Following on from session 3 of our Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 interactive webinar series - The Impact on This Sector - keynote speaker Neil Gibb provided us with this response to the themes being discussed amongst the delegates: 

Thanks to everyone who attended last week’s webinar. The discussions were really lively and a lot of great questions and points were raised.

What is clear and not surprising is the whole industry has been shaken to the core by what has happened. At the same time there are so many stories of how the challenge has forced people and teams to do extraordinary and wonderful things. The empowerment of staff - either by design or just circumstances - has unleashed a grassroots movement of smart, frugal innovation and experimentation. The old cliché really is true – necessity is the mother of invention.

There were so many things we talked about and they are all important – from strengthening digital platforms, to rethinking inventories and the role of the physical store.

The big theme though that permeated everything was people – safety and protection of staff and customers, the development of new skills and capabilities, the role of retailers in communities.

This I think is the biggest and best thing to come out of the lockdown; a remembrance of why we do what we do. It is about people. It is about ‘us’. What is more – as we move further into this emerging new era – the way we think about and relate to people is what is going to differentiate one business from another. We are still in ‘the big build’ phase of digitization, but that era is drawing to an end. Soon all businesses with have access to the same platforms, the same applications, the same technology. Systems, tools and content are going to be easier and easier to make, build and copy.

The businesses that will have the edge – both in terms of customers and employees – will be the ones that really get and care about people. Many organisations still operate like factories – a legacy of the industrial revolution they were born out of. The new organisations are far more fluid and human centric. The skills that will be needed in this new era are for many the hardest of all to develop – which is why it is odd they are often called ‘soft skills’.

My belief is the successful retailers of the future won’t have customers. They will have fans. People who are deeply connected to what the brand is all about. Developing true loyal fans requires a very different mindset and relationship between those who purchase and those who provide.

Here is a link to an article Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine wrote about fans, which I think is worth reading as it flips the thinking from how many customers we can get, to how can we create true fans who work with us.

I build on this idea in my book – showing how the high growth enterprises of this new era build very different relationship with those that buy and use their products and services. What excites me about this new paradigm is it very much about empathy and connection – the deep aspects of our humanity that make us feel most fulfilled.

If you want to find about more about this or the case studies I covered you can get the bookshop paperback here…

Or if you want one of the original limited edition with the Heath Kane cover, there are still a few left here.

And please do get in touch if you have any question or things you'd like to share.


Please use this link to view the recording of the webinar.

Alternatively, you can find out about the remaining sessions in the series here.