The global spread of the Coronavirus took the world by surprise 3 years ago. It is safe to say, no business was prepared for anything like that. The effects of the virus started to be seen locally in each country and then spread like wildfire, interrupting even the most locally grown businesses. Major supply chain interruptions resulted in unprecedented delays in the production and delivery of goods, not to mention the huge and mandatory price changes. Unless you had a business producing or supplying Covid-related products and services (i.e. disinfectants, masks, home delivery services, etc.) it is likely your business, too, suffered greatly.
While government aid in developed countries did provide some support, many businesses didn't make it out of the wildfires alive. Those who did were greeted by a new blow to the global economy when the war in Ukraine started. The world quickly found out the significance of Ukraine's export business and what it would do to their own business, should there be a shortage or a supply problem with any of those items. To add to the pot full of problem, Russia started threatening the world with its gas distribution when most of the Western world ganged up against its actions in Ukraine. And then there are the less obvious but equally important "side effects" of the ongoing war, like immigration issues, the fear of a nuclear attack, and the possibility of a big blackout in Europe, should Russia decide to cut gas supplies completely. And this is all going on while we are all still navigating the aftermath of the pandemic and in some instances still dealing with Covid daily.
Running a business and staying afloat has been much harder than usual in the last 3 years, just to put it mildly. But one thing that continues to offer a lifeline to business owners is to keep a close eye on changing consumer trends and remain flexible enough to adjust your offering accordingly. Agility and flexibility have long been the key success factors of the business world. But it is more important than ever to watch how your clients are consuming and to deliver to their needs.
Extended lockdowns and the fear of infection pushed even the most analog of consumers to opt for online shopping during Covid. Brands were forced to quickly go online and offer a digital sales channel through their website or existing e-commerce platforms. While the lockdown era is over and consumers are eager to go out and shop physically again, online shopping remains strong so brands should keep investing in their online presence.
The same is true for service companies. Several services were digitalized during the pandemic and remain so. Whether you offer classes or training, know-how, or serve clients through any digital media, the standards have now improved and you need to keep up. No one wants to sit through an online class with a poor connection or less-than-perfect video quality. No one wants to waste time talking with your chatbot only to get redirected to the customer hotline in the end. So whatever your offering is, make sure it is accessible online as easily as it would be in person.
Millennials and Gen-Z make up the larger chunk of the consumer body at the moment. And one thing this target group seeks in brands is relevance. Is this brand keeping up with the latest trends? Are they listening to my needs and wishes and delivering accordingly? Are they contemporary enough or have they fallen behind? These are some of the most important things a brand needs to look at if they want to serve this large consumer group.
And if your brand doesn't, the consequence would be facing the wrath of "cancel culture". Brands, brand ambassadors, and social media accounts are all walking targets waiting to be canceled with one wrong move. Whatever your industry, if your brand isn't keeping up with the latest developments in your field, it is likely that you will not only be forgotten quickly but will also be called out publicly for your mistakes. The road to recovery for your brand will be more expensive and take longer than investing in brand relevance in the first place.
Sustainability information is so easily available right now that greenwashing is easier than ever to spot for consumers. Given how educated today's consumer is, they look for brands who put sustainability front and center and easily give up on those who haven't changed their company culture and force brands to be more conscious about their effects on our planet and the people living on it. Corporate responsibility is not considered an added value anymore but it is a key decision factor.
A lot of brands have made an effort to use more sustainable materials in their production. But sustainability goes far beyond that and has to be part of the mindset for every brand. If you are not thinking "How can I reduce my brand's carbon footprint, improve our community and ensure the best working conditions for my employees and supply chain?" with every step you take, you are probably failing at the sustainability front and the consumers will see that.
Wherever your consumer is in the world, they have spent more time in lockdown than they were mentally prepared for. But now they are out again and free, they want to make up for lost time because they all came to one conclusion: Life is too short. So we are all looking for ways to enjoy life, and protect our mental health and overall wellness. The old teachings about working hard so you can enjoy a safe retirement isn't relevant anymore because we're now skeptical of the possibility of "growing old". Nothing is guaranteed so we have no time to lose. This newfound Carpe Diem mentality has created new concepts like "revenge travel" and "revenge shopping", which directly affect how you should be marketing your products or services. Your audience wants to travel now and not later. They want that product today, not next month. This changes everything from customer service response times to production lead times and delivery speed. You now need to consider your customer's changed sense of urgency, revise your supply chain processes and deliver accordingly.
Thanks to the major advancements in digitalization, consumers are now exposed to way more brands than before. They have access to not only the larger, more established brands that they were once devoted to but they have now discovered a world of younger, smaller, and interesting brands in every possible category, waiting to serve to their needs. They are no longer satisfied with going back to their usual brands time after time. Instead, they want to take advantage of this new abundance of options and try different brands. The good news is that this increased competition has forced the larger, stronger players out there to open up to change and update themselves. For anyone operating a younger brand, this decrease in brand loyalty means they have a chance at a relatively more leveled playing field.
While a global pandemic followed by a major war has left the consumers and brand owners weary, we all go up from here. The major increase in the desire for shopping for goods and services will boost economies, generate jobs and make the retail and services scenes only more colorful. The companies who listen to their consumer, understand their wishes and supply accordingly will be sure to grow during this time, both in brand awareness and in turnover. This is a time of opportunity like most post-crisis times our world has faced. Those who can identify the opportunities and form a close relationship with their consumers during this moment will enjoy the fruits of their harvest very fast and for a long time.
Although the war may continue and is likely to take a different turn depending on how world leaders handle it, as of today and under the current circumstances, there are lots of opportunities to be seized and money to be made. So we keep an eye on our consumers, keep up with the times, listen closely and deliver as seamlessly as possible.