Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Reasons to Be Cheerful: James Smith, Kite Factory

As the coronavirus pandemic has quickly become the new normal, NDA wants to celebrate the positives of our current situation.

We spoke to James Smith, UK Managing Director at The Kite Factory to find out what was keeping him smiling.

What, if any, positive long-term impact on the digital industry will coronavirus have?

Coronavirus has been like a reset button for the digital industry and for the business world more generally. I’ve seen how people are more understanding of each other’s wellbeing, more open about their own circumstances and more willing to help and to listen to others. Despite working remotely, the compassion sparked by the pandemic has been palpable and it feels like everyone is coming together for the greater good. Conversations about diversity and inclusion, sustainability and mental health have been accelerated dramatically, and not just in our industry but in society globally and we are seeing progress at a rate never previously possible. I hope everyone holds onto the compassion and resilience they found during this year and takes it back into the office with them. 

What positive impacts on long term consumer behaviour shifts will it have?

The ‘death of the high street’ has been accelerated by Covid and while not necessarily a positive thing, it might have long term positive effects on consumer behaviour as we save energy and resources and cut emissions by shopping online, rather than instore. Retail sales have grown for the past six months, (and 5.6% YoY to 3rd October, ONS), but non-food sales actually declined 12.3% in the same period, so consumers are still spending, but much less than previously on the high street. This means that marketers have a huge opportunity to increase conversion online by efficiently targeting the consumers spending more time at home on digital devices. We must focus on the role of brand building to offer the experience consumers are missing in store and encourage this positive change in consumer spending to stick, long after the pandemic.  

What positive impacts have you seen on how your business operates? 

We’ve seen some great results by being forced into proving a few of the theories we’d never had the confidence to test before such as moving our whole team to work from home. We have encouraged our team to be creative in their thinking and their approach to problem solving throughout this period by urging them to be braver and not simply do something for the sake of it, or because that’s how they have always done it. They have a licence to be themselves, to think bigger and have the freedom to have brave ideas and take brave decisions that result in growth. This mindset shift has had a hugely positive impact on how our business operates.

We’ll continue to adopt remote working as the status quo and encourage our team to continue think & act freely. 

What have you been most heartened about in how your staff, partners, customers or clients have reacted to the new normal? 

I count myself incredibly lucky to be surrounded by amazing people both at work and home who have been empowering in these unusual circumstances.
I am very proud of leading a team of people who adapted immediately to the new ways of working and worked incredibly hard to make our business successful through one of the toughest periods I’ve lived through. What demonstrates this success better than their dedication and loyalty are the 9 individual promotions that were earned during the crisis. Whilst difficult decisions had to be made early on they were met with tremendous understanding & support from the entire Kite Factory team and I’m pleased to say are those furloughed are back working and we’re looking to further bolster the team with a number of open roles.

What technologies have you been most impressed with during this new situation and do you think coronavirus will hasten their uptake or development?

In short, we couldn’t have done it without the teleconferencing services available. Perhaps once perceived as clunky or inconvenient, businesses are now seeing the benefits in this software to enable remote working and the legacy created by the video conferencing services will enable them to generate the funding they need to evolve and become a seamless part of our working day well into the future.  

It’s also been interesting to see how the technology developed during this time has filtered into so many different parts of our lives. From video conferencing and online meetings for work to the technology used for medical innovations such as tracking, screening for infection and contact tracing and even the technology we use to order drinks in a pub.

Yet although technological and digital developments are key to progress, companies must also have agile systems and procedures in place to complement them, and most importantly the amazing people to use them!