Fuel Cycle

Adapting to Business as Usual During & After COVID-19

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The tidal wave that Covid-19 sent spilling across the world has impacted virtually every single one of our lives. Whether you feel a direct financial impact or are observing other businesses as they’re sent reeling into an economic whiplash, it’s not news to anyone that there is intense pressure on organizations to reach their customers in an entirely unfamiliar way. 

It seems that changing, sometimes conflicting information is emerging daily, flooding media streams with striking sound bites and eye-popping statistics that can be difficult to digest, let alone conceptualize. The bottom line of it all is this: an unpredicted shift in consumer behavior is forcing businesses to revise their strategy and virtualize their reach indefinitely, or else they risk becoming a brand of the past.

This piece aims to clarify the changes in consumption behavior observed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, identify the emerging channels and provide recommendations on messaging to reach customers where they are, and offer every company (no matter the vertical) tips on how to survive today and thrive into the future.

Changing Consumption

Immediate customer needs (and thereby purchases) have changed

In a study conducted by Remesh, market research experience professionals (MRX) were asked to gauge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on shopping and participant behavior. Although they admit that it’s difficult to generalize, MRX expect that customers will largely return to the basics, at least in the short term. 

There is a shared belief among market research experience professionals that the pandemic will cause a shift from discretionary spending to essential purchases (such as groceries, health, and hygiene-related products) and that it’s likely for those facing layoffs to be more practical about how they spend their money.

The six thresholds of change

New research from Nielsen predicts that shopper behavior will adjust across six “thresholds” as people react to the advance of Covid-19 in their communities. They were developed in part by observing nations that have already begun minimizing the number of cases or moved to the other side of “the curve,” and part through educated hypothesis.  

These thresholds offer predictive signals of spending trends for health products, pantry items, and emergency supplies as well as changes in consumer motivation (the why behind the purchase).

Graphic showing the six thresholds of change we may experience during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even when things get back to a “new normal,” the Nielsen research postulates that people will remain hypervigilant toward contagious disease, and thus continue to favor virtual marketplaces and keep up demand for hygiene-focused products and services. Tracking and understanding how people are thinking and feeling throughout these thresholds of change will help to adapt future strategies in the “new normal.”

Implications:

Offer a helping and urgent hand. Provide your customers with something essential and let them know you’ve got their back. Customers need brands that can speak to their hearts and provide for their basic needs right now.

If you don’t believe you have something essential to offer, consider how your brand messaging alone can keep your customers close and comforted until they’re ready to start spending on your products and services again. If you’re unsure how to change your brand messaging or what kind of sentiment your customers will relate and respond to, hit up Fuel Cycle. We have the tools, and resources to help develop and pivot your messaging and make educated customer experience marketing decisions with data from the voices you care about the most, your customers.  

Channels and Messaging During Coronavirus

People are consuming more digital media

The outbreak has already led to a drastic increase in digital media consumption since more people are spending a disproportional amount of time at home. Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime will see an increase in usage, time spent, and subscribers. 

Streaming video services can take this opportunity of increased exposure to better understand what their viewers are responding to right now, and how their experiences on their apps change over time. They can take that customer data and use it to curate more relevant content and advertising. Brands looking to collaborate with or advertise on these streaming services would benefit from doing their research on how customers are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, too. An understanding of user sentiment and overall attitude can be the differentiator during these emotionally driven times.

People are spending more in virtual marketplaces during the pandemic

All organizations are being forced to turn to digital in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. 

This includes:

  • Digital Marketing – Businesses are having to reallocate their offline marketing budget to online marketing. They’re tasked to find customers where they are (online and streaming) and positioning their messaging on those platforms in a way that is channel appropriate. 
  • Virtual Marketplaces – Finance, Healthcare, F&B, and CPG are all examples of industries that offer currently essential products and services during Covid-19 but are tasked with translating their normally offline offerings to online space. They must learn what consumers find most important about their offline shopping experiences and either deliver something equivalent or figure out how to improve on those experiences
  • Virtual Events – With all major industry events being postponed or canceled, even the biggest corporate players are learning to reallocate budgets into digital strategies, with some even holding virtual events. Over the next few months, big companies like Google, Facebook, etc. will be hosting virtual events of their popular conferences. Since the concept of going entirely digital is relatively new, there isn’t a lot of existing data to help us understand what consumers want out of virtual experiences.

