Like many other companies, we have contemplated the launch of our new product in the wake of COVID-19. As a service provider to retailers and brands, we have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of the pandemic on our industry. Our operating environment drastically changed in a matter of weeks as stores closed, sales plummeted, expenditures were cut and conferences cancelled.
However, it is challenging times like these that reveal the true power of purpose — and Optoro’s is the reason I joined the company: to address the enormous problem of returns by making them better for customers, retailers and the environment. The ensuing crisis is undoubtedly impacting all three in new ways, but our purpose remains the same: to help.
Thus, we have made the decision to launch our new product not despite the crisis — but because of it. Helping now matters more than ever. Scrapping prior analyses and plans, I went back to the drawing board to understand how — reassessing the market, identifying new (and acute) pain points, and evaluating if and how our product can alleviate them.
The launch of our new product, Returns Experience, proved to be even more successful than we originally anticipated. Besides getting great traction in the market, several industry thought leaders have noted the relevance of our value proposition to retailer’s current and pressing needs. For example, Maghan McDowell, innovation editor at Vogue Business, wrote the following:
“This is perhaps the most significant in a number of new offerings from tech companies fast-tracking returns-focused solutions in anticipation of a reverse logistics nightmare.” — The Inconvenient Challenge of Online Returns
Throwing months of work out the window was painful but reflecting on this experience made me realize how much I learned and grew through the challenge. While always important, I found the following to be crucial when formulating strategy in a crisis:
- Product Proficiency: A thorough understanding of the product, benefits, value drivers and differentiation — unique challenges call for unique solutions, and having a deep knowledge of the product is imperative to identifying them
- Speed: Ability to quickly assess the market, determine pain points, evaluate product-market fit and pivot the value proposition — while they still remain relevant
- Rigorous hypothesis testing: Garnering feedback and incorporating it into the product, positioning and pitch is especially important in a rapidly changing environment when there’s a lack of reliable data
- Organizational alignment: Working cohesively as a team to formulate a strategy, pivot quickly and support each other as needed (bonus points for doing it all remotely)
- Emotional intelligence: Crises are crises because they affect people, so messaging and marketing has to be done with extra sensitivity and empathy
I’m proud of our team for its agility, energy and collaboration in leading through this crisis by staying true to our purpose while adapting to market needs.
How has COVID-19 impacted your launch?