No question the SARS CoV2 pandemic has caused more life and business disruption than any other event in modern history. From every facet of travel and tourism, international supply chain dependent businesses, to local retailers and restaurants, the pandemic has kept consumers at home, shuttered businesses, grounded airlines and closed borders and overloaded digital retailers. Many countries and communities are starting to re-open (some cautiously and some haphazardly) but what is crystal clear is that we aren’t getting “back to before Covid” any time soon.
There have been many articles and posts ad nauseam about the “new normal” and what happens “after Covid” but this isn’t in any way “normal” and there won’t be an “after Covid” for many many months.
So here we are. This is now. It’s not the new now; it is just now. And your business needs to exist and thrive in the now and you can’t wait for what is next.
There is a belief that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic in some way for at least three months. That is potentially a lot of new habits that have been formed and solidified and some of them may impact your brand and business.
According to McKinsey & Co*, consumer sentiment and behavior has shifted globally significantly since the onset of the pandemic: month-on-month decrease in household spending, a general negative intent to spend on luxuries, electronics, and travel (among others) in the near future, continued acceleration of digital channel usage and overall negative feeling about their financial future. Even in relatively opened cities there are customers who are choosing to stay away from restaurants and still practice bulk shopping in order to minimize personal exposure; evidence of new habits.
Cooking at home has become a habit. Consuming online media is a habit. Shopping online is a habit. Trading down on brands and categories is now a habit. Spending less is a habit.
Where does that leave you and your business? Are you “essential” to your customers? Or are you being replaced with cheaper/more convenient/more accessible and safer alternatives? Are you part of their new habit or have you been left behind?
More importantly, do you even know the answers to these questions?
If you’ve been waiting for everything to revert to “normal” for your customers or for your business then, just like in Pink Floyd’s “Time”, you will have found that the race started quite some time ago. In fact, the race was never stopped.
Now is the time to be actively listening to your customers, lapsed customers and prospective customers to understand what they are feeling and worrying about. How their lives have changed. What they hope for in the near future. What can help them today.
This listening doesn’t require infrastructure or great expense, nor do you need large scale quantitate surveys to understand your customers’ situations. One-on-one Zoom (or insert your video conference software of choice) calls or small groups of 3-5 customers at a time can help provide invaluable insight into the changing needs and habits and how your brand might (re)gain relevancy and provide new value.
Dust off your customer personas (you do have customer personas, don’t you?) and update them to reflect the now of their lives. Map where the biggest shifts in attitude and behavior have taken place and then think about how you can fill in that blank space.
A global pandemic followed by a global economic recession is certainly not an ideal business climate for anyone (it certainly sucks as an independent consultant!) but, as in all situations, there are opportunities and openings for those who are always ready to think and do differently. This is the time to innovate your product, your distribution, your purpose. But first you have to listen to the now.
Drop me a line if you would like to discuss this in more depth and figure out a plan that works for your business. It starts with listening.
Jerry Blanton is a regular contributor to Next Money. He’s led and managed digital transformation initiatives in a highly regulated industry that span fintech innovation, creation of new mobile applications and the development of digital ‘eco-systems’ of financial tools and products across multiple touchpoints. He was an in-house entrepreneur and founder of a successful in-house “start-up” that pushed the boundaries of innovation in authentication and identity management within the bank. Jerry was most recently the Head of Experience Design and Innovation for all of APAC and EMEA at Citibank in Singapore. Previously he held roles of Director of Global Marketing & Global Branding at Citibank based in New York City. Before Citibank, Jerry held various brand and creative strategy roles at G2 Worldwide, CKS|Partners and McCann Erickson.