies and grow your business by reaching new customers.

There are powerful data collection and analysis tools available that will enable you to do these things, and once you understand what information you already have on hand – and what you want to gather – you can assess which of these tools will help you reach your goals.

Improve your business processes

Ineffective operations can derail your ability to pivot and adopt to changing purchasing habits.

A process review and improvement exercise can identify inefficiencies, conflicts or gaps, while also finding ways to fix those issues by streamlining operations. Map out your current processes and analyse them to identify shortcomings. You can apply that information to redesign how your business operates.

Optimize your supply chain

The pandemic reinforced the importance of agility, end-to-end visibility and collaboration across the supply chain and how businesses must leverage this to anticipate and respond to unexpected changes.

Now is the time to update or replace your supply chain management processes and system if it can’t accommodate current customer needs and growing demands. Start an end-to-end analysis by identifying internal processes that are creating strain in your supply chain management system.

For example, if your processes are still largely manual and paper-based, you might be able to take advantage of newer digital systems that can automate or eliminate certain tasks. Many supply chain administration functions can be digitized, automated and moved online to increase speed, stability and security. Streamline tasks you may do through separate channels now, such as ordering, shipment tracking, customs, payment and more, to make your supply chain management more agile, efficient, cost-effective and responsive to changing demand patterns.  Additional factors to consider when transforming your supply chain management system include supplier issues, adapting internal supply management and leveraging technology.

Build an agile team

Leveraging new technologies and other innovations can help you pivot and adapt your business to achieve new growth, but only if you and your team are prepared to use them.  A high-performing management team and adaptable workforce will help you implement these transformations and lead new growth efforts.

Consider the strengths of your current team and assess where you may have gaps – such as if there are new skillsets you need – and factor these into any future hiring plans. Review and revise the training or upskilling available to your workforce. There are a number of provincial and federal incentives and grants available for efforts to train, up-skill or re-train your employees.

Another consideration is to assess where your employees are located, and where you may need to add or move resources to respond to new customer demands. You may also be able to take advantage of flexible and remote working arrangements.  However, there are tax implications to consider when having remote staff in other provinces or countries. You would need to consider payroll tax obligations in the other provinces or countries for the employees themselves and income tax implications for your business as the employees could create a taxable presence for your business in another jurisdiction.  This could mean additional filing obligations but may be worth it if enables your business to make strategic talent acquisitions.

Effective change management communication—including why and how employees are affected and avenues to share concerns—is essential to ensure that all team members have an active role in your growth strategy.  

Review your sales and marketing

Don’t overlook your sales and marketing functions as you remake and upgrade other aspects of your business.  Your growth strategy might include reaching customers via new sales channels, in new regions or introducing new product and service lines, but you must get the word out and be prepared to close those sales to successfully adapt to changing customer demands.

Marketing technology, like a customer relationship management system and digital platforms, like social media, can be used to access new markets and target new customers at a relatively affordable cost. These tools can help you engage and communicate with your customer base through multiple channels. They can also help you track and eventually anticipate your customers’ needs.

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Have questions? Let us help.

Successfully adapting to rapid changes in customer behaviour is a complex undertaking that requires working with knowledgeable, future-focused advisors. We understand how these issues can affect your business and will work with you to find the best way forward. Whether you’re considering growing your business through e-commerce, data analytics, process improvement, supply chain optimization, sales and marketing or human capital management, our advisors are in your corner.

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The information contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute as advice or opinions to be relied upon in relation to any particular circumstance. For more information about this topic, please contact your Grant Thornton advisor. If you do not have an advisor, please contact us. We are happy to help.