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19th October 2020

Adjusting to the Pandemic Blog

An article by Julia Felton, Principal lecturer, Department of Marketing and Strategy at Cardiff Metropolitan University. 

In June 2020, the Financial Times Weekend published a feature about the top 100 companies that were prosperous during the pandemic. The top 3 were Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. No surprises here you will say, as online shopping and remote home working were the consequence of a changed world in lockdown. Moving down the list, there are other unsurprising online successes like the online advertising company Nvidia and streaming service Netflix ranked by their revenue at places 7 and 12 respectively. Again predictable, as increasingly our entire world moved online and both work and leisure were dominated by screen time. Zoom, a system that some warned was insecure still managed to overcome this difficulty by quickly becoming a household name due to ease of access and free options still enabling an increase in revenue by 169%. So these 2020 examples clearly show that those companies that have been investing in online selling and marketing capability, reaped benefits in the first half of the year. Another example, L’Oreal led on this within cosmetics manufacturing and continue to maintain a significant competitive advantage revealing again that successful business reflects our lifestyle needs now. Other examples are courier services (SF Holding), food supplies like stocking up with pet food (Chewy) or the seeking health advice (Teladoc Health).

If all of these companies’ successes seem obvious then why is it that purchasing online is not always straightforward? In my recent experience, particularly when using small companies online purchasing forms this is far from the case. For inexplicable reasons, I have experienced a repeatedly unaccepted password (despite using forgotten password options/making changes) and boxes that do not accept responses, the need to scroll up and down to seek answers to problems of non-submission and unclear messages that appear in unlikely places ( and this is not just a problem on my phone). Oftentimes, these attempts have resulted in email messages and phone calls – that is, if I can be bothered – otherwise it’s back to Amazon who love them or hate them, deliver. This may be anecdotal but says something about the mix of capability in this sphere and businesses rather than saying to their customers (as I have experienced) we cannot find a problem should be testing and re-testing and asking direct questions to see exactly how their ordering systems function. It seems to ne that there needs to be more effort made on checking on and improving the user experience.

How many of us when being told about technical tools find that people do not cover the basics and make (quite wrongly in my view) a number of assumptions about what is known? Small businesses must harness opportunities for sure and not forget to take seriously their customer’s user experience.

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