How Technology Companies Have Reinvented Their Business Models During Pandemic Times | Hacker Noon

June 6th 2020

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@gcuofanoGennaro

Gennaro is the founder of FourWeekMBA, a leading source on business model innovation.

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We can start the process by mapping our business boundaries.

Define the value customers get and your business boundaries

For instance, if you have a barbershop, are people just coming to you to cut their beards?

Not really, many of those people might come to you for several reasons:

  • They want to look good
  • The place is near to their home
  • The environment is good
  • They like to talk to you
  • Based on the reasons above you can develop a whole offering of services and products. For instance, if you’re just cutting hair, why not sell some of the products you select to your customer base?

Understanding the needs of your customers help you structure an offering:

  • Sell-related products
  • Add-on offerings for related services
  • Simple offering with a flat fee
  • Subscription-service kit with curated products

Within and beyond your business boundaries

This also means being able to experiment with:

Let’s see now some case studies and examples from how companies are reinventing or surviving difficult times.

Redefining value: case studies

Google content hub

When you type “COVID” on Google you will find a whole content hub, which gives local news about the virus. Official national news. And also official medical advice on symptoms. Google transformed the whole intent-based search around COVID in a separate platform to help people deal with this crisis.

In some cases, a tweak of an existing product or platform can provide much more value to the existing user base. In the case above, Google has built a temporary platform on top of its search capabilities.

The new Online Host Experience by Airbnb

Airbnb is experimenting with a new form of experience on the platform. By leveraging on its existing base of hosts, the company is inviting existing and new hosts to structure their online, and virtual experiences on the platform.

Uber’s work hub

As highlighted on Uber’s website “Uber Works, connects people to shift work like food production, warehouse, and customer service in Chicago, Dallas, and Miami.

Uber is experimenting with this program to sustain its drivers’ user base.

Beachwear making masks

In some cases, you don’t need to reconvert the whole business model to make it survive in difficult times. All you need is to levarage on the existing capabilities of the business to come up with a product that people need.

That is how many beachwear fashion brands are converting their products into fashionable face masks, which will help the conversion of the business, while incentivizing people to wear masks.

From cars to ventilators

Car companies, from Tesla, to GM and Ford are reconverting part of their facilities to manufacture ventilators.

Car companies or companies, in general, are converting existing facilities to produce something in high demand right now.

From restaurant parking lot to drive-in cinema

What used to be the most valuable area of the business (the eating area) is becoming less so for many restaurant businesses.

Indeed, many restaurants around the world are figuring that their parking lot, indeed, can be used as a new business unit.

And in some cases, restaurants are partnering up with Cinemas to create a new experience, where people can drive in with their cars and watch shows in the parking lot. Here an interesting case study.

From valet service to drive-in click and collect

3D printing COVID equipment

Decentralized manufacturing might become among the most important commercial use cases in an era where travel is restricted. That is why 3D printing companies are pushing to produce equipment needed during these times.

From co-working to virtual co-working

Co-working spaces are among the most hit by this crisis, and it’s hard to understand at this stage how to convert a business heavily invested in real estate to virtual, or semi-virtual.

It’s fundamental to ask “what value can we provide?” and redefine the services they offer.

People, like Seth Godin, are already experimenting with this new format with the launch of the Akimbo Virtual Coworking.

Now a service that might be offered for free, it might be leveraged by co-working companies to redefine their businesses.

Virtual concerts

The Group called Real Estate launched Quarantour, a way for people to experience a sort of virtual music tour from the band on their phones.

From hotel rooms to quarantine rooms

Many Hotels are utilizing their spaces to accomodate people for quarantine. With restrictions in place, and people not ready to travel, hotel businesses are reorganizing their spaces to support the crisis.

Macrotrends

What macrotrends is this scenario pushing forward? For sure, that is accelerating the development of industries that otherwise would have taken still years to develop.

Some of these areas go from e-commerce to blockchain and crypto.

E-commerce and forced digitalization

crypto-friendly platform like Shopify (it facilitates payments via crypto) is seeing a surge in traffic, which is comparable to the Black Friday traffic level.

With a difference, that this level of traffic is now on a daily basis.

Remote working

In a recent blog post Zoom explained the explosion of usage on the platform:
We also feel an immense responsibility. Usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight – far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February. This includes over 90,000 schools across 20 countries that have taken us up on our offer to help children continue their education remotely. To put this growth in context, as of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid. We have been working around the clock to ensure that all of our users – new and old, large and small – can stay in touch and operational.  

While we can expect this phenomenon to normalize, there is no doubt, that remote working will become a key mode of work in the coming years.

Where mostly engineering-driven, digital organizations had already embraced that model, now many companies have been forced to that. And we can expect this trend to continue as it will not be possible for companies to declutter their office spaces in the short term.

From global to local tourism

As travel restrictions might continue in the coming months, usually crowded tourism locations will need to redefine their mission, to add as much value as possible to local communities.

Tourism then can go back to becoming local.

Remixing

In the book, The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly highlighted how among the forces that might shape our future, there is “remixing.” Or how economic growth in the coming years might be driven by taking existing resources to “rearrange them to make them more valuable.”

Therefore, for many businesses out there the answer is already there, it just requires (as we saw above) cretivity and willingness to experiment to make a business viable in this time.

In other cases, the change needs to be radical instead. In those cases, it makes sense to wait and see, and in the meantime trying to get support for your business.

Forced robotics

Where humans can’t be in the loop, robots might become the providers of basic services (in delivery services or assistance in the healthcare industry) even faster then we thought.

Where the political debate moved to make sure people would not remain jobless, it might move toward making sure the economy doesn’t stop, and robotics can be an important solution.

Forced cryptonomics

If central systems will be incapable of tackling systemic issues, decentralized solutions, like cryptocurrencies will grow even quicker. And that might make banks, and central banks less relevant in the future.

Forced blockchain

Where central systems risk collapse during hard times, decentralized systems might prove more robust.

Blockchain commercial applications are also moving faster.

Key takeaways

Trends that required years of consolidation gained traction during uncertain times. With that, the whole market structure changes rapidly, thus calling for a quick assessment of where and how your business sits in the marketplace

Business innovation is not (primarily) a technical problem. It starts instead by redefining value for existing or new customers

In many cases, business model reinvention starts by reorganizing resources around an expanded value offering for the existing customer base

In some circumstances, business innovation is a matter of survival

And for others a matter of opportunity.

Whichever scenario you’re facing, you can evaluate whether it makes sense to wait (look for government support), reorganize, or reinvent!

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