Somya Anand, a Group Account Director with energi PR in Toronto, shares a mindset for business and consumers as they shift and adapt in the face of new business realities.
Across the board, the pandemic and its pervasive impacts continue to monopolize day to day conversations. While Canada’s vaccine rollout has seen a boost in recent months and restrictions have been eased in some domains, it’s clear that the pandemic is here for the foreseeable future.
As a result, we are all learning to live with some level of uncertainty. When will life return to normal? When will we be able to travel to see family and friends, or simply go to a restaurant without wearing a mask? And for consumers and producers of all types of goods and services, a big question that remains is when and to what extent will we see significant economic and operational recovery.
The impacts on businesses resulting from the pandemic are likely to be long remembered. Many in the consumer sector have successfully navigated and survived through this crisis period – channeling strengths and resetting business priorities. A recent CNBC article, highlights how the home renovation industry, in particular, has seen a significant boost in revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As spending on travel and entertainment has plunged, more and more people are redirecting disposable income to fixing up their homes. Other industries have not fared as well, with more than 50 per cent of Canadian companies having lost at least one-fifth of their revenues, according to Statistics Canada.
As consumer habits continue to evolve in this unpredictable ecosystem, industries across all sectors have been forced to adapt in ways that they may not have previously considered. Many consumer brands have also been forced to rethink their marketing and communications mix all through the lens of COVID-19 and a continued environment of uncertainty. Canadian businesses such as Geissberger Farmhouse Cider, a third-generation apple cider producer in Ontario stopped to look at their business model and ask themselves what they needed to change to stay in the game. For them, it meant adapting to a remote world and focusing on online orders, keeping in-store visits at 25% capacity along with curb side pickup and home delivery. Similarly, Harry Rosen, Aritzia, H&M and Zara, focused on online orders versus in store footfalls. Online sales and e-commerce now represent a much larger share of their business.
There is no denying that consumer behaviour and habits have been fundamentally altered. Physical distancing and stay-at-home lockdowns have compelled people to shop differently, shifting their spending online for both essential and non-essential items. As a result, prioritizing customer engagement and catering to the « pandemic-adapted consumer » has now become more important than ever. This is being achieved through targeted investment in analyzing brand reputation; gathering more sophisticated consumer insights; identifying potential new product and service extensions that align with the « new reality »; creating personal and human connection with consumers; embracing sustainability; focusing on creative and strategic campaigns and targeted advertising; engaging influencers; and effectively leveraging social media. Brands that make a concerted effort to focus on digital and prioritize personalization and community engagement, are positioning themselves to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.
Case in point, is Lululemon. In addition to benefitting from a renewed « athleisure demand », they were e-commerce ready when people began spending most of their time at home with an increased focus on maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. The brand also made a successful strategic expansion into the men’s apparel segment. Lululemon can certainly be classified as a ‘pandemic performer’.
At the end of the day, brands with staying power will be those that take the necessary measures to focus on resiliency, explore novel and pragmatic ways to advance their business goals, and secure their return on investment by shifting from a surviving to a thriving mindset. The time is now!