COVID-19: The Road to Business Recovery

Egypt was on a solid path to economic recovery following the introduction of numerous economic reforms. 2019 saw a GDP increase of 5.6% compared to 5.3% in 2018 and 4.2% in 2017. It was forecasted that 2020 should witness a continuous increase up 6.1%, however, COVID-19 came along with other plans.

Despite this, Egypt is set to record a positive GDP growth of 2%. Economists and company leaders are on the constant lookout for how the economy will rebound from the times we are in. In previous recessions, economists were able to draw out the “recovery curve” be it a V, U, W or L shape yet with this pandemic, it is tough to predict the letter signifying the movement of economic recovery. While some economists are optimistic, others believe that the recovery will be challenging.

Part of the reason of why it is tough to forecast the economic recovery is because it is truly a unique pandemic by all measures. It is unlike anything people has experienced before. In a matter of days, millions of people were forced to instantly change their daily behaviours to rapidly adapt to the “new normal”.  This has completely redefined Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and unlike previous pandemics like the Spanish Flu, information and updates on COVID-19 are spreading faster than before, through new modes and advancements in technology and communication.

These technological advancements have also helped many companies move to a remote working environment. Yet even with all these rapid developments, some companies were not able to cope with the speed and need of change because they had not pivoted or built the required infrastructure to do so. The pandemic has exposed the gaps in businesses’ technological and digital readiness like no other crisis and it will reveal a new world post COVID-19.:

5 key areas brands need to focus on moving forward:

1- Get ready for the fourth industrial revolution:

The World Economic Forum released a report in 2018 named “Readiness for the Future Production Report in 2018.” It discusses and assesses countries’ production and infrastructure to adopt to the 4th industrial revolution. In the report, Egypt was ranked as a “nascent” country with room to improve. With the impact of COVID-19 on major business, this is one of the topics that should come at the forefront of discussions on the decision-making table. The fourth revolution is simply the readiness to adopt to the technological advancements in manufacturing. Examples of these are additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). With some factories forced to shut down, Industry 4.0 would have surely mitigated a lot of pressure on companies supply and value chains due to end-tend digitization and integration. Companies will be able to be more efficient and agile and they will have a closer relationship with their suppliers and customers.


2- Understand your “new” customers:

It has become clear that customer empathy should be at the forefront of any marketing strategy. We need to be empathetic with our customers’ new needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs has helped us understand psychological states and drivers of human motivation for many decades now. With this pandemic, it is time to realize that we need to revisit our understanding of people’s universal needs since for starters, “safety needs” and “physiological needs” have climbed the pyramid. In the marketing world, another needs that has emerged more important than ever is simplicity and convenience when it comes to the path to purchase cycle. COVID-19 has shown us that almost everything is a click away. Consumer behaviour is changing at a super charged pace and data from 3 to even 6 months back is now outdated. Continuing to focus on empathy, understanding and authenticity will go a long way in building a solid connection between your brand and customer.


3- Audit your company’s digital maturity and transformation capabilities:

Many companies have been left exposed during the past few months since their digital and technological infrastructure has not helped them with the tools needed for a remote workplace. Company leaders need to take a step in evaluating their digital maturity to see areas of improvement (if not building from scratch). One way to evaluate this is through Google’s BCG Framework in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group. By answering just a few questions, you are placed in one of four stages; Nascent, Emerging, Connected, Multi-moment. This helps companies better understand their digital maturity and what they need to do in order to move to the more advanced stages.


4- A solid omnichannel approach:

Probably the most talked about change in behaviour in the past few months…online commerce. As mentioned, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will surely change post COVID-19 and the what’s for sure as well is the path to purchase cycle will also go unprecedented change. While physical brick and mortar visits will continue, more and more people will opt to purchase online. Hence, a solid omnichannel approach is important to ensure your product is present where your customers are. Companies need to build the solid ecommerce foundation by flexing the 4ps of marketing into the online retail world to ensure it is not treated as a “luxury” channel as it was treated before.


5- Don’t go dark:

This completely depends on how badly your company has been hit by this pandemic yet the business learnings from previous recessions is clear; brands should not turn their lights off. In 2008, Millward Brown shared evidence that 60% of brands that went dark saw negative impact on key performance metrics. Not only this, on the long run, brands can witness impact on brand health, brand-consumer bond, and a longer recovery period than brands that have stayed “on” at times of recession. While not all companies can invest as they did in the past, they need to adopt innovative strategies to continue being close to their customers by tapping into their first party data to enhancing their experience creatively and effectively. Investing during a pandemic brings long-term advantages. Your consumers will still remember you long after this pandemic is over.

Tarek Jaffar

A communication veteran, Tarek Jaffar has bagged 15 years of experience and currently assumes the post of General Manager for OMD Egypt, part of Omnicom Media Group. His passion for comprehending and implementing solutions to constantly bridge connections between the brand and customer has been his driving force across the past decade +. At OMD Egypt, he leads a team of 60+ professionals that offer a set of diversified services; offline and online media planning and buying, social media, creative, performance marketing, and other specialized services.