How NZ Businesses Pivoted During COVID-19: 4 Key Insights

If there's one thing that stood out among the businesses that survived and thrived during New Zealand's COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, it was the ability to remain flexible and adapt. The market landscape changed dramatically in what felt like a few days from 'the same old', to something entirely foreign with new challenges and limitations. Whether that meant companies suddenly had to embrace the remote working culture or had to change their service offerings entirely, failing to adapt and move quickly inevitably impacted bottom lines.

While some businesses have undeniably had their hands tied (like the tourism sector), there is a silver lining - we've seen some Kiwi businesses rise to the challenge and come up with some innovative solutions.

We're shining a light on some of these amazing Kiwi businesses so you can draw some inspiration from their innovative business acumen.

Here are four ways NZ businesses pivoted during COVID-19:


1. Reducing the friction between the customer and a sale on e-commerce platforms

Throughout the various levels of COVID-19 lockdown and continuing onward as the nation finds a 'new normal', e-commerce has been a beacon of retail light. With the obvious advantage of being entirely contactless in nature and customers being able to order their goods online, moving from a shop-floor focus to an online space is a 'no-brainer' move to some extent.

Of course, e-commerce is nothing new. The real insight we can take from kiwi businesses who pivoted well during COVID-19 levels 4 - 2, is that to succeed in online retail means changing your inventory, and reducing the friction between customer and service. The easier you can make an online transaction for a customer, the more incentive a customer has to make a purchase.

A Kiwi business that did this exceptionally well (and is still learning and adapting) is GrabOne. Here are a few brilliant changes that the GrabOne team made quickly.



  • GrabOne moved from an e-commerce site that offered close contact services like massages and beauty treatments, to an online product store that focused on essential items.
  • Many of these items offered 'free delivery' as a perk of purchase, further removing that friction between a customer and a sale.
  • Contact was made with customers who had purchased deals before the lockdown period stating "At this time, x has not confirmed a re-opening date however an additional x-weeks will be added to the validity period, starting from the date of re-opening". This was a clever move to keep both customers and merchants happy, without breaching any consumer laws.
  • Customers were all offered the ability to 'Grab Now Go Later", meaning the restaurant and cafe industry still received the opportunity to list deals and generate revenues and loyal customers could snatch up a steal and use it at a later date.

What we can learn from GrabOne here is that successfully pivoting in an e-commerce environment means truly putting the customer first, making it as easy as possible to make a sale, and rethinking the limitations you may have had as a company in a pre-COVID environment. We think this is an ideology that can be applied even as we exit our COVID-19 restrictions as a country.

2. If you can, change your product offering and keep things fresh

We've seen that companies who continue to make changes, grow and evolve what they offer in terms of products stay in the limelight of media headlines and as a result, the forefront of their customers' minds.

A Kiwi company that managed to execute this beautifully, was Waikato Brewery Good George. Very early on in the lockdown period the team at Good George move quickly and produced 1,000 litres of hand sanitiser from the very same distillery it used previously to make spirits - a very clever and innovative use of the assets the company already had.


This move generated a lot of attention in the media, with articles popping up in NZ's largest media outlets such as the New Zealand Herald, Stuff and Newshub painting the brewery as Kiwi good Samaritans.

It wasn't just the hand sanitiser move that put Good George in good stead, they also moved to release two brand new flavours right in the middle of lockdown; 'Toasted Marshmallow Stout' and 'Apple Pie & Ice Cream Cider'.

The new flavours kept customers interested in what Good George had to offer and capitalised on the great media coverage the company received over the lockdown period. An undeniable stroke of marketing and strategic timing brilliance, showcasing the importance of keep things fresh and thinking on your feet to stay afloat.

3. Work as a team to understand your client's changing needs

Of course, the new COVID-19 environment also demands a lot of not only B2C customer facing businesses, but also companies that deliver further up the supply chain in a B2B environment. In a similar fashion to how businesses in the retail industry moved quickly, a key strategy for suppliers was to become more understanding towards their client's new needs, and pivoting without question.

Take for example, the dental industry. As dental work is necessarily 'up close and personal', for the most part during alert levels 3 and 4, dentistry businesses were only able to undertake essential work (in other words, emergencies). The change in demand also meant that the dental industry suddenly required PPE (personal protective equipment) to treat patients.

NZ company Aluro Healthcare (a supplier to the dental health industry) quickly realised that in order to survive in the new climate, they needed to listen to the changing requirements of their clients and adapt quickly. The process included getting together a small team to keep the decision making very tight and fast and a marketing team to output communications efficiently. It meant a processes of identifying what products were required, where these specific products were able to be sourced from and trying to get them to the dental care businesses as soon as possible.


The key takeaway from the Aluro Healthcare effort, is the importance of teamwork and a unified approach to understanding and delivering for client needs that were changing every week. The team had specific roles and moving parts which were all equally important, decision making was kept within a very tight-knit group to speed up the process, and all internal and external communication was kept within the marketing team to ensure alignment in messaging.

The result? A successful campaign to deliver PPE effectively to dental surgeries as they needed it.

4. 'Streamlined and online' future for the cafe & restaurant industry

One of the most impacted industries over the past few months was the cafe and restaurant industry, who rely heavily on group gatherings and in-person encounters to generate revenue. Without the ability to seat customers in close proximity during levels 3 & 4, in order to make operating feasible, cafes and restaurants were forced to rethink the way they operate and streamline their services as well as migrate to an online space.

There were a number of businesses that made this change admirably, showcasing not only that it's possible, but possible to be done in an extremely short amount of time. One of these businesses who executed this plan well was the popular "Cafe on Kohi" in Kohimarama, Auckland.

The team here quickly pivoted and adapted their Kohi Beach Grocer website to include online orders for take away coffees, hot foods and bakery treats. Customers were able to enter their pickup time, arrive at the store and have their hot goods ready to go for them. As payment for the goods were made on line, social distancing and contactless transactions were well executed every time and the cafe was able to keep track of contact tracing information seamlessly. This quick change in the way the businesses operated kept them afloat during alert level 3 and onward, and kept their loyal customers happy and coming back.


The cafe also limited their product range and adapted by vacuum packing cafe meals prepped and ready to go, so that customers could enjoy their favourite cafe-made food from the comfort of their own homes. In addition to this, the grocer and cafe also offered:

  • contactless delivery within close proximity of the area
  • consistent and clear communications via. social media that kept their customers connected and in the loop
  • cafe voucher giveaways throughout the lockdown periods (their promotions never stopped!)
  • take away lunches and dinners available through their mobile responsive site

The most important takeaway we can learn from this well executed plan is that after a streamlined and online service this effective, customer expectations have changed for good.

The most important adaption? Contactless payment solutions

One thing that customers from all industries highlighted here have in common, is the expectation of contactless payments. Fortunately, this is an area that we know all about! If you're interested in jumping onboard the contactless payment movement and further delighting your customers post COVID-19, get in touch below.

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