COVID-19 hasn’t been filling the cover pages of global press for more than a few weeks but there’s already an overload of ‘every crisis is an opportunity in disguise’ content wherever you look. Why another one then? Because they barely touch upon what matters the most in my view: our needs, expectations and fears as humans, as consumers, users, audiences, influencers or decision-makers.
Hence an attempt to rectify it with three ‘food for thought’ points for businesses to consider when thinking of how to best adapt to COVID-19’ driven changes: some short-lived, others meant to stay.
Some advocate to “focus on what’s important to the customer” or “show empathy”. Indeed. People’s physical and social context or way of processing reality face massive disruption. Their motivations and concerns change, translating into a different set of demands and expectations towards your business. But to truly understand customers, you need to invest time in having a genuine, in-depth dialogue, in a context of their unique situation. Don’t just track sales and conversion: ask them “why?” instead. That’s the only way to really understand what’s important to them or how to truly show empathy.
People credit SARS with kick-starting Alibaba’s e-commerce success in Asia. Others highlight Netflix, Amazon’s or LEGO’s successes in innovating through the last financial crisis. Some are obvious: we see massive uptake in remote/online sales and delivery, from food to cars to education to healthcare. While to some businesses, e-commerce is second nature, most should invest considerable effort and budget in figuring out how to design and deliver the best user experience possible. Other opportunities will be less visible, but even more important. To identify them and understand how to capitalize on them or productize them, there’s no shortcut. Continuous loops of in-depth, human conversation with existing customers or potential adopters are the best way to get there fast with the least risk.
Most corporate businesses may be overwhelmed by COVID19’ driven disruption, not ready to go to market with new propositions, service innovations or pricing models. It shouldn’t be an excuse for not closely following the market, identifying others’ innovative ways of serving their customers and figuring out whether and how to adapt them to keep up. Once again, relying on an in-depth dialogue with customers may help track the latest developments and flag potential opportunities. Some insights may then be used to quickly kill ‘bad ideas’ and double down on development of the valuable ones.
All in all, in this time of uncertainty, it’s your customer who’ll best guide you to identify and capitalize on the right opportunities. Whether you’re a B2B business in need of digital transformation or a company re-thinking its value proposition, involving customers is your best bet to come out on top in the end.
By Jan Kral,
Head of Strategy