Preparing for new consumer truths in the post-COVID-19 world (Part I)
Like all crises, the COVID-19 threat too will eventually dissipate. Things will gradually improve, and life will crawl back to normal.
Imagine it’s December, business has resumed, travel restrictions are lifted, and restaurants are open. Life may seem normal but in reality, the rules of business may change forever. COVID-19 has impacted the community and its effects will be visible in the way customers and businesses interact.
We are already witnessing massive behavior change triggered by uncertainty and accelerated by social media. How will this affect the way we design, build, and run experiences? While it may still be too early to answer to this question, businesses must be prepared to respond to the emerging challenges and opportunities of the post COVID-19 world.
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A sudden change of priorities
For an extended period of time, people will place a priority on personal wellbeing. Initial trends suggest that people are already postponing purchase decisions across sectors due to uncertainty. This shift in consumption patterns is expected to continue and businesses may see a wait-and-watch approach take precedence. Further, with an abundance of speculation about COVID-19 in mass media, a sense of uncertainty may prevail. The focus will shift to the basic human values of trust and collaboration. At an individual level, re-establishing trust will be a gradual process and those wanting to build trust will have to work harder to do so. How businesses can take advantage of this new norm is a subject of debate.
Adopting the ‘virtual’
The enforced shift to virtual—from virtual working to consuming and socializing will trigger a drastic shift to the virtual way of life. Businesses that will invest in virtual and augmented reality will benefit the most. We are already witnessing a trend towards more virtual experiences for both employees and customers. This shift will affect ways of communicating across working, transacting and consuming. For businesses and users yet to adopt digital fully, COVID-19 will act as the catalyst for moving the laggards online. It is therefore, more important than ever to remove the hurdles of going virtual for all sorts of experiences—from banking to online shopping. Businesses that will find creative ways to apply technology via virtual and augmented reality may emerge as winners in the long run.
Staying at home
Self-isolation has emerged as an effective survival strategy. This ‘return to home’ can be seen as the starting point in the reinvention of lifestyles and experience. It is expected that there will be a rise in home spending, which could be seen as an emerging area of business growth. Additionally, consumers may spend more on comfort as well as safety-related products. As more and more people prepare to stay home, connectivity from home will skyrocket as people seek to reach out to friends and loved ones. Phone use will increase and intimate and connected experiences from commercial organizations will be a premium.
The post-COVID-19 world will see the emergence of a new customer reality. As buying behaviors witness a drastic shift, businesses must commit to the continuous process of an experience audit. In addition, businesses must be on the lookout for early signals from customers to understand their needs. An organization’s ability to respond to these signals quickly and appropriately will be business-critical. Most importantly, this behavior change will not be a one-off. New patterns may emerge as the new reality plays out.
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