Lockdown Business Behaviour

New Royal Mail research gives a fascinating insight into how British companies have changed their business models to meet the rapidly changing behaviour of consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 7 in 10 (71%) British firms claim to have changed their business model in response to the coronavirus crisis. The urgent need to adapt has been fairly consistent across companies of all sizes and across all industries.

Of those who have made changes to their business model, over half believe these will be for the long term. A quarter anticipate some of them will be permanent.

The most common changes that business leaders anticipate will be kept on permanently include selling more products or services online (41% of those who have introduced this measure), new online customer service options (39%) and additional delivery services (31%).

Delivering A New Future

Companies have found novel new ways to ensure that customers are able to access their products, while still abiding by social distancing rules. 7% of British businesses have introduced a new delivery option for their products, with large organisations making this change most frequently (11%). 5% of businesses have launched a takeaway or click and collect service.  

When looking at the retail sector specifically, one in five retail businesses have introduced a delivery option for their products. In the hospitality and leisure sector, 16% of organisations have launched a takeaway and/or click and collect service.

Some more anecdotal examples of how companies have added services to their existing portfolio include: online training courses, a postable course detailing pottery techniques from a ceramics business, and increasing the minimum length of stay at hotels.

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The Most Common Changes British Businesses Have Made In Response To Covid-19*

  1. Revisited marketing strategy (20%)
  2. Stopped offering some products and services completely (16%)
  3. Switched resources from some products and services into others (15%)
  4. Introduced more online customer service options (e.g. online chat) (13%)
  5. Moved to selling more products or services online (12%)
  6. Introduced a delivery option (7%)
  7. Recruited more employees to meet increased demand (6%)
  8. Introduced a takeaway or click & collect service (5%)
  9. Moved to a solely online business (4%)
  10. Introduced more returns options (e.g. extending returns period) (4%)

*Please note: this does not include introducing remote working or social distancing measures, of which 54% and 45% of firms have done, respectively.

Some other interesting facts from the study include:

  • More than one in ten firms have expanded their online customer services options, such as introducing online chat (13%). Indeed, almost one in five (18%) large organisations have made this change since the Coronavirus outbreak. Education (27%), real estate (20%) and finance (19%) firms are most likely to have introduced these.
  • More than one in five (23%) retail businesses have chosen to sell more products or services online since the start of the pandemic.
  • Nearly one in ten retail businesses (8%) has moved to trade solely online.
  • Owners of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are most likely to continue selling more products online, either on a long term or permanent basis (46 and 41% of those who have made this change, respectively).
  • More than half (52%) of British businesses that have implemented home working in response to Covid-19 believe that it has been more productive for their organisation than they expected, and over half intend to practise it more in future, compared to before the pandemic.
  • Business leaders in London (77%), the North East (76%) and the West Midlands (74%) are most likely to make changes to their operations in response to lockdown measures.
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Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer, Royal Mail commented: “Organisations of all sizes have faced unprecedented challenges this year, and have had to demonstrate real ingenuity, resourcefulness and mettle to make it through. It is truly inspiring to see how British businesses have risen to the not insignificant challenges they have faced, and have adapted to rapidly changing customer needs. We have continued to keep the UK connected throughout the pandemic, and we are proud to have been able to help keep the wheels of ecommerce turning by delivering to consumers across the UK on our customers’ behalf.”

Neil McLauchlan, Director, Shipping & Logistics, eBay commented: “Since lockdown and with the high street closed, more and more buyers have turned to online for their essential items and now their everyday needs.  In response to these new buyers, and as a result of their physical shops either closing or receiving less footfall, businesses have pivoted and/or accelerated their plans to online as a way of generating sales. At its peak in June, eBay saw an increase in 335% new business joining the platform, compared to 2019.”

The YouGov poll of over 2,000 senior business decision makers takes an extensive look at how the nation’s companies have adapted to the immense challenges posed to them since the Coronavirus outbreak.


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