Kim Brown, Moore Chamber of Commerce
Chamber Spotlight: What is the New Normal?Jun 25, 2020
Maintaining a positive voice, engaging consumers with relevant content, and keeping your customers informed of how your business is adapting to the current situation are the most important things businesses can do to preserve and grow their customer base.
Focus on your brand – your values, mission, and purpose – and the things your business has to offer to consumers right now. Consumers 65+ will likely be more cautious than other younger demographics, so your business may need to adapt to serve your customer base better. Evaluate whether your target demographic has shifted or if there are particular measures you may need to take to reach specific demographics.
The coronavirus has forced us to utilize digital technology at a higher rate than ever before. Before COVID-19, online grocery sales accounted for 3% of sales, and only 10% of consumers utilized these services. According to Namagoo, online grocery sales were up 162% in March 2020 versus March 2019. Video conferencing as well has surged in popularity as isolated friends and families attempt to stay connected through digital. For example, Zoom usage shot up to 200 million daily meeting participants in March 2020.
What does this mean for brick and mortars? It means your physical foot traffic may come back but not at the rates you’ve been used to. This isn’t surprising, as online sales have seen substantial year-over-year growth, while brick and mortar sales rates haven’t been nearly as high. That said, the coronavirus’s effect may act as a pressure cooker, speeding up consumers’ propensity for online shopping.
• REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING - Employers are seeing remote work as a viable option for much of their staff. In the past, if you joined a video conference, you were thought of as “mailing it in.” Now it’s become an accepted form of participation. Business travel will be reduced with a resulting reduction in travel budgets.
• DIGITAL MIGRATION PICKS UP SPEED - COVID-19 has accelerated the digital change that was already underway. What some organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation. It is highly unlikely companies will try to return to what worked before the pandemic.
• THE DEATH OF THE OPEN OFFICE - Research has shown that people in open offices take nearly two-thirds more sick leave and report greater unhappiness, more stress, and less productivity than those with more privacy. The experience with COVID-19 will make people more aware of the danger of working in shoulder-to-shoulder open offices where it is easy for viruses to spread.
• LASTING IMPACTS ON MANUFACTURING - Moving forward, factories and supply chains will require, and businesses will mandate, much more resilient manufacturing through nearshoring and even onshoring, full automation, and software-based management.
• BRICK AND MORTAR DIVERSIFICATION - COVID-19 isn’t the end of brick-and-mortar stores — they’re vital to our communities and our economy — but the way they operate will change. This crisis will force small businesses that have historically relied on foot traffic as their primary source of income to develop alternative revenue streams so they can weather the next major event.
• LEAN INTO DIGITAL - Brick and mortar retailers will need to lean in heavily on digital to create an omnichannel customer experience. While no one is suggesting keeping your doors closed, you would be wise to invest more into your online presence, ensuring a robust digital experience that easily translates to the physical, in-store sales experience. Perhaps you can experiment with live streaming video platforms to discuss new products, promotions, and deals or provide extra value through educational talks, training, and tips.
• EVOLVE IN STORE - The in-store experience may need to adapt and evolve, as well. Grocery stores could host cooking classes, tasting sessions, or party planning seminars. Hardware stores could host DIY classes and gardening activities. Even restaurants can invite consumers to try new menu items and wine selections during private events, or completely rethink how food is consumed (food trucks, anyone?).
Adapt, and change has always been the nature of business, and the tools for success are within reach. Digital technology has always been an unstoppable locomotive pushing consumer behaviors and preferences into new territories. But this unprecedented time has acted as a nuclear reactor providing a surge of speed that’s moving us forward faster than we expected. But it doesn’t have to throw local businesses off the tracks.
Sources: Little Rock Regional Chamber, BusinessInsider.com, AOE.com