COMBAT COVID-19: Reimagine

Published: 13 April 2020

REIMAGINE – Definition: To recreate something imaginatively; to form a new conception or recreate.

Most seminars, conferences and panel discussions, over the past decade, have been characterised by one dominating theme: The Digital Era. In an effort to drive it further, it was relabelled as The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and every business started thinking how they will gain or retain future relevance.  With some (to no success) businesses (especially SMEs and SMMEs) have been making attempts at re-inventing and digitising their futures until it recently came riding in on a Covid-19 Trojan horse and within 2 months everyone has gone ‘online’.

“Reimagine a way communities can be rebuilt.” (Candy Chang)

The world is interconnected and therefore the economic effects of global events are no longer isolated to a geographic ground zero. We are no longer separated by space and due to globalisation, less so, in time, creating a continuum of events and suddenly it all becomes relative.

Moving this online and suddenly we find ourselves not only training with people from around the world from the comfort of our own home, but also competing for the same resources, equipment and currency.

How does this affect the small business owner in a tiny corner at the bottom of the African content? In every possible way.  Social distancing has forced consumer behaviour online and digital technology has found new networks to serve them.  This cannonball will hit the personal service industries harder than product or trade sectors and recognising this seismic shift is the first step to reimagining the future world of business.


Digital programs are not a plug-in, it is a complete overhaul.  Automation and deployment of online applications are merely examples of digital initiatives which will streamline and create efficiencies.  It won’t disrupt the business model and is similar to a speedboat trying to change the direction of a freight ship.

With most customers and employees having moved online, now is the opportune time to reimagine a full-scale digital transformation strategy which includes all aspects of operations, customer engagement and organisational structure.


In the digital era, the competitive advantage of every business will lie in diversified distribution channels and a low-cost differentiation strategy.  The current digital environment creates the perfect storm to take a customer centric approach and finding ways to make your product cheaper, faster, better.  Another way is to reimagine the network effect by providing the market with a solution at low to no cost and driving adoption. Once the network is established, it becomes easier to introduce complementary services and products at a price.


For every business, the competitive advantage has moved from products to platforms. Building this platform can be done by either: introducing new technologies; launching familiar technologies in a new way; or creating a network of partnerships where combined platforms can result in exponential wins.

When adopting a digital approach or providing an online experience, the fear of creating channel conflict should never drive the strategy but rather the best product, or customer solution.  Creating clear channel definitions will assist in crafting roles for each respective product and the best way to take it to market.


While content marketing and big impact campaigns have been the strategies of choice over the past few years, industry specialists have identified that the shift in online behaviour has forced businesses to move from storytelling to story-making.  With customers now consciously (or subconsciously) blocking intrusion marketing and ads, it is critical for creative communication around topics customers are passionate about.  In the COVID crisis this hypothesis were proved when most popular business page hashtags involved #supportlocal, #stayhome and #wearmasks.

Messaging has become more powerful in micro-moments (defined as intent-rich moments when behaviours are shaped and preferences formed).  When it is linked to behaviour: delivered timely, in the appropriate context (i.e. a Netflix or Fibre / Internet service provider subscription after the lockdown announcement) you are able to unlock success.

Word to the Wise: before embarking on a process to provide better products or solutions on digital platforms, stop.  Reimagine the new ecosystem: the new problems you are trying to solve in the most innovative way. Don’t attempt to think outside the box.  Remove the box altogether.

Reimagine how your business can add value.  As Einstein once advised, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” and success will surely follow.

Written By Erin Louw, Retail Capital Chief Brand Officer.