How to Pivot Your Product to Fight Covid-19

What tweaks could you make to help preserve our public health?
How to Pivot Your Product to Fight Covid-19
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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Co-founder of Techincon and Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft
5 min read
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Never has it been clearer that necessity is the mother of invention. By pivoting your product or service, you can knock the pandemic down a peg while claiming new market share.

Despite the crisis’s economic consequences, June 2020 McKinsey & Co. research suggests that most leaders think it could be a boon to their businesses. More than three-quarters told the research giant the crisis will create “significant” new opportunities for growth. Revealing that blessing in disguise boils down to meeting the market’s changing needs. 

To be clear, pivoting isn’t easy. Many organizations are in the midst of an operational disruption unlike they’ve ever seen before. And with so much else on everyone’s minds — the health and welfare of their families, for one — team members might need a nudge in the right direction.

Related: 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation

What’s the right direction for your pivot? Other entrepreneurs have hit the nail on the head with these three strategies:

1. Repurpose your raw materials

Coronavirus hasn’t been kind to the adult-beverage industry. With bars closed and restaurants operating at 25-to-50 percent of capacity, alcohol brands around the world are hurting.

Instead of wringing its hands, Britain-based BrewDog began selling hand sanitizer instead of craft beer. The company continued to produce alcohol — enabling it to use much of the same infrastructure — while combining it with different inert ingredients and bottling it differently. 

Whatever your product, there’s a way to repackage its core into something useful during this crisis. If you’re a T-shirt shop, could you turn the same fabric into masks? If you’re a healthcare provider, it might be as simple as offering bite-sized mental-health checks via videoconference.

Related: Is Covid-19 a Mental Health Tipping Point?

2. Switch up your software

Hand sanitizer isn’t sold in liquor bottles, but in other cases, the hardware may not need to change. Consider whether a software upgrade could make your product useful in the fight against Covid-19. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to push the update out digitally — no in-person interactions required. 

Take personal-safety devices. POM’s original button-based device needed no more than software tweaks to become the POM Tracer, a Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing device that employees can wear on their wrists or badges. When one Tracer comes within six feet of another device, the Tracers share proximity data and can send alerts to remind the employees to social distance. If one Tracer user later tests positive for the novel virus, the software can send alerts to Tracers that came close to the infected person’s device. 

Contact tracing isn’t the only pandemic-related use case for tech. If you sell project-management software, could it be tweaked to help healthcare professionals manage outbreaks? Maybe you can help with the research side of things. In theory, a DNA testing company like 23andMe could send similar kits to get at-home samples from potentially infected people.

If you’re not sure where to start, identify an impacted audience you’d like to serve. For instance, how might your software help first responders do their jobs faster, better or more safely?

3. Cater to less social consumers

However well you knew your customers, you have to realize their habits have changed. Thanks to social distancing, people are spending more time at home. Could your service better reflect that?

As state after state rolled out lockdowns in March, Uber drivers saw their side hustles dry up. Uber’s team understood that its power lay in its resiliency, which is why the company soon shifted hard into the delivery marketplace.

Rather than carting people from place to place, Uber drivers began acting as couriers. Although UberEats had existed for some time, the service pivoted from delivery of restaurant food to basic items like medicine and toilet paper, helping at-risk customers get the staples they needed.

Related: Uber to Riders and Drivers: Wear a Mask or Lose Access to App

Although the ridesharing company is still losing nine figures per year, delivery now makes up the largest share of its business. Even after the economy stabilizes, Uber isn’t likely to suddenly shut down its largest revenue stream. 

If you’re a restaurant, making your service less social may be as simple as offering takeout instead of dine-in service. For gyms, it might mean providing members with personalized workout videos they can complete from home. Mechanics could conduct oil changes in driveways.

If your company’s business has dried up over these last few, long months, don’t be dismayed. You may be just a few brainstorms away from launching your next innovation — hopefully one designed to get society back on track just a little bit sooner.

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