It’s been an exceptional year to say the least. Businesses of all kinds, regardless of size and industry, have been united by the difficulties posed by COVID-19. The latest UK GDP figures indicate that growth has slowed to 1.1% with the economy falling by 9.6% year-on-year; economists now fear the economy will shrink further in Q4.
Analysis from our COVID Impact Index shows the pandemic has impacted the majority of businesses across multiple industries and regions with disruption to supply chains, commerce and overall financial health.
The scale of disruption has been unprecedented. Businesses are struggling to survive, let alone flourish. And in the midst of the chaos, there has been a change in tone: a shift away from flat-out competition towards collaboration and mutual success. Underpinning this mentality at Dun & Bradstreet has been our D&B Accelerate partner programme that we launched this year.
While the focus may now be on stabilising and surviving, that doesn’t mean businesses are any less thirsty to succeed. The pandemic may have stifled growth, but it has not quelled businesses’ ambition in the slightest, even if that means joining forces with competitors – coopetition – and growing together. And really, that’s what the Dun & Bradstreet Accelerate partnership programme is all about.
It’s not come at a more important time, either.
We recently downgraded the real GDP growth forecast for 2020 and expect the UK economy to shrink by 10.5% this year, compared with a previous estimate of 9.8%; this has led to a downgrade in the market environment outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘deteriorating’. This compares to a 5.1% shrink in global real GDP growth, with the UK faring considerably worse than the US, Japan, and Europe.
As a result, a renewed emphasis has been put on empathy and expertise. Expertise in guiding businesses to react and adapt quickly during the coronavirus pandemic, and an understanding that these challenges impact all of us, day-to-day.
We launched D&B Accelerate in 2020 as a platform to help organisations compete, grow and thrive by co-innovating with our partners to deliver a broad range of capabilities to help our clients. We’re immensely proud that, through the programme, we’ve been able to help partners accelerate into the future and, crucially, unlock the power of data for our clients through co-innovation.
At the centre of this success is our global team. Thanks to their dedicated, around-the-clock work and expertise, we’ve been able to develop actionable solutions that businesses can use in these challenging times. The impact of COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere fast – despite the UK’s approval of a vaccine, the real challenge lies in distribution and manufacturing. And even when it does fade away, its scars will change how we live and work forever. Throughout 2020, businesses have learned the hard way that there are no quick fixes for challenges posed by the pandemic. But saying that, there’s one thing they can do better to protect themselves both now and in the future: adopt a data-first approach.
A cause for optimism
Why? Simply put, growth can only be achieved when businesses have the agility and flexibility to react to market changes. Right now, that might mean diverting supply chains if a region falls under lockdown or being able to quickly pivot to remote work. But in the near future, it may mean closer monitoring of rapidly evolving market trends and quickly onboarding new technologies, something D&B Accelerate proactively supports.
Take the retail sector as an example. Retailers would be the first to admit that they were caught cold when operations had to become digital immediately during the first national lockdown in March. But cause for optimism returned when the latest retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found that sales increased across October from the previous month.
Dun & Bradstreet’s data revealed that the number of retail business liquidations fell quarter-on-quarter as well as in year-on-year terms. Overall, 253 retail businesses were liquidated in Q2 – the lowest number in a decade – indicating (at least for now) a sector slightly more robust than many had feared. The retail sector must heed lessons from the current economic scenario; prepare for a bigger e-commerce, digital future and implement data-driven practices where possible in 2021 and beyond.
To underline this, sales in the UK eCommerce sector have been upgraded from £73.6bn to £78.9bn due to COVID-19 – with Amazon expected to lead the charge and contribute £2bn in UK sales. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are expected to see similar growth due to their digital offering. Primark on the other hand, a company without a mature digital business, is heading for a 12% shrinkage compared to 2019.
Now more than ever is the time to encourage collaboration through partnerships in order to bolster business growth. The right strategic partnerships can not only help increase revenue in tumultuous times (or otherwise), but keep existing customers engaged and attract new business without making the investment it requires to build new products or services in-house.
Celebrating tech and innovation
In order to be successful next year – not to mention the years that follow – organisations need to first have the right foundations to drive innovation, collaboration and smart, data-driven decisions.
We want to help them build that foundation through our partnership programme. With D&B Accelerate, we’ve already helped mutual clients accelerate growth through our sales and marketing-focused partnerships, we’ve ensured companies can protect themselves when they need it most through our compliance-focused data and technology alliances, and we continue to seek innovative partners to address business challenges in a digitalised and ever-evolving landscape.
Looking ahead, we’re excited to announce the expansion of D&B Accelerate into even more territories, following our initial launch in Canada, USA, UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. India and Taiwan are two regions we’re targeting in H1 2021 as we look to further deepen our relationship across exciting new markets.
Furthermore, we want to celebrate those technology companies that are making a difference. That’s what Dun & Bradstreet Accelerate50 is all about - an awards programme that will recognise the UK’s top 50 fast-growth technology companies. We’re hoping that it’ll set the tone for 2021: a year that is defined by success and growing partnerships.
It’s been a tough year personally and professionally for many people, but the world will start to recover in 2021. And although there are many challenges ahead, we should take comfort in the fact that we need not face them alone.