Our new normal could include more of these spaces. Developing and collecting data on the efficacy of these virtual means of connecting and how these experiences impact key users’ perceptions will be a focal point to businesses looking to tailor their customer’s experience and retain their base.

If companies like these hope to keep participants happy, it will be imperative that they run experience management research to strategize and structure successful virtual events and other services.

Implications:

Here are some of the major advantages of switching to online marketing and digital market research:

  1. Requires no face to face interaction – Companies can conduct market research anywhere anytime. Companies can still get a better understanding of people’s practices/routines without having to be present with them. Fuel Cycle Live offers just that.
  2. Can be done through mobile – Almost everyone owns a mobile phone. And with so much of the world on lock-down, people’s worlds are literally shrinking and activity from mobile devices is surging like never seen before. Screens are people’s main form of contact with the outside world, so they’re spending more time interfacing with their devices. Capturing the qualitative and quantitative data from this emerging life experience will help dictate digital marketing initiatives in the near future.
  3. Simple and convenient but still yields meaningful results – With everything going remote, simplicity and a streamlined digital experience is key. Fuel Cycle offers its customers a combination of solutions and the ability to integrate data from multiple sources, for a full immersion into the experience of their customers, while their customers just have one virtual space to log into and participate from.

Through experience management research, companies can gain a better foothold in the digital scene and better understand what their customers and partners respond to online, so they aren’t wasting their money.

Moving On After COVID-19

Here to stay + how to keep up

In such intense times of widespread crisis, it’s hard to imagine customers not shifting their consumption habits in a more permanent way, which means businesses are going to be tasked with learning new behaviors fast.

Companies can utilize digital qualitative tools and experience marketing tactics to conduct research on new consumer habits being formed and uncover the emotions that lead to those new habits. When brands adjust strategy to meet their customer’s physical and emotional needs, customers are more likely to form the kind of bonds with those brands that lead to lifetime loyalty. 

Some verticals are experiencing a swell in opportunity

In response to the coronavirus situation, there are a few key areas of business that are experiencing an increase in demand and greater job opportunities. Here are those areas outlined by GreenBook’s Executive Editor & Producer, Leonard Murphy.

A representation of some of the industries that are experiencing an increase in demand during COVID-19 including, Robotics, In-home manufacturing, Health + biotech, Sanitation + cleaning, Personal sustainability, Delivery + logistics, Virtual work + productivity, Telecommunications + IT, Talent marketplaces, Data marketplaces, Elder care, and Virtual education

Murphy suggests that developing new relationships with companies in these growing sectors could result in new opportunities for other businesses as well. If there were a time to collaborate on co-branded material (albeit from a safe distance), it’s now.

Implications:

The sooner companies can learn new patterns in customer behavior, the faster they can react and provide new products, services, and experiences that satisfy customer’s evolving needs. Companies slow to react may get left behind in the scramble.

Recommendations to Adapt to COVID-19

This is a catastrophic time in world history, but it doesn’t have to mean catastrophic consequences for your business or your customers. Here’s what you need to do to:

  1. React fast. Now is your opportunity to establish a competitive edge over competitors who are slow to respond. New customer needs are emerging in this crisis – physical, experiential and emotional. The sooner you figure that out and adjust your strategy accordingly, the better.
  2. Reframe every decision to center around your customers. Give them the experience they need and deserve. When customers are only spending on the essentials, they’re going to keep investing in the brands that put them first.
  3. Do your research. Experience management research is the key to your success, helping you understand what your customers are looking for, how to reach them, and what kind of messaging speaks their language. 
  4. Adapt. As news and life appear to change almost daily, so will users’ needs and behavior. Being able to measure, pivot, and adapt to these changing times will help streamline marketing efforts and ultimately decide customer perception of your business.

To learn more about how Fuel Cycle can help you understand your customers’ changing needs and create solutions to meet them, please reach out. The world is a waiting audience, attuned to those who hear what they need and answer back with action.