Posted: 08 Jun. 2020 4 min.

Alibaba did it, you can do it

Topic: Consumer

COVID-19 is a golden opportunity to make bold decisions.

Imagine, that the world suddenly got the chance to rethink everything. From the way we live our lives to the way we do business. Imagine, that companies turned their business upside down and found new ways to support clients.

As John Lennon said: ‘It isn’t hard to do’.

In fact, one of the greatest successes in history of trade arose the last time the world faced a crisis like COVID-19. The giant of all giants, Alibaba, launched its online marketplace for consumers, Taobao, during the SARS crisis in 2003 when many Chinese consumers were quarantined at home.

These days, we are in the midst of a similar black swan event that forces many businesses to rethink and transform their business model. Yesterday’s crowded stores and easy access to suppliers suddenly seems like something from ages past.

Consumer products companies woke up to a new normal, almost from one day to the next. The good news is that it comes with great opportunities.

Be bold today and become a market leader tomorrow
One opportunity lies, as mentioned, in e-Commerce. The pandemic is rapidly changing our consumer behaviour. Even segments that did not shop online before the coronavirus, such as the elderly, are now ordering their household supplies on digital devices.

A new Deloitte survey shows, that online demand has increased for multiple categories during the spread of the coronavirus. This includes entertainment and groceries. According to the Danish E-commerce Association (FDIH), 65 percent of Danish companies selling household items, food and beverages have seen 10 percent higher revenues than expected.

People are now more reliant than ever on online services. Last time this happened, it kickstarted Alibaba’s path to becoming a $470 billion e-commerce giant. Like many Danish consumer products companies today, Alibaba was forced to quarantine its entire staff, right in the middle of launching Taobao. Instead of putting the project on hold, they were encouraged to work remotely from home and continue their work.

That decision became pivotal for Alibaba and for China’s economy. Alibaba launched the site in May 2003 as Chinese consumers who were stuck at home turned to the internet to order items.

Bold companies that invest timely in their online channels are likely to emerge as market leaders coming out of COVID-19. Therefore, time is ripe to launching all the ambitious ideas around digital transformation that your company has been considering: a digital market place, a click-and-collect universe or new steps to attract digital talents.

Inspect your supply chain
While you are investigating new ways of doing business, remember to take it all the way. With that, I mean all the way through your supply chain network.

Many consumer products companies are right now seeing the effects of being dependent on foreign suppliers. These dependencies have proved problematic as the tech hub of India, China as an important producer of high value components, and many other crucial countries went into lockdown.

In the future, companies that are agile, robust and well prepared for another black swan event will emerge on top.

Such companies will have multi-sourced key commodities to reduce their reliance on any supplier. They will develop agility within their production and distribution networks to quickly adjust to global demand. And they will invest heavily in supply chain management, which makes them capable of predicting supply chain issues.

Time for take-off
To make sure that your organisation can be one of these companies, why not consider picking up the innovative ideas from your shelves and press the launch button? Just like Alibaba did – and is now doing again.

In February this year, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said the economic effects of COVID-19 presents near-term challenges to Alibaba’s business. “But at the same time, we will see opportunities created by the forces of change,” he added.

For all of us, everything is up in the air these days. And that makes room for bold decisions.

Forfatter spotlight

Thomas Andersen

Thomas Andersen


Thomas Andersen is an Equity Partner at Deloitte, the Salesforce Alliance Leader for Deloitte NSE (North South Europe), and the Nordic Deloitte Digital Leader. With a robust background spanning over two decades in IT management consulting, he has a deep expertise in digital strategy, IT strategy, and the adoption of innovative technologies such as cloud and mobile solutions. Thomas has led numerous transformation programs aimed at enhancing IT operating models, mobile apps, eCommerce, and omni-channel strategies. His leadership role encompasses overseeing the Salesforce practice across North and South Europe and steering digital initiatives as the head of Deloitte Digital in the Nordics, significantly impacting client strategies and industry advancements.

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