To deal with the spread of coronavirus, governments around the world have had to make some dramatic decisions, and perhaps none more so that the introduction of lockdowns.
Can you imagine the response even a couple of months ago if we had been told there was to be a 10pm curfew or that pubs would shut on Sundays? There would have been uproar! Today, we have businesses, shops, pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas, sport and concert venues completely closed, and people only allowed to leave their houses for an hour a day to exercise or buy essentials.
Yet, many are calling for more draconian measures.
What does this tell us? That situations can change the world very quickly, whatever was considered normal before is certainly not normal now and definitely won’t be normal in the future. People adjust to the circumstances they face, and once they get used to them, their perception of normality changes.
Remember what Darwin said…
The same is true in business, and if your business needs to adapt, it needs to do so quickly and effectively.
How will business evolve?
The $64,000 question is, what will the new normal look like when lockdown ends? Will all those people who have got used to working at home return to their offices? Will all the meetings that have been shifted to Zoom and Teams start to be held face to face again? Will people spend hours driving up and down motorways to see each other? After all, for many people, the enforced changes have delivered improved productivity, or certainly an improved work/life balance, even if the quality of life isn’t all they might currently hope for.
And what of consumers? Will they revert to the offline world or will they continue with the convenience of online business? The trend towards online shopping has shown a steady increase for years. Doubtless the supermarket giants, clothing retailers and the all-conquering Amazon will see online growth that will stick once the offline world re-opens for business, but what of everyone else?
Humans are by nature sociable. We like to spend time with each other, to enjoy shared experiences, to collaborate and to look into the whites of each other’s eyes and shake hands on a deal. That’s always going to be the case, and in the ‘long run’ offline business will always have its place, but the most successful businesses will combine an online and offline presence. Effective businesses will deliver the appropriate elements of the customer experience via the most suitable channel.
The great challenge facing businesses at the moment is that nobody knows how long the ‘long run’ is going to be. The perceived wisdom is that there will be some form of lockdown, or series of lockdowns, until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, and that could be anything from 6 to 18 months.
The time to act (differently) is now
Like it or not then, businesses have to be online now, and they need a digital version or a deliverable version of their offering whether they are retailers, restaurants, entertainment providers, trainers and coaches, counsellors, therapists, estate agents, solicitors or accountants… basically everyone!
They need products and solutions that are deliverable either online, via digital download, or can be viewed and understood online and delivered offline. Take trainers and coaches as an example. Rather than presenting from the conference stage, in a classroom or boardroom, they need to be able to work via webinars or video conferencing, or they need to create learning modules that can be completed online or that can be purchased and delivered for completion offline.
To facilitate their communication and delivery, they need a well-designed and constructed website. Ideally this would be integrated with a CRM package for managing all of their contacts and to facilitate segmentation of their audiences and automation of their digital marketing.
The website also needs to be extremely user friendly to accommodate for the changing habits of users in response to the crisis – Almost 50% of consumers don’t plan to return to shops “for some time” or “for a long time”, rising to 60% when it comes to outdoor events (Source: Global Web Index Coronavirus Research April 2020)
You have to lead with brand
Most importantly, they will require a brand vision. Amidst all of the noise, promotion and commotion, they need a brand that resonates with their target market, consistently voiced and displayed and conveying their purpose.
Amongst the vastness of cyberspace, communicating what makes them special, engaging, building relationships and adding value is what will lead to long-term success. This is a time of high emotion, of concern and anxiety. The last thing anyone wants at such a time is to be sold to, but the brands that are there to help, support, educate, collaborate and facilitate will be appreciated and remembered. When normality, whatever that eventually looks like, returns, those brands and their purpose will be remembered, and they will reap the dividends of their approach.
You need an online strategy, which comes with many considerations, including…
- Brand journey
- Sales and marketing process
- Customer journey
- Deliverable collateral (video/webinars/demos etc)
- Firewalls and subscription models
- Online payment processes
- Geographic expansion – online markets can expand geographically rapidly
Your website must…
- Be aesthetic and functional
- Provide meaningful analytics
- Interface or integrate with your business systems
- Attract traffic – email/SEO/PPC
- Dovetail with your marketing automation
There are many more considerations and circumstances are unique for all businesses. I recommend that you consider attending a brand and marketing workshop with the Focus7 team (online or offline) to determine your strategy and build your future online business model.
If you would like to discuss building your business and brand presence online, or to arrange a workshop, please get in touch with me on 07495 023068 or email me at email@example.com.
David Langdown is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, an award-winning brand-led business growth agency.