Let’s be honest, the past few months have been tough. Around a quarter of the UK workforce (9.2 million workers) has been furloughed, the Bank of England is predicting the worst recession in 300 years, and many industries have suffered heavy losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But despite all the doom and gloom, for those able to limit contact and minimise consumer risk, business has been quietly booming.
We’ve only got to look at our own actions to know that lockdown has drastically changed consumer behaviour, with many of us prioritising the comfort and safety of our own homes above all else. As a result there’s been a surge in demand for online goods and services, creating opportunities for some businesses and highlighting critical weaknesses for others.
Society has never been quite so dependent on the digital world, and the businesses well-positioned to meet consumer demand via digital channels are thriving.
Translating the customer experience to digital is a business imperative
According to the UK's communications regulator, Ofcom, Brits spent an average of four hours and two minutes online each day during the height of lockdown, up from three hours and 29 minutes in September 2019, and three hours and 11 minutes in 2018. The online share of retail spending jumped from 19% in 2019 to 33% in May 2020. This was the highest jump ever recorded, with many experts suggesting the transition to digital services has been accelerated by up to five years as a result of the pandemic.
A recent survey by BT Skills for Tomorrow and Small Business Britain found that unsurprisingly more businesses are moving their services online: 42% have moved online due to the pandemic, and 39% now view digital skills and tools as a key focus area for their business.
Regardless of what happens next, consumer expectations and behaviours have permanently shifted, and it will be nigh on impossible to put the genie of a greatly improved online experience back in the bottle. Small businesses now have no choice but to invest in digital skills and expertise if they are to survive.
Before too long scalable digital business models will start to replace product focused operations and become the norm. This will create a real opportunity for the small businesses that are agile enough to accelerate digital adoption, and quickly pivot to offer digital products and services.
Redesigning customer journeys, developing digital functionalities and hiring the right talent to help businesses deliver on their post-COVID strategy isn’t going to be cheap or easy. However, it’s an investment that will give small businesses competitive advantage in the short-term, and future-proof them in the long-term.
Why working with a specialist recruiter pays dividends
It goes without saying that in order for a small business to fast-track its digital capabilities, it will need to quickly find highly trained staff who can hit the ground running. But where to begin? Depending on the nature of the business, a software developer, SEO specialist or cybersecurity expert may be required. Or perhaps a data analyst, artificial intelligence engineer or UX designer.
A specialist recruiter can help businesses identify their digital capability gaps and growth opportunities. They’ll be able to help find the right candidates by plugging into their networks that many generalist recruiters simply don’t have. More often than not, specialist recruiters will have access to candidates who are looking to move, but also those who might be a good match for the role but aren’t actively looking.
Digital is one of the fastest growing sectors contributing £149 billion to the UK economy in 2018, accounting for 7.7% of it. There was a 150% increase in demand for roles within the digital sector between 2015-2018 and, as a result of the recent shift online, this only looks set to continue.
Despite the unemployment headlines, over the coming months the really good digital candidates will be able to pick and choose where they go, if we get the sort of demand that we expect to see. Having a specialist recruiter with the technical knowledge to adequately vet candidates, and a nuanced understanding of the market, in their corner will only help businesses to attract the right people.
Going down the specialist route can potentially save a business a lot of wasted time, money and energy, allowing them to concentrate on what they do best, running their business. On one hand, hiring in this climate might feel like a risk.
In reality, the bigger risk is getting left behind whilst the rest of the world goes digital.