How digital innovation can save your businesses in a recession

Apr 01, 2020|By atomix
Read time: 11 mins

There’s no nice way to say it: 2020 is going to be tough.

An economic downturn is looming, and most businesses will need to make some really tough decisions in order to survive. The good news is that downturns always end. Economics is a cycle, and things will pick up, but we have no certain way of knowing how or when.

The one thing we can control is how we act. And how you act now could be the difference between simply surviving or thriving and emerging stronger than ever before. Let’s not breeze over that point; you will need to act. Things are not business as usual, and sticking with the status quo in ever-changing conditions is a recipe for being left far, far behind.

There may be a number of challenges that you’re facing as a business, with your customers not able to engage with you as they did previously:

  • face-to-face contact is restricted thanks to social distancing measures;

  • in-person meetings, events and conferences aren’t an option;

  • expanding your network becomes difficult with limited travel options;

  • remote working could be a new concept to your staff; and

  • your product or service offering might be reliant on having one-on-one contact with customers.

In the same vein, some key opportunities may arise for you to take advantage of, such as:

  • pay-per-click and other advertising costs may be cheaper and placements more available with your competition pulling budgets back;

  • pay-per-click and other advertising costs may be cheaper and placements more available with your competition pulling budgets back;

  • your customers are more engaged with businesses than ever before, seeking advice and support in their time of need;

  • your customers are more online than ever before, making it easier for you to develop clear, detailed market segments; and

  • digital content is being consumed at a faster rate, meaning the opportunity for creating new content, overhauling existing assets and increasing your organic reach is huge.

No matter your industry, you will need to act; but think first.

“It is best to take your time when making decisions rather than acting on gut feelings. Those quick actions may reduce some of your anxiety in the short-run, but they are likely to create more problems than they solve.” – Art Markman, Harvard Business Review,

Hasty decisions aren’t sustainable – and often cause more pain than profit. Cost-cutting is important for everyone, but that’s not all there is to surviving tough times. Take a thoughtful, considered approach towards how you can recreate your customer experience online, sell your products on the web, or provide your services on innovative digital platforms and you’ll not only be developing smart short-term solutions but creating completely new service offerings that may outlast the downturn and transform your business.

There are countless research papers and articles that tell us the same thing: businesses that look for opportunities to diversify and have a long-term vision about their brand and their offering are more successful in the long term – especially through hardship. And the first thing we recommend is to double-down on your digital strategy and look to innovate your business offering and operations.

desk with computer screen

Why focus on digital strategy and innovation?

As long as businesses approach the shift to digital marketing strategically, there’s no reason why it should just serve as an emergency fill-in, but could carry on providing long-term value when the world eventually gets back to normal. – Bernard Marr, Forbes,

Evidence tells us that reducing or halting digital marketing spend during an economic downturn leads to a big, expensive catch-up period when the economy picks up. Evidence also tells us that retaining – or even increasing – marketing spend leads to companies emerging from recession with a stronger market position than their rivals. The key is to carefully consider where to invest this budget, time and energy.

Great digital strategies and business innovation in action

Mobile screenshots of the @southaustralia instagram account

South Australian Tourism Commission

The South Australia Tourism Comission is supporting the tourism and travel industry by publishing engaging content that showcases beautiful scenery and iconic locations within our state, and creating new ways of connecting people with tourism operators. While consumers won’t be able to book a holiday or travel any time soon, the team has created a new Facebook Group See South Australia From Home, which aims to connect consumers with South Australian tourism businesses and their revised offerings. In this group, businesses are sharing heat-at-home meals, recipe ideas, plus home-delivery services for wine, beer and other local products.

The team have also continued publishing their trademark incredible Instagram content – this time, with a mindful twist. Daily moments of calm encourage their audience to escape the stress of the 24-hour news cycle; think rugged seaside cliffs, rich, colourful sunsets and birds-eye views of some seriously stunning locations. Once travel restrictions are lifted, this content will help to drive demand for accommodation, flights, meals and more, encouraging travellers to explore the state and aligning back to their core mission of driving visitation and generating bookings with tourism operators.

Why do we love it?

  • The strategy aligns back to their overall mission and will serve their needs long-term as well as immediately

  • They’re both supporting and engaging their own industry

  • The response was fast and lean

  • The strategy required no education to change their customer’s behaviour

  • They are taking fantastic advantage of their team’s strengths and the resources they have available

Screenshot of a video conference hosted by emotous


As an emotional intelligence training organisation, the team at Emotous has taken the sudden push into remote work and physical distancing completely in their stride. Their company mission is to ‘unlock greatness’ in people and organisations through developing and supporting teams in learning emotional intelligence and leadership skills.

Networking and corporate events have taken somewhat of a backseat as people begin to distance themselves physically from one another. To combat the “social” isolation that a lot of people are feeling, Emotous reached out to their network and began holding Friday evening drinks and networking sessions over Zoom.

To keep their regular workshops and content flowing, they’ve also begun to hold free webinars focused on leading with emotional intelligence and developing resilience during uncertainty – something that no doubt a lot of people are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why do we love it?

  • They have been able to continue their regular workshops and conferences via video conferencing while extending invitations to more of their target audience.

  • They haven’t needed to completely overhaul their strategy, but just adapt the execution in order to provide fantastic value to their audience.

Founder of Prohibition Gin spraying hand sanitizer

Distilleries producing hand sanitiser

Rum and gin distilleries around Australia have seen a downturn in sales due to consumers pulling back on spending – especially with pubs and clubs shut down. However, they’ve identified a unique opportunity to not only promote their brands but give back and contribute to the fight against the spread of COVID-19. To be effective in killing germs, sanitiser needs to contain at least 60% ethanol, and the alcohol industry has the equipment and resources available to make this happen.

From huge brands such as Bundaberg Rum to boutique, local gin producers – including South Australia’s own Prohibition Liquor Co – have all started supplying ethanol for sanitiser, or bottling it themselves. Prohibition has closed its Adelaide CBD tasting room, but online sales are continuing – with a 100ml bottle of hand sanitiser provided with every purchase. Meanwhile, Bundaberg Rum has committed to supplying 100,000 litres of ethanol to the Queensland Government to help produce half a million bottles of sanitiser.

Why do we love it?

  • While some staff may be stood down, these companies have created a new form of work for their staff.

  • These companies are using the resources and equipment already available to them to not only create a new product, but contribute to the bigger picture in reducing the spread of disease.

  • Bundaberg, in particular, is showcasing its local, community-centred values by investing in their team and giving back to the community in which they are based.

Get started on your business innovation and digital strategy

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