The biggest danger to your business is wasted breath on man-bats, not COVID-19

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Helen Parker - The Wholesale ForumsHelen Parker of The Wholesale Forums takes a objective look at how we’ve been using the Internet during the pandemic and what this means for you business strategy moving forward. Read on to discover how you get from man-bats and sex to a realistic view of your business in a time of uncertainty:

Opinions sell papers, debate drives Twitter’s revenue, keyboard criticism without solutions keeps the time honoured machine of advertising revenues flowing to those corporations ready to take advantage. In the 1830s newspapers were VERY BORING, they printed entire political speeches and the equivalent of the shipping forecast amongst other things, and then a man called Benjamin Sun came along with the crazy idea to sell his paper at a loss, and sell advertising instead. How did they attract readers? Tim Wu, best-selling author of “The Attention Merchants” describes

“They commissioned a famous scientist who had the world’s largest telescope to exclusively reveal what he’d found with his discoveries, and he wrote a six part series about the Moon and what he’d found there which, surprising to our ears, they had giant lakes, huge trees, and the great revelation, these man-bats that flew around and had promiscuous sex.”

And click-bait was born. There are very few people who can honestly say they have not suddenly found themselves spending time down a rabbit hole, chasing information at the cost of their own real life. This has got worse in the pandemic with Ofcom reporting users spend an average of 4 hours and 2 mins online. Before we write this off as teenagers streaming, over-54s had an increase of 24% and 36% more time was spent on social media and 26% on news features with important clusters of attention around conspiracy theories (most obviously 5G and the QAnon related fear and de-stabilising rhetoric).

So, why does that matter to us in business, especially in terms of ecommerce? What is the actual harm?

A great deal. Obviously there is a cost in time for attention and focus whilst you or your staff are down the rabbit hole. But, more importantly is how it is influencing your ability to make decisions – it is harder at the moment for business owners/management to discern useful information for them, and stay at the level where they can see what the landscape might look like, rather than be lost in the trees. Uncertain news that has debate value will spin revenue, so is headlined and promoted higher on all algorithms, and whilst we’re all lost shouting at our screens, the un-sexy information gets lost – for example, surprisingly little noise was made this week about the King’s College study that found that from COVID-19 infected people who showed “potent” antibodies, only 17% retained this level over 3 months later. The implications of this (also replicated in China) for this both for health AND for business are immense and should be informing every single company in ecommerce.

At The Wholesale Forums we see our role for our 233,000+ community to help them make their businesses more successful, we moderate and help people connect, but also listen to the challenges companies are having and help them navigate the ecommerce landscape. With that in mind from our analysis, community and expert media partners, what are the themes of what retailers should be considering right now:-

  • Every business needs a strategy
  • There is often an idea that concrete strategies are reserved for boardrooms and huge operations. But, there is no question that the World Economy has shrunk in 2020, this means the likelihood of a more competitive business environment – whatever size a business it is unlikely to succeed on luck alone! Especially in the goods market – looking ahead to the possibilities of what may happen in 2020 is important, there is unlikely to be a vaccine, and it would seem there is unlikely to be a troupe of naturally immune people, or a herd immunity. It is up to you to decide what that means for your business, but I think it’s safe to say there is no returning to the old world, and there is a strong possibility of outbreaks, lockdowns and resurgence of logistical issues such as Amazon Quantity Limits. All these things need to be considered and flexible strategies planned for.

  • You may be isolated but you are in a network
  • You can do everything you want to do to prepare your own metaphorical “house” for all stormy circumstances, but without considering all the companies who make it work (and also who your competitors are), you are leaving your windows open. Whether we like it or not we are more tied into a global economy that ever before and there is a high level of risk and uncertainty. As always, our advice at TWF would be to diversify into multiple options for suppliers and routes to market – if you have one supplier in China, and are only using Amazon to sell your goods in Germany, it wouldn’t be stretch to say you are a brave soul with a massive amount of faith in the stability (economically and mentally!) of some of the world’s leaders, governments and systems without even talking about normal business risks.

  • Beware the false promise of certainty
  • Finally – ignore anyone who tells you what to do, what to buy, or even worse tries to charge you to tell you how to succeed. There is no circumstance in which this certainty is not bullsh*t, but in a climate where people are scared and feel their back is against the wall, there is a craving for the safety or certainty, and unscrupulous people are preying on this – we delete scores of posts and reject many applications from scammers trying to offer their unsubstantiated services/goods as a promise of success. DO NOT EAT THE APPLE. Use trusted sources of information that you have always had – Tamebay had a great article earlier this week about “Post pandemic ecommerce changes, challenges and opportunities” – you can tell it was great because it had facts, an expert voice and told you to be prepared for change rather than offering an answer.

One Response

  1. What on Earth does any of this have to do with anything, and why am I wasting my time typing this reply? If you want to waste time on the internet that’s your prerogative.

    However I’ll not waste this opportunity to enquire when we might get some more insightful details about how eBay’s managed payments will work – such as international fees. Any news on this?



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