• Abhinav Singh

How long COVID-19 will impact us?

Updated: May 2

“Change is the only constant in life” - Heraclitus

Covid pandemic has been a disruption in many ways and triggered some long lasting changes in shopping behaviours. People are racing, walking or being shoved towards a more digital world. Creating business strategies to meet the new norms and consumer demands while trying to create a sustainable balance in this post disruption scenario is one of the biggest challenges today.

The famous change curve created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1960 as presented below continues to make sense even today. Cycle time may vary from disruption to disruption but resistance and adaptation are inevitable for sure.

Nobody can predict how long COVID-19 will impact us. What we know for sure is, the longer the impact, the more human behavior and attitudes will shift. Covid pandemic has already celebrated its first anniversary and with that many subtle changes are already settling in. Priorities and demands are changing and with that every individual or business now have to focus on all those changes that will last beyond this pandemic. Critical component for business strategy creation is positioning of target customers on this change curve. After going through denial, frustration, and depression, the next step will be to search for a way to stabilize.

Amongst all generations, the worst hits were Baby Boomers followed by Gen X. On the other hand, Millennials and Gen Z had already been growth drivers for the ecommerce boom. In this trying time, when everybody’s adjusting to new norms, the thriving businesses are those that are combining and delivering the best of both worlds - brick and mortar shopping and online shopping. Understanding the strongest points for each is the key for integrating them.

Strengths for online shopping

Aside from the ability to compare product specifications and browse reviews, online shopping has a number of other advantages:

  • Free shipping - one of the most demanded feature for online shopping

  • Shopping 24/7 - no holidays, no late night closures

  • Saving money - option to compare prices and find the best possible deals, discounts

  • Saving time - takes very less time compared to visiting several stores

  • Convenience - no crowds, no lineups and shopping from home

  • No vehicle or transit needed, no dealing with parking and other issues

  • Availability—hard to find items are much easier to source online

Strengths for Brick-and-Mortar Shopping

Personalized experience and individualistic attention are the key advantages for this type. Some other benefits are:

  • Physically feel any item before buying, particularly with personal items such as clothes, cosmetics, furniture, etc. or with grocery items that need to be checked for quality, freshness and expiry dates.

  • Immediately delivery as compared to waiting till it's shipped and delivered.

  • Customer service - direct access to a sales representative and further information like details about products or services

  • No shipping costs

  • No hassle and complexity of returning unwanted or damaged items

  • Returning a defective or unwanted product in-store is way faster than shipping back to an online retailer

  • The experience - shopping itself becomes a treasured memory when done with spouse, family or friends and conjunction with other activities such as dining, having a specialty coffee, etc.

Though the two segments may seem like exclusive sets, merging or overlapping them isn’t an impossibility. Necessity has led to inventions of quite many hybrid solutions. For instance, a local pharmacy store guy taking an order for a known community member over a call, chatting for a while, filing a prescription over any digital platform like whatsapp, getting paid through net banking and then delivering medicines at the doorstep to ensure no contact safe delivery while nurturing a trusted relationship.

Coronavirus' impact is also redefining new customer experience expectations. Research is telling us customers prefer touchless in-store shopping. This trend is more than likely to be the new norm. Apart from that, basic personal hygiene practices are being emphasised. Cleanliness and safety procedures of the grocery store, the hotel room, and the seat on the airplane are becoming crucial factors influencing consumer spending decisions.

This COVID-19 outbreak has affected our way of consuming, working, communicating and learning. For businesses, it makes the case for the return on investment in overall transformation. Organizations who have not fully adopted digital are now having to race to solutions. At the same time, only digital service providers are now embracing in-store experiences to make this transition smoother and easier.

Now, the questions to ponder on are: As a business, where are you on the change curve? Have you accepted and analysed the new norms? If yes, what are your customers demands? What adaptive strategies are you planning to put in place for making the most of this disruptive wave?

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