Author: Ljubica Vukčević, Head of Data Analytics & Insights DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions
I love research. I love learning new things, taking the pulse. I love it even more when it happens in a great team. And this time we put together a really good one. A bit of Marija and the account perspective to know what’s important to our clients, a bit of psychology and the HR perspective because Ana always has the best questions, a bit of Mira and the creative to make everything look great, and a bit of corporate communication because — Milica is of the essence.
While reflecting on our perspectives on the post-COVID-19 world and business, we realized that we actually didn’t want to do a study and present its findings, but instead we wanted to develop insights that would start a conversation. Because realistically speaking, none of us know what the post-COVID world will look like. But we did think that taking more perspectives into account would better our chances, right? And we were not alone in thinking that — our fantastic partners agreed with us off the bat: IAA Serbian Chapter, ICT HUB, Digital Serbia Initiative, In Store, Nova Iskra, Serbian Association of Managers, and UEPS. Then we also brought on side 189 respondents from 14 industries at different management levels — from C-suite roles to operational and administrative positions — whose responses helped us set in motion this very interesting exchange of views and perspectives.
What we knew from the start was that we wanted to start a conversation that would be equally important to everyone from big corporations to small start-ups. That is why we grouped everything we were thinking about into three key areas: Economy and Business, Brand, and Technology. And what did we find out?
Liquidity is a major concern in every crisis, and this one is no exception. As many as 35% of the respondents specified liquidity as the main issue, while they see better balancing between assets and liabilities as central to successful performance. What is certainly expected is that this percentage is much higher among higher-up positions (managers and executives) — these are definitely challenges that pertain to them the most. On the other hand, the biggest perceived concern in the upcoming period is the falling away of demand for products and services. It’s no surprise then that most respondents see innovation in products and services as absolutely necessary for good business results in the coming period.
What we certainly noticed were the different levels of optimism when it comes to predictions about things going back to normal. This is not unusual, considering that not all industries felt equal pressure and the final outcome will not be the same for everyone. Culture was identified by 40% of respondents as the industry to be affected the most in this and the coming period. This is most definitely interesting in the context of the changes that took place since the survey and that concern culture. Some expected responses included tourism (78%), the airline industry (65%), and hospitality (46%).
Our DM Talks also saw much talk and debate around the question whether a crisis situation such as this one would motivate us to be better, more responsible, and more empathetic. Will all this affect us permanently or just momentarily. The opinions diverge. But one thing that all respondents agreed on is that the crisis had incited companies to change. Most respondents see redesigned organizational structures, modernization, and new ways of working as the future. Another point of significant difference between management levels is that those in higher positions prioritize job optimization in terms of reducing the number of employees and work redistribution, while middle and lower levels of management mostly expect change in workplace flexibility.
And how much will consumers and users change? As many as 85% of respondents believe that they will not change at all or that the change will last briefly. Perhaps because major shifts in behavior don’t happen easily. Distrust and uncertainty will remain for a long time, but people are social beings, and this is where resilience manifests the most — in wanting to lead a fulfilled life. However, very early adoption of new habits was seen in accepting online channels in all segments of life — communication, shopping, finance, entertainment, and education. It’s no wonder then that the accelerated digitalization in the coming period and the intensive use of technology in business are anticipated by 50% of respondents. More than a third implemented a number of digitalization projects in key business segments, while 45% of them have one or more projects underway. The biggest breakthrough and change are definitely seen in the massive upswing in e-commerce. The survey revealed that e-commerce will be the first project that the Direct PERSPECTIVE survey respondents will invest in, but not the only one. The digital perspective is also steering businesses towards developing digital products and creating better user experiences and CRM.
We started many more topics — who will be consumers’ heroes in the post-COVID age, what media will be trusted, what the future holds for local brands, and many more at https://directperspective.report. I’m looking forward to hearing about your perspective, as well.