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The advent of COVID-19 has turned virtually every business sector upside down, with new digital business ideas pointing the way forward. In the four weeks following July 5th, 2020, for example, footfall in the UK retail sector was down by 39% compared to the previous year. What makes this statistic even more shocking is the fact that it followed the easing of lockdown measures – in particular the re-opening of non-essential shops – on July 4th.
While bricks and mortar outlets have been suffering, the world of ecommerce has been booming. A host of facts and figures underline two things – how massive the shift to shopping online has been and the degree to which the shift looks set to become permanent.
According to a range of recent surveys:
Online shopping for groceries has risen by 400% since March 2020
52% of consumers have no plans to go back to doing their grocery shopping offline
58% of online shoppers intend to do even more of their shopping online – across all sectors – in the next few months
In research carried out across the EU, 60% of shoppers stated an intention to continue with current levels of online shopping even after the pandemic has been brought under control
At the time of writing (August 2020) many consumers in the UK are busy spending on back to school items for their children. Research indicates that 90% of these shoppers will be making those purchases online
This shift in consumer behaviour has led to a massive rise in demand for the established ecommerce giants. In the second quarter of this year, for example, net sales at Amazon were up, year on year, by a massive 40%, with profits doubling from $2.6 billion in the second quarter of 2019 to $5.2 billion in 2020.
Put all of this information together (and these statistics are really only the tip of the iceberg) and you have a situation in which switching a business from ‘real world’ provision to a mainly digital presence, or boosting the existing ecommerce offering of a business, will offer two great advantages. It will help to keep customers safe and healthy, and it will enable the business in question to prosper in the post-COVID economy.
New digital business ideas are going to be greatly sought after, and virtually every sector of life in the UK offers possibilities. The business ideas detailed below are just a few suggestions to kick start the process, providing inspiration and an insight into how technology can help to facilitate massive change.
Virtually every ecommerce business idea relies upon the presence of digital agencies to make it happen. Skills such as web design, online development and digital marketing are absolutely vital if your ecommerce idea is to cut through the digital noise and reach potential customers.
It’s possible to build your own site, but a custom-designed site which works equally well on a range of devices, loads quickly and is simple to navigate is only going to happen if you get the professionals on board. If you have those skills – ranging from graphic design to content production – this is the time to monetise them by working with existing digital agencies or creating your own.
When the schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic it exposed a huge gap in digital provision. Many schools struggled to put together online lesson plans, and to access platforms capable of delivering learning in an accessible, enjoyable, and consistent manner.
Given the learning that was lost, and the possibility of further disruption during spikes in the pandemic, this is the perfect time for anyone who can teach a specific subject to set up their own online learning platform. This is one online business idea which will rely on establishing a reputation as a trusted voice in a particular field, and using the services of a digital design agency to help you amplify that voice and find customers will be vital for this.
It’s a cruel irony of the way in which COVID-19 impacts that the people most likely to have to shield and stay indoors – those with underlying conditions – are the same people with the most urgent need to pay a trip to their pharmacy to pick up medication.
That is why organising and facilitating pharmacy deliveries is one of the great new digital business ideas. Whether you run a pharmacy already and need digital partnership to set up a platform or want to create a multi-feature platform for use by any pharmacy, now is the time to seize the opportunity.
In the same area as pharmacy deliveries is healthcare consultation – utilising online platforms to deliver the healthcare and advice that people need. Innovative online healthcare apps can be designed to offer an appointments service, email or text-based consultations and, ultimately, one to one digital consultation using platforms like Zoom. In this way, healthcare experts could come to the home of those people who are not able to travel to the surgery.
Fitness and Well-being
Prevention is better than cure, of course, and what better way of preventing illness than keeping as fit as possible. A phenomenon like Joe Wicks helped to demonstrate the hunger for digital exercise programmes, particularly in an age when many people might be nervous venturing into a gym. Whether you want to provide hard core physical training, relaxing Pilates or just a gentle daily morning work-out, a well put together digital platform could provide the perfect delivery system.
Food and Drink
When restaurants were forced to close many people opted to replicate the eating out experience in their own homes, and leading eateries were quick to put together a takeaway equivalent of their normal menu. As things begin to re-open the urge for top level eating at home still remains, and an online delivery service will enable people to pick and choose from a range of menus and have the dishes delivered to their door via contactless payments.
Alternatively, you could work with an ecommerce digital agency to put together a selection of raw ingredients and recipes, enabling people to order the ingredients from you and follow your instructions to cook meals at home. By including a video tutorial section, you could even turn yourself into a digital mentor right there in your customer’s kitchen.
Wholesale and Retail
If the sudden crash in footfall which accompanied lockdown was not enough to convince you that the time is right for ecommerce platforms, the fact that consumers seem determined to make the switch permanent will surely do the trick.
You can be certain that your retail or wholesale competitors are working on – or have already set up – their digital online presence. And so, if you want to compete you need to do the same. A well designed and easily managed website will have to be accompanied by social media marketing delivered by experts if you are going to reach directly to the consumers you are looking for.
If you’ve got a great idea for a digital game, then now is the time to turn that idea into a functioning app. The lockdown left people with much more time on their hands and fewer ways of filling that time, and even now we seem to be a long way from mass attendance entertainments such as sport or cinema being able to return fully, so games are ideally placed to fill that vacuum. Do not decide that your idea is too ‘silly’ or lightweight to become a successful game, because once upon a time all that somebody had was a piece of paper with the words ‘angry birds’ written on it.
While the vans pounding our roads and the people working to hand over the goods we order during lockdown have been the public face of delivery services, no online orders would get where they are supposed to be without a robust digital management service underpinning the process. By stepping in to provide the bridge between consumers and businesses – picking up from the business and dropping with the consumer – you could become that digital management service.
All insurance is based upon a degree of uncertainty about the future, and things have rarely seemed quite as uncertain as they are in the age of COVID-19. That is why it’s a fantastic time to step into the market and offer digitally sourced insurance products. Whether they’re insuring their life, property, business or smartphones, people are always grateful to be able to access insurance products which are easy to find and understand and can be purchased without having to leave their home or answer large numbers of intrusive questions. Digital insurance provision can tick all those boxes.
What all these new digital business ideas have in common is that they take existing products or services and deliver them using digital technology which removes or reduces the need for face to face interaction. No matter what kind of sector you work in, delivering in this way is set to be the norm for many years and decades to come.
By embracing that change now and working with the digital experts who speak the language of online provision and social media marketing, you will be able to set yourself up to stride successfully into this brave new future.