The impact on business of the coronavirus won’t be fully understood for some time to come, but experience of past economic crises has shown us that some organisations are able to gain a considerable advantage, and that changes to markets and the way people do business are often permanent.
For example, during the last four major downturns, large companies increased sales and growth by 14%. In China, the rise of Alibaba and other digital giants was attributed to the acceleration of a shift to e-commerce due to the outbreak of SARS in 2003.
Companies therefore that want to emerge from this crisis stronger, need to reassess how they market themselves, incorporating new customer habits that have arisen during this period. It’s thought that new habits form in a maximum of 66 days, we’ve been in lockdown now for considerably more, new habits would have definitely formed!
To emerge from the crisis stronger, it’s important to develop a systematic understanding of changing habits by mapping the potential ramifications of changes to specific products or services. For example, the shift to home working has had a huge impact on various sectors, driving new demand and opportunity.
The first step is to drill down from a big behavioural shift (for example, home working) and identify the specific growth opportunities and those likely to contract (for example, home working will drive growth in home office space, refurbishment, digital connectivity but there will be a decline in office rental).
Following this you need to identify the type and duration of new trends, are they likely to be short or long-term and whether they existed before the pandemic or are because of it. Understanding these trends will help guide the appropriate marketing activity and required budget. Clearly all possibilities can’t be pursued but it’s worth exploring which demand is temporary or permanent.
Many of the immediately observed shifts in response to Covid-19 were driven by fear of infection or compliance with official directives, and therefore were most likely temporary. But others were accompanied by greater convenience or better economics, so they are more likely to stick.
Any analysis of growth opportunities must go well beyond a simple categorization of what you already know. You need to challenge your ideas about what’s happening in your sectors by taking a fresh, careful look at the data. This requires that you actively seek out anomalies and surprises. Look at competitors: Who is doing well? What market segments are your rivals focused on? What products or services are they launching? The same principle can be extended to customers: Which ones are exhibiting new behaviours? Which have stayed loyal? What new crisis-induced needs do customers have, and what are they paying attention to?
Armed with a clearer understanding of where the opportunities lie, you can move ahead and start shaping your marketing strategy as to how best to capture them.