At this stage in the game it should be painfully apparent that COVID-19 is not just sowing havoc on on our health, but the health of businesses as well.

Lockdowns have pushed businesses to rethink how they operate and many businesses have sadly had to close as a result of restrictions.

This doesn’t mean that the businesses which have made it thus far are stable and set for life. In fact now more than ever businesses should be looking at how they can continue to operate in the so-called new normal.

This was the topic of conversation during the BCX Xcite 2020 conference keynote presented by futurist and business strategist, Craig Wing.

The crux of the keynote was that businesses should be looking to leverage industry 4.0 right now in order to flourish, but more than that, they should be moving to become more customer centric.

But first, what is industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is underpinned by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing.

Through embracing these new technologies and applying them in a business, Wing argues that businesses can deliver additional value in this new normal.

During his keynote, Wing highlighted several solutions where folks are using technology to their benefit. Beggars in China for example use WeChat Pay to receive donations from citizens, the Roman Catholic Church was debating using video calling solutions for confession and contactless payments for tithes are being used in the Church of England.

These are all very simple solutions but they all put the end user first as in the instances above, without the end user there is no business.

But it goes much further than that.

Wing describes industry 4.0 as the fusion of technology, data and biology with innovate business models and higher order value systems.

“When we hear the definition of the fourth industrial revolution we typically think about what Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum. And he said the fourth industrial revolution, ‘is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’ and that’s what people tend to understand, there is more than that, that’s the what,” explained Wing.

“It’s also innovative new business models. This involves exponential experience and the sharing and circular economy. This is the how but there is a third piece and this is the why,” he adds.

That why is of course the higher order value systems and that involves things like putting the customer first, moving beyond capitalism and the humanness of the business.

Using the example of a coffee bean, Wing showcased how, by looking at how a business can add value, it is able to capitalise on its product more easily.

Margins for farming and distributing coffee beans are low, turn that into something like instant coffee and the margins are higher because a mark-up can be added. Wing says that taking this a step further and offering an experience through something such as a coffee shop, returns can be up to 250 percent higher than if you simply sold your beans.

“If you’re in the business of commodities or goods, think about how you can augment that with a services layer. If you are in the service industry think about how you can move up the value chain even more to get into the experience layer,” says Wing

What businesses must do, says Wing, is find their “magic”. This the thing that puts your business or division above others. In tandem with this you must understand your customer and what their needs are.

Simply put, the customer is the key to success and right now, you should be looking at how you can help customers.

As a bit of an example, compare our experience with Checkers Sixty60 and Takealot during lockdown. One of those firms has clearly put the customer experience first and Checkers will reap the benefits of this.

Sure, it’s a lot of effort, but if you want your business to make it through this turbulent era in humanity’s history, perhaps it’s worth investigating how solutions – emerging or emerged – can help you squeeze new value out of your business.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]