Behavior Changes are a Certainty

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, COVID-19 is dramatically changing both consumer and business behaviors over the last two (+) months. Undoubtedly (and perhaps sadly), some of those behavior changes will continue for a long time, possibly even after the defeat of this novel coronavirus. These new behaviors will likely become permanent the longer they are in place. With this pandemic, the primary human emotion at play is fear. The prominence of fear in our society accelerates and embeds the new behaviors we are seeing in people.

Our companies need to think about how the COVID-19 crisis will change our society’s long-term social interactions, industry events, personal relationships, and what products and services will people gravitate towards in the “new” post-COVID-19 world.

“Many people will certainly have higher sensitivity to germs and the risks of spreading infections. This behavior alone will change many industries. Customers and workers will be more skeptical of close contact with others. Consumers travel, dining, entertainment, and product preferences will be different tomorrow,” says Chief Outsiders contributor Kenn Adach.

There will certainly be a very long list of changed behaviors and their impact will be equally long, as COVID-19 runs its course. The amount of changed behavior will depend on the number of people that are directly affected, how severely, and for how long. In my view, many of these “new behaviors” will become normal as they are practiced and repeated over the coming months.

All of the above beg the questions: “How will behaviors shift in your industry?” Customer behavior changes will very likely require you to develop new or modified products and services. “New market leaders will emerge while some past leaders falter. Many companies will struggle post COVID-19,” says Adach.

How can you implement a proactive approach in the Post COVID-19 World?

Knowing your marketplace/customer/consumer needs as well as your competitors is always the best way to meet market demands. Come to acknowledge that what you knew before may not serve you well in an uncertain tomorrow. Agile companies will adopt a proactive approach to understand what changes will occur and be ready to adjust their products, services, and strategies quickly to meet current and future customer needs. This is especially true in the produce industry as consumers make choices. The challenge is to meet the consumers in their new state-of-mind.

Three important steps you can to implement now:

Debrief – gather key members of your team and debrief them on what they have been hearing from customers, vendors, and colleagues. This is something we have been doing here at TMD Creative since the beginning of the pandemic. Having a work session to identify what might be changing and importantly, what you don’t know about the “changes” will set the stage for the next step.

Gather Insight – Develop a plan to “take the temperature” of the marketplace. How can we validate new behaviors we are seeing and hearing, and gather the information we don’t know? Don’t assume anything. Your customers can tell you what they will need, but you must ask them. These are unchartered waters, and in many cases your customers need help in areas they may not have identified yet.

In the current situation our world is in, it’s critical to conduct customer interviews, surveys, market research or get customer feedback by other means. Gather the comments, attitudes, and data, then analyze. It is critical that you be objective. In other words, be open to things you may have never thought would occur, and understand how these new changes can impact your organization!

When interacting with customers during this period, make sure your team is equipped to have open conversations with customers who may be facing dire business circumstances. Asking empathetic questions like; “How can we help you get through this?” not, “Here’s what we’ve got.” In other words, lead with empathy, not competence. Your goal should be to help develop a solution to their crisis, while also letting them know you are there for support.

Re-Plan – [that 2020 planner you have — get rid of it 🙂 ] We all had our 2020 plans, but clearly, COVID-19 requires us to forward think, develop new strategies, and re-planning on many fronts. With all the new insights you’ve gathered from the marketplace, re-plan and prioritize strategies and tactics in all critical areas. This could include Food Safety, Sustainability, Manufacturing/Operations, Production/Harvesting, Sales, Marketing Communications, New Product Development/Innovation, Customer Service, and other areas of your businesses.

“Understanding what your customers will value in the post-COVID-19 business world and acting on it will ensure your survival and success and put you ahead of major competitors. This cannot be over-emphasized. Knowing the customer will sort the post-COVID-19 business winners from losers and also-rans.”, says Adach.

It is important to not forget that your customers buy VALUE, and value comes from meeting their needs, which comes from understanding their needs, in words and actions. Focus on providing value, and revenue and profit will take care of itself.

The question going forward for many of us is, when will customers come back? But even more important and more under your control is, what will you need to deliver differently in terms of product or service, features and benefits?

Business Impacts we might expect Post-COVID-19

Just looking back a few years in history can provide validation that major changes are coming. Just think back to 9/11 or even the financial crisis of 2008. The post 9/11 world brought us permanent changes in the way we travel with tighter airport security, the creation of the TSA and Homeland Security, and increased security at everything from sporting events and concerts to large office buildings in major cities. Behaviors changed, industries were changed and created, as they will again now.

“Many believe that COVID-19 will affect more people and businesses directly and will have a more far-reaching impact on businesses of all types than any crisis in the past half-century,” says Adach.

If we try to look at the bright side of this crisis, it is that change creates opportunity. The business leaders who act now, communicate with customers and take a proactive approach to their changing markets will likely do much better than those who take no decisive actions. Perhaps the most important things we can do is share more and cooperate more with each other.

Stay well, Remain Optimistic,

Nicholas M. Pasculli

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Jennifer Lawson



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