Three Points To Help Business Leaders Navigate The New Normal If you were thinking of making changes and introducing radical ideas, this is your window of opportunity. Because everyone, everywhere is open to it.

By Mustafa Koita

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"Hope you've been keeping safe", "evolving situation", "unprecedented times": these are catchphrases that have taken a spotlight in our daily lives. While they seem mundane at this point, the reality is that we are in the midst of a historical time and change in our lives. 11 months into the year, it is hard for any of us to imagine that this is how things would have panned out.

Yet, as human beings we continue to adapt, rebuild, and restart.

There is no arguing that COVID-19 has changed us forever. Rapid changes have come our way- work from home, rigid social distancing rules, and shifting consumer landscapes too. I would argue that the biggest loss to businesses in this time has been the loss of normalcy. This loss has meant that it has become increasingly difficult to anticipate what lies ahead: What approach should business take? What does the current consumer want? And how do we adapt?

I believe that agility and being customer-centric has become more important than ever for businesses to differentiate themselves and stand out, and as the CEO at Koita, I have made this our mantra. So, how do we successfully navigate the new normal? Building on top of my personal learnings and experiences, I propose the three main things that I believe business leaders should consider in a post-COVID-19 world:

1. Listen, listen, listen I cannot stress this enough. Our single biggest advantage as a business has been creating a continuous communication loop with our consumers. This can mean lots of polling and proprietary primary research, but can also mean literally sitting down with ten of your top customers and having an open conversation with them. Make the focus of your research identifying changed behaviors and beliefs, and form an established inflection point in the consumer trends that relate to you. Organize this data well, and soon you can give rise to a new way of thinking for your business and ultimately refine your messaging and product offerings accordingly.

Related: Leading By Letting Go: Building A Successful Business In The New Normal

2. Innovate across your product pipeline This brings me to my second point: product innovation. Our research has indicated the obvious- consumers are now more health conscious than ever. Encourage this shift towards healthy eating in your consumers by deploying innovative new product developments (NPDs) focused on health and wellness. At Koita, we were lucky as we have always anticipated this shift in eating habits and have built product lines that now fit really well with the new needs of consumers post-COVID-19. In particular, this has meant having strong immunity building products that are organic, lactose-free and enriched with a multitude of vitamins. Consumers are also spending more time at home, cooking. This has led to different demands when it comes to how they look at food packaging: our aseptic tetra pak packaging has meant that it is more convenient for consumers to store our products as they are built for shelf stability and are incredibly pantry friendly. It is critical to maintain a deep view of your customer and market segments, and to make sure your product innovations match consumer trends so that you create meaningful products that are built to last.

3. Rethink your distribution channels Here's the thing- e-commerce has gained significant importance as a touchpoint for your consumers since demand across all categories has been rising rapidly. And it may surprise you to know how many businesses still haven't adapted their distribution channels to support this. Our largest shift in distribution has been the migration to e-commerce and I have personally witnessed a 370% increase in e-commerce sales globally across both our direct-to-consumer channels, and through our online retail partners. Take this shift towards e-commerce and use it as an opportunity for your business. Bold leaders that invest ambitiously in e-commerce are likely to accelerate and differentiate as market leaders in the post-COVID-19 world.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought about many changes for businesses around the world and I believe that most of these changes will outlast the virus. That's why it is crucial for any business that wants to succeed to adapt with agility. And if there is one thing I would stress on, it is that I don't consider any of these changes to be "unprecedented". All of the major trends that have come out post-COVID-19 are not actually any new trends- it has just forced us to adapt to already emerging trends but much faster. E-commerce, healthy eating, and virtual business meetings were all trends that existed before COVID-19, but have picked up in pace because of the pandemic. And businesses that were slow to anticipate these trends have suffered. So, my advice is that if you were thinking of making changes and introducing radical ideas, this is your window of opportunity. Because everyone, everywhere is open to it.

Related: Powering Through The New Normal: Four Ways Entrepreneurs Can Boost Their Focus and Well-Being

Mustafa Koita

Founder and CEO, Koita

Mustafa Koita is the founder and CEO of Koita.

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