Today, the real worth of a business is not money, but customers.
Smart companies will use a recession to outmaneuver their competition, get new customers, gain market share, acquire the best talent, and even buy other companies at steep discounts, so keep an open mind to positive outcomes. Take your business’s distress seriously, but also take time to get out of your head. It is easy to become hyper-focused during a turnaround, causing people to lose sleep, project their own stress onto their staff, lose perspective, and miss new opportunities.
When looking at the dire numbers of today’s economic parameters around the world, the ability to forecast anything is slightj. Consequently, the money values are relatively unclear as well. Customers have changed their behavior to such a profound degree that much of the big data stored about them will need a deep revision, if not a whole new collection of information, interpretation, and identification of actual needs. Regression analytics, which was a reliable predictor of customer behavior at the point of sales in-store or online, for instance, would not be the best way to forecast the success of any business in 2020.
Customers’ habits have changed…and not by choice. The pain points in the customer journey, which have been so expensive and time-consuming for marketing teams to polish over time, will never be the same. The marketing engine has to go back to square one and rethink the new customer journey.
How habits are formed has been intensely studied. It is common knowledge that it takes an average of 66 days for something to become part of a person’s behavioral pattern, but we have been in isolation-mode for more than 90 days already!
On top of the uncertainty surrounding the macro trends, it is exceedingly difficult to predict the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the behavioral patterns of the world population. In Paris, for instance, people are riding bikes as never before. This is an example of a new habit that will inexorably change their attires and timeframes, places they prefer to buy the food to take home to cook, etc. Children might continue to do homeschooling, and so there will be no need to buy uniforms, but they might need glasses to help them deal with more time in front of screens. Makeup firms or preppy clothing brands will see their sales impacted, even after COVID-19, because people working from home have adopted a more natural and relaxed look. And, the list continues.
However, there are elements in the equation that will not change. In order to be profitable, you need to have customers. Before the pandemic, it was relatively easy to work with big data and predict purchase trends. That’s not the case anymore. For example, will the online buying trend continue to grow? Will travel shift to local and more exclusive places? Will people decide to earn less money in exchange of more time with their families? Will online grocery shopping become the preferred option for seniors? The list of questions is never-ending. The data that used to describe customer preference is not useful because the conditions will change again in the new normal.
Again, those companies that realize that the real worth of their business is the value of their customers and the agility of its leadership to adapt swiftly to the changes will outsmart the competition. Marketers on one end and communicators on the other will lead business leaders to identify changes in behaviors, trends, and opportunities available to make the most of a brand and to improve the new customer journey and create a profitable business.
This particular crisis has found people very open and eager to communicate with brands. Finding the right channels to keep the conversation going with customers, will not necessarily create sales. But while we rethink the business model, all transformation efforts will keep us headed toward where the marketing battles are won: in the consumer’s mind.
[Claudia Gioia and Silvina Rodriguez Picaro collaborated on this article.]