The “FUTURE” is here!
For several years we have imagined the future of work and its effect on jobs, technology, banking, and marketing. Today that future has come upon us. Undoubtedly, our expectations from this much-hyped future have been changed that would perhaps be non-linear, disruptive change to our business, as usual, however, the catalyst that has birthed this imperative future is the current COVID 19 Pandemic which will usher in transformations in every facet of our lives. At the moment we are compelled to align to the regulatory social distancing rules as we eagerly look forward to the Post COVID-19 effect on commerce and consumer reactions. The contact-free economy will bring changes to consumer behaviour, buying patterns and social preferences and may completely alter the consumer profile for which our business models and foundation were built. We, therefore, need to develop new strategies to the ever-changing consumer behaviour which must be a cohesive response to these changing trends. We must understand the market forces at work and have a holistic view of the interplay to eventually develop a coherent viewpoint.
The grand marketing notion that Customer is King and at the centre of our business model would remain unchanged, however, the way and manner at which we satisfy and create unique experiences for our customers as they utilise our products will change, largely as a result of post-COVID-19 dramatic changes in consumption pattern , amongst others. We need to leverage the current structural break across socio and economic activities to rethink our business models and innovate from a zero-game industry player to the one that creatively brings in non-consumers. The agenda for this period is surviving the COVID-19 disruption while strategizing to benefit and thrive from the opportunities it will present.
Below are some of the thoughts considered to be important for customer experience improvement post COVID 19 Pandemic
Rethink Supply Chain Model:
The continual rise of E- commerce and automation platforms places a demand to leverage technology for enhanced product availability and consistent delivery timelines.
In the clothing industry for instance, Primark for decades refused to have an online presence despite being a leading retailer. While all other retailers have seen upsurge in their online sales, Primark has recorded ZERO sales all through the lock down period.
Managing Customer Expectations
Some schools of thought believe the global unprecedented relieve and welfare packages could breed a new dimension and tendency for a more entitled and demanding consumer, hence consumer promotion and loyalty programmes need to be structured to attract and retain these customers.
This could be applied to different product offerings within social economic classes. For instance, products initially positioned at the bottom of the pyramid may be repositioning and upscaled to higher social economic classes vice versa.
The addiction to technological devices would be on the rise and how we leverage this trend to constantly maintain the share of mind of our consumers, and what form of media and technology will trigger required purchase behaviour. We need to sustain top of mind awareness by effectively and efficiently using this technology offering to our advantage.
The conscious application of empathy will yield significant social capital for enterprises and it should therefore be amplified across all consumer communication and engagements. For instance, when giving discounts to consumers due to alteration of roles in the value chain, having consumers do more to consume your goods or service e.g. educational services let your discount convey empathy and consideration . This will yield long term rewards including loyalty.
The quest to ensure engaged, satisfied and loyal customers would be a tough task that must be surmounted by all enterprise. It is highly likely that most businesses will be burdened with supply chain disruptions which may create significant out of stock situations leading to frustrated customers. Consequently, companies would need to rethink brand proposition and promise especially where it seeks to run parallel to the contact-free economic paradigm. Brands promoting a culture of fun and entertainment would also need to develop new models to engage their consumers while creating the right brand experience.
Considering the fact that the International Monetary Fund predicts the Nigerian economy to contrast by -3.4%, and the attendant fall in oil prices, consumers will become more discerning as they refine their scale of preference to allocate their limited resources amongst brands that have captured their hearts . Determining the new magic price point for goods and services will be a signal of empathy from brands to consumers ; this will be a key factor in capturing the wallets of consumers as witnessed in the last war of the beers by the local brewers in Nigeria .
The demand for some goods and services will increase leading to a rise in marketing and advertisement that promotes and differentiates them. Some competitive advantages will wane while new ones will be developed, Old patterns will vanish, and new ones will emerge. We must avoid the temptation of doing more and more of the same old things as we strive to maintain our consumer and client base while also developing strategies to engage and increase our client base. Marketing initiatives that encourage cutting costs will not be enough to get patronage or just increasing prices to protect the profits! Things will need to be done differently, new business models must evolve and delivering exceptional customer service to gain and retain consumer loyalty will be key.
In the words of Jerry Gregoire “Customer experience is the next battle ground”.
Victor Gbenga Afolabi is a passionate and visionary leader who has in the last 20 years not only displayed and demonstrated an exceptional knack for turning businesses around but has also sustainably birthed several business ventures with an unbroken chain of top and bottom-line growth across multidisciplinary industries. Victor Gbenga Afolabi is the Chief Executive Officer of Hazon Holdings, a diversified business Holding Company and the founder of Eko Innovation Center, an enterprise development Centre for startup and MSMEs, who deploy technology and innovation in the area of Agriculture, Health Care, Market access, Renewable energy and Fintech.