GertDeCaluwe

GertDeCaluwe

Passionate about digitization and development.

SMBs have an opportunity after COVID-19

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There is a lot of debate of how the consumer will look like in a post-Covid-19 era – or at least in the aftermath of Covid-19. As always buying behaviour is only part of a larger so-called human sentiment, how we (will) all look upon life after having experienced the most fundamental post World War crisis.

And yes, any grouping or segmentation has its flaws, as our own personal post-Covid-19 behaviour will be impacted by how we – personally – survived the crisis, in terms of health, financial impact and consequent mental state.

Still, overall synthesis does matter.

I believe that Covid-19 is changing the way we live – and as a consequence the way we shop. I also believe that – even against the underlying challenge of acting in difficult times – it offers ample opportunity for small and medium size companies to convince the new consumer.

Different surveys, when drilled down to its essence, tell us non-surprisingly 3 things about our current buying behaviour: we buy in a different way, we buy (much) less, we buy different items.

We buy less frequent, more online, with more home delivery. Probably triggered by temporary shortage, we come better prepared. We buy more functional.

We buy (much) less. There are – however – big differences between those that ‘cut deep’ and the ones that (have) move(d) into a ‘stay calm, carry on’ state of mind. A detailed survey on the Dutch Easter weekend spending – amidst full lockdown – showed a minus of 22%.

Ordering food – during that same weekend – went through the roof, as well as to a lesser extent groceries, electronics and healthcare products. But especially transport, apparel, restaurants, hotels and (outdoor) entertainment were extremely hard hit.

It should be noted that this buying behaviour is a result of a more general sentiment. The overall lack of consumer confidence will not move up so rapidly. Although it differs a little depending from survey to survey, it is clear that +/- over 80% of all of us worry about the economic impact Covid-19 and its aftermath will have. Around 80% of the 80% root into worries on a deeply personal level: fear to lose one’s job, or even worse, fear to make ends meet.

What is happening now is a shock to the old normal. Consumers are traditionally rather boring: usually, when not pressed, we do not like to change our habits, brands, buying behaviour. Currently – shockingly enough – around 90% of all of us are changing our buying behaviour as we speak and are creating together a new normal.

Clever companies realize that this offers a huge window of opportunity. The whole Covid-19 setting offers ample opportunity for small and medium size companies to move to the (main) stage. They should do so by using a strict customer lens. Forget repeat behaviour, forget big brands, here we come.

One. Think solution. Those that understand deeply customer concerns around safety, security and are able to offer assurance, will win the battle of the new normal. Of course there is the popular exemple of LVMH switching product lines from perfume to hand sanitizer, but there are also smaller initiatives such as Belgian’s Dekimo inventing in no time a new type of respirator using their new anechoic room. Consumers want clean, disinfected, healthy, at-a-distance, non-risk solutions.

Two. Think purpose. According to Ernst & Young one out of 3 people fully agrees with the statement that he/she is in process of reappraising the things valued most and most believe they have taken – pre-Covid-19 – too many things for granted. And Accenture describes how the much larger focus on basic versus self-fulfillment needs triggers 3 shopping trends: an ever-increasing focus on health, a rise in conscious consumption, and a growing love for everything which is local. Related to this: brand loyalty has never been so low. When you are living around the corner and you are unknown it is your time to strike.

Three. Rethink place. Offline as well as online routes of consumers have changed. And this alters where you communicate and where you interact with the consumer. Local communication might be – using the right message – a very efficient manner to reach potential consumers – as well as very targeted online communication. Pick up, home delivery, online offerings, all of them have become highly relevant in no time.

Four. Act as a responsible person would do. A famous Belgian shoe retailer fired 24 people at a time these people where under a kind of ‘technical unemployment’. This triggered heavy negative sentiment. In these times people expect responsible behaviour: treating your personnel in the right manner, avoiding price dumping and destroying markets, guiding educationally the customer in terms of needed behaviour… Striking the right balance in communication will be key in the coming weeks.

When cleverly played, a lot of small and medium size companies could become the real winners.

 

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