Challenges and Implications during the COVID-19 Outbreak

by Ed Rodgers March 27, 2020

Challenge: How can businesses navigate this rapid behavior change to win market share?

Observation: Prior to the outbreak, many companies were focused on how to encourage more online shopping. During the current situation, consumers are shopping and communicating using online channels like never before.

Companies need to build trust and loyalty with online shoppers in this time of crisis – but breaking through the clutter may require that companies do things differently.

            • Communicate about things that matter in an empathetic way to engage and reassure consumers.
            • Create an intuitive shopping environment to help new consumers navigate these changes to their shopping journeys with confidence.
            • Ensure that pricing strategy remains consumer-friendly (even in the face of short-term shortages) to create goodwill that will last.

Challenge: How can I make sure these segments find and experience my brand positively?

Observation:

These changing behaviors are bringing not just new consumers to the table, but new segments. Significant numbers of consumers – across ages, genders, ethnicities, and income levels - indicate they are shopping online more now than they did in the past.

      • Use internal data, current market analytics, and customer experience measurement to understand who your brand is attracting and how they feel about you.
      • Review and update customer journey mapping in light of new segments and the paths they are taking to find you.
      • Identify actions to adjust to improve your digital experience for these consumers.

Challenge: What role (if any) can we play in helping consumers feel connected?

Observation: 

Quarantine, shelter in place, lockdowns and social distancing all breed loneliness and a need for human connection.  The moments of connection that we’ve all taken for granted are now being replaced by digitally facilitated engagement with friends and family – and our results show that people are making time for them, more, too.

There are great examples of brand messaging that has gotten this right – and other examples of brands that have gotten this very, very wrong.  Take the time to test ideas, concepts, and messaging with key consumers to make sure that in the rush to act, your brand doesn’t make a misstep that will stick with your consumers long after this moment has passed.

Challenge: Will these changes continue and become the new normal?

Observation:

People’s activities and surroundings have changed dramatically during this time. More time at home means more time with family, and families are also choosing different activities. Cooking and baking, pleasure reading, online entertainment… all of these in home activities are booming. Simultaneously, many adults are also working from home for the first time, and managing through that change in their lives.

It’s hard to say at present how many of these changes will stick – but what we do know is that consumers think the changes they are making will last for several months. Where appropriate, brands can play a role in helping consumers hold onto the changes they want to keep while transitioning back to a life that is more reflective of pre-COVID-19 days.

Challenge: How can we help consumers feel secure in a time of dramatic uncertainty?

Observation:

Previous research findings have demonstrated that consumer faith in government and civic organizations has been eroding for some time. During this period, however, consumers are having to rely on these organizations again – a difficult proposition. They are looking for leadership and guidance through this time of unprecedented uncertainty. The expectation is that a wide range of individuals and organizations share responsibility for fixing the crisis, but our data shows that only the CDC is currently getting relatively high marks for trust and performance.

We’ve all seen the Mr. Rogers quote about “looking for the helpers.”  During this time, consumers aren’t sure if they can find those helpers in government – so corporate citizenry has an opportunity to step up and do more. Whether it’s pivoting processing facilities to support needed manufacturing, targeted donations at a local level, or enabling social distancing among your employees, the actions brands take now will impact how they are perceived as social contributors well into the future.