“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Lenin
In the US, e-commerce penetration as a percentage of retail sales grew from 5% to 16% in the ten years from 2009 to 2019. And then came coronavirus. In 8 weeks, the 16% rose to 27%. A decade of change repeated in 8 weeks.
We are living through extraordinary times. In India, we have seen four successive shocks in the past two months. First came the pandemic. Then, the lockdown. This led to a complete demand collapse for many industries and businesses. And finally, the government actions (or lack of them) which have compounded the problems.
Now, two months after the lockdown, there is no sign of “flattening the curve” as cases keep rising across many parts of India. Much of economic activity remains shut down even as efforts are finally being made to open up the economy. (For the record, I had written about the urgent need to Unlock India early in April.) Migrants who had come to cities in search of a better life have been making their way back to their villages. Layoffs are now starting to happen. Work from home has become the new normal for many employees. Even as medical challenges overwhelm cities like Mumbai, the full horror of the coming crisis is slowly becoming apparent.
For business leaders, there is no playbook which could have prepared them for these times. The post-Covid future is now revealing itself. Capital is going to be constrained, profits are coming under severe pressure, marketing budgets are being minimised and the customer is going digital in the wake of social distancing norms. A new normal is emerging – one which is here to stay.
For Chief Marketing Officers (and in fact all CxOs), it is time to think of the 5th P of Marketing. To Product, Price, Promotion and Place, they all need to think of Profit. Because without profits, there will be no business. In the post-Covid world, we all must become Chief Profitability Officers.
Tomorrow: Becoming Chief Profitability Officer (Part 2)