Business

Covid-19: The new normal

How customer sentiment is shifting and what that means for brands
10 minute read
By Yann Gautier

As countries around the world continue to implement coronavirus-related lockdowns and social distancing policies, consumers are very quickly having to adapt to the digital world and a life where they access their favourite brands remotely. It is interesting to note that while end-users and customers have long been prepared for the digital shift, (as we have seen from the ever-increasing shift to digital interactions and purchases), can we say the same of brands and organisations? With Covid-19 making users shift most aspects of their day to day lives online, whether they want it or not, this has resulted in unforeseen circumstances which are forcing companies to make real-time decisions regarding their digital strategy and offering.

Some have decided to hold back on their digital activities hoping for better days (and better performance); others are accelerating their digital investments and embracing every opportunity to disrupt their category, building the foundations to maintain performance now and accelerate their businesses in the future. As a digital company, you already know which path we advise you to take. Here some ideas to help you be ready for the “New normal”.

1. The impact on customers

Support: an increasingly digital customer relationship

We can expect an increase in interactions through digital channels once the pandemic subsides. In banking, for example, the shift towards digital banking will be accelerated due to the social distancing restrictions in place and customers will have adapted to new ways of interacting with their bank.

As an example, In a survey from Ameyo, 57% of customers would rather contact companies via digital media such as email or social media rather than use voice-based customer support. For more complicated interactions, such as payment disputes, 40% of customers prefer talking to a real person over the phone.

Commerce: more and more digital

We are yet to have fully understood the impact of the covid-19 on the economy globally, but what is certain is that both DTC and B2B organisations are struggling to meet the needs of their customers. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and the closure of borders was definitely not an item on any risk manager agenda.

In early March 2020 The Drum reported that, while annual advertising growth rates in China are predicted to fall from 7% growth in 2020 to 3.9%, ecommerce advertising spend is predicted to grow by 17.7% and social media spending to rise by 22.2%. In a research published by Business Insider Intelligence and eMarketer analysts in March 2020, it is suggested that ecommerce is likely to grow as consumers avoid physical stores with 74.6% of respondents willing to avoid shopping malls completely if the outbreak was not contained.

Last, from a study of nearly 16,000 adults in 37 countries, Havas Research shows that 27% of Millennials would be ok if Amazon and Alibaba were the only retailers to survive, which sends a strong message to any retailer currently burying their head in the sand waiting for the storm to pass.

Brand Experience: values first

During the opening stages of the pandemic, the most pressing motivator of client behaviour was fear; and brands should be looking at trust and confidence as a way to re-engage with their audience. In a recent survey from Mintel, 50% of Gen Zs are concerned their lifestyle will change due to COVID-19 compared to 37% of Baby Boomers.

One of the key challenges will be to reconcile people with their consumption choices. Shoppers want to feel good about how and where they spend their money. 55% of consumers will chose to do business with organisations that share their personal values and we predict a rapid increase in marketing activities aimed at reassuring consumers on brand values beyond the price tag, which 45% of consumers said remain more important than their personal convictions

In the US, Walmart recently joined Dick’s Sporting Goods and others in limiting or ending the sale of certain types of firearms and ammunition. Actions of this nature are certain to reap both praise and censure, but trying to stay out of the fray by doing nothing is not an option in today’s divided sociopolitical environment says a recent research led by Havas Groupe.

2. The impact on brands

Be more relevant

More than ever, brands must demonstrate their usefulness, not only for individuals, but for the society as a whole. Tomorrow's consumers will be more thoughtful in their purchases. Brands will therefore have to prove their useful value, before their product value. For example, brands like LVMH have also responded very quickly to the demand of Hand Sanitziers in France and have met the demand in less than 72 hours, turning their production of “lavishly coloured bottles of perfume” to a full production of minimalist plastic bottles of disinfectants. All the press coverage and discussions around the brand prove it. Being useful is a key element for customers in this time.

Time for a new organisation!

Some brands have managed to adopt an agile-like mindset which has enabled them to adapt. As an example, we work very closely with a leading insurance and reinsurance organisation and one of their key objectives is to develop brand awareness both internally and externally. We are supporting them in reviewing their digital roadmap, adapting our combined ways of working and their activities to the recent events in order to minimise disruption to their core business. This is possible because we have adopted an agile approach to delivering digital activities but also because we have access to a large amount of data and are able to shift and prioritise very quickly.

Another example; Space NK is responding to the closure of high street stores with a new online model. The new digital platform, #TogetherAtHome, provides remote masterclasses from industry leaders such as Charlotte Tilbury or Sam Chapman for areas of beauty including wellness and skin care, including one-to-one consultations.

Ensuring the customer journey is coherent

Containment has led to the explosion of teleworking and the use of the Internet. At the same time, it has led to new uses for individuals. More connected, more aware and more informed, consumers have no other choice than digital to get the product they want. Proof of this is that click & collect has seen its users explode. It is therefore even more important to ensure that the customer journey is smooth, consistent and without pain points.

3. How companies can benefit of this disruption

What is becoming clear is that organisations that will succeed are those who are actively monitoring their customers changing behaviour and feedback. There is a large amount of data available, from CRM, Social Listening etc and this is vital in supporting organisations to adapt and review their ongoing strategies. At ekino, we have understood the need to quickly and cost-effectively deliver and are already partnering with leading organisations on activities such as:

  • Performing User and Experience research to help adapt their journeys to their clients new needs
  • Creating quick-prototyping and innovation incubators to develop new strategies and digital projects
  • Provide delivery at scale, spanning UX, Design, Data and Technology to keep businesses moving whilst their competition is sleeping
  • Investigating data,analytics with the use of AI and bespoke algorithms to predict behaviours and tailored communications at scale
  • Providing compliance and security as clients digital systems are tested as never before

Needless to say, the coronavirus crisis will impact all aspects of society. Everyone knows that. What is less obvious is to determine the exact consequences. For companies, it will be a matter of making decisions quickly. But this will not happen without observation, analysis and questioning. The crisis has shaken everything: certainties, strategies and behaviors. It is time for companies to reinvent themselves.

Best-Selling Author Dr. Daniel Crosby once said, "Trouble Is Opportunity".. Digital Transformation and Innovation is no longer a should-have but a must-have and I would strongly advise executives to adapt their strategies and plan for the future today, not tomorrow.

It is vital to highlight that there is a silver lining to this challenging situation, which is that the specialist knowledge, brain power and expertise has never been so accessible. While covid-19 has forced most of us to be confined and distanced, this is a fantastic opportunity to pause, reflect and act. How businesses come out of this event will determine their future standing in the marketplace, now is the time to play to win, rather than playing not to lose.

Get in touch.

Infography-New-Normal

Yann Gautier
Global Client Partner, Ekino London.
Yann joined ekino/Havas in 2018 as Client Partner & Digital Transformation Lead. He comes with 15 years of experience in Technology and Digital having successfully delivered multi-million dollar Transformation Programs for Global organisations such as JLL, Nestlé, Unilever, Samsung, JPMorgan and Worldpay, creating new agile ways of working, through to delivering new platforms, solutions and award-winning digital apps. Yann comes with a proven personal and working international experience having worked across Europe as well as Malaysia, Hong-Kong and South Korea for a few years.