The words ‘Pandemic’ and ‘COVID’ became new ones in our vocabulary that most of us have never used or thought of. And yet … now a year later after having been clobbered by them … they are front and center for the impact they have had on our lives in so many ways. Perhaps the biggest challenge for all businesses in moving forward is to understand and react to the impact that our new reality is going to have on the customers we want and need.
There have been two potential impacts on organizations. One is a business that has had the good fortune of being one considered to be essential and thus, has been able to thrive during this time. Or there are the businesses that have suffered in ways that have brought great struggles from barely getting by to going out of business. However, regardless of category, ALL businesses in the coming ‘new normal’ are susceptible to ongoing challenge IF they fail to recognize the changes that their customers have undergone. ALL businesses can only count on a rosy future to the extent they understand and anticipate how COVID has impacted and changed the expectations, habits and needs of the very people they count on to do business … the customers.
WHAT ARE THE REALITIES THAT BUSINESSES MUST ACCEPT?
There are several customer realities that will require adaptations in order to attract, retain and satisfy them. The fact is that COVID-19 has had an impact that will last well beyond the distribution of a successful vaccine. It appears that so many have come to realize that the way they lived their lives through 2019 is no longer a requirement to having a happy life. This past year has required changes that many ‘customers’ now say they actually like and appreciate. Here are some thought provoking realities that will need to be seriously considered as businesses of all types as they re-design and prepare for the emerging ‘next normal’.
- Discretionary spending is not likely to go back to what it was
Rather, the uncertainty created this past year forced people to budget to a greater extent. It exposed us first-hand to what the lack of a
contingency plan … the ‘what if’ plan … can create. It is anticipated that when COVID is under control later this year many of customers will not easily forget and vow to never be in this same situation again.
- Loyalty to specific product brands was relaxed out of absolute need
Often we have certain product brands we have liked and to which we have been loyal. Loyal, that is, until our focus on spending created in a large part by the uncertainty surrounding our lives and livelihoods. This, in turn, inspired a flexibility that was simply necessary. Not only did we find ways to save money … we discovered products that we liked costing less that the cost of blind loyalty.
Trips to our favorite stores or malls gave way to on-line shopping
The advisability for social distancing, the fear of transmission of the virus coming at us and wanting to stay safe in general gave a boon to on-line shopping that made it seem like Christmas every month. And now, with having learned that the process of doing so is efficient coupled with the ability to return unwanted items rather easily this is bound to remain a part of the next normal.
- Products and services will need to be altered recognizing the changed customer
Perhaps it means finding less expensive ways to produce the product a
company makes. Perhaps it is creating new products or versions of them that show a recognition of revamped needs or limitations of one’s customers. Only a willingness to do so will increase the likelihood of post-COVID success.
- Customers are more cautious. The organization must respect and lead the path
When the company’s customers emerge into this revamped world, the companies need to aggressively make decisions and changes that will allow them to be of the same mindset and drive as their customers. Perhaps they will no longer need the same amount of space from which to operate. Many have already invested in making it possible for the employees to function very effectively from i.e., homes. As such the efficiencies have already been proven and in many cases the employees have become more productive.
HOW MUST BUSINESSES MOVE FORWARD TO REMAIN VIABLE?
Here is the point. All indications are that we are headed toward a revamped sense of normal. We can wish for ‘yesterday’ to return allowing us to just live as we have been used to living. Yet, it’s quite clear that this will remain a wish never to be realized. Just as COVID-19 pitched the world from all vantage points into uncharted waters, the organizations that approaches them with a true spirit of reinvention is doing what needs to be done if they are to remain viable in the world of our future.
Today, in January of the new year, the pandemic is not finished. In fact, it’s
rearing its’ head to heights beyond what we have experienced last year. Still, the development of a protective treatment in the form of a vaccine represents a light at the end of this lengthy and dark tunnel. Any business plan developed for this year is going to need to be dynamic in nature if it is to have true meaning. It must continue to change as any organization sees and experiences the twists and turns that are bound to continue for much of the year. Companies must outmaneuver uncertainty by course correcting, again and again as circumstances change. This requires them to reassess assumptions, re-evaluate scenarios and strengthen their ability to sense and respond.