Right before the pandemic hit, I took over as the CEO for a business that shouldn’t have made it out alive. The company had set expectations too high, spread itself too thin, and lacked direction. Ve was struggling to exist but we decided to roll the dice one last time. Why take that chance? Well, Ve had the vision and the product, but it had just lost its way with poor execution in a crowded market. Getting the execution right is what has kept us alive and got us through our times of crisis.

There’s a parallel I see now as retail brands look to navigate the Covid-19 crisis. The retail sector has been pretty much burnt to the ground, rebirthed and reset in the pandemic. The real threat of course was bubbling away long before the pandemic - the rise of digital commerce. We’ve lost innumerable brands to the crisis. In a competitive market, it’s not a superior product which has saved the retailers still standing, it’s superior execution.

In any dramatic period of change, brands need to get the fundamentals right if they are to survive. Going back to basics is what successfully turned around Ve. And it can help retailers avoid a total sh*t show too.

Connect with customers

In any crisis, customers suffer and churn. The pandemic was no different, with consumers scouting out brands that understood their changing needs. Unfortunately many brands didn’t adapt and paid the price. It was simple really: customers expected the same help and shopping experience online as they were used to in-store. An online store alone wasn’t going to cut it - they wanted to engage as they would with a sales assistant. Brands that didn’t work hard enough lost out to their competitors, or most likely, Amazon. Remember, if customers can buy your product on Amazon, your relationship with the customer is pretty much your only means of differentiation. Speak to your customers every day, listen to them, understand what it is that they need from you to make the online shopping experience a good one.

Choose execution over strategy

When the future of a business is uncertain, you need to take action. But with the stakes high, doubt or fear of taking the wrong action can make progress impossible. Likewise, a reluctance to change left retailers like Topshop stuck in a tough spot. What I’ve learnt along the way is that whatever the action is, whatever your strategy, all that matters is that you make a plan and start executing it, with the flexibility to change it later on. Simply get going. Not every decision will be the right one, but it’s something you’ve got to accept if you want to bounce back. 

Don’t panic

It’s easy to feel as though you need to make heaps of changes, and fast, to survive these choppy waters. If things aren’t looking good 13 months after that first lockdown, you’re probably wondering whether it’s too late to correct your course and if you’re screwed. 

I know I did after the turmoil Ve faced. 

But then we realised something. The speed of adoption is actually slower than you might think. While the term “digital transformation” has been chucked around about as much as “new normal” in the pandemic, that doesn’t mean businesses have by any means completed their transformation journey yet. Underneath the hood, basically every company is built off spreadsheets and processes, and things take time. 

So don’t panic. 

There’s still time to accelerate the speed of digital transformation in your business with the right partner by your side. If you’re looking to get started and need a helping hand, myself and the Ve team would love to help.