Modern Aging

We are different now. To varying degrees, the pandemic, quarantine, social distancing, and prominent social issues have resulted in changes in some attitudes and behaviors. As restrictions are lifted, people are eager to resume their lifestyles. Businesses aim to be fully operational, serving customers and generating revenues. The question looming is will it be possible to return to former times? In many ways, I think not. Much has changed in our environment, expectations and lifestyles. 

An uncertain future is beyond frustrating for businesses and entrepreneurs. Evaluating circumstances and recovery solutions, they must determine whether changes have been on their side. Will consumers and clients resume buying behaviors as things open up, or even reschedule events, travel and other activities after 2020?  

On the positive side, new interests and preferences emerge in the presence of uncertainty, turmoil and change.  Instead of painting the future with dark ominous clouds, businesses can chart a path forward, strengthen their offerings, adopt innovation and best practices, and seek new opportunities. 

This series of posts aims to help businesses navigate these turbulent times and emerge whole, profitable and sustainable on the other side. Each post provides insights and practical action steps for post-crisis recovery. These insights and recommendations are based on working with hundreds of businesses of all sizes and stages of development in turnaround, startup and rapid growth situations worldwide. In this second post of the series, we focus on how consumers’ and clients’ changing and emerging needs affect the recovery of consumer and business-to-business organizations. 

Need to Know: How Your Customers Have Changed

After you’ve determined your business has the capabilities to stay afloat, the next issue to address is whether consumers or clients will return and keep buying. (For simplification, we’ll refer to consumers and clients as “customers” from here on.)  

Recover and business growth depend on winning back customers in larger numbers than before to sufficiently regenerate the revenues and profitability and keep the business solvent. Bankruptcies are on the rise from large corporations (J.C. Penny and Hertz Corporation to name a few) down to small retailers, restaurants, theaters, gyms, bars, and more.  

A company must study the reasons for your customers’ new behaviors and then rethink their business strategies and plans, even considering quick actions to improve their offerings or venture in a new direction.

  1. Lifestyles Are Evolving

First, take an in-depth view of how your business results changed due to evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors. During the shutdown, customers were unable to eat at restaurants, visit gyms and salons, and shop at their favorite retailers if declared non-essential, plus other restrictions and inconveniences. People at home are dressing differently while working, and are working longer hours. Home cooking and video social gatherings have become the norm. Safety issues have shut down many airlines, leaving pent-up demand for vacation and business travel. Key questions to consider include:

  • What are all the ways your industry, market and customers have changed?
  • How have the changes been favorable or detrimental to your business? 
  • Do your customers intend to resume prior purchase and consumption behaviors in the near-term or future? 
  1. Customers Are Trialing New Habits and Behaviors

Home meal delivery subscriptions are having a heyday with newcomers. Movies, concerts and TV shows on Netflix and Amazon Video bring some relief to people who are missing movie theaters and live concerts. Like many folks, I set out to find substitutes. A few days before shutdown, I went to the sporting goods store to buy weights and resistance bands for use at home. They were sold out, as were many sellers online. Instead, I’ve learned to fashion chairs, ropes, gallon water bottles and other household goods as my workout tools. To better understand your customers’ habits and behaviors, consider: 

  • How have customers’ mindset and emotions changed relative to your products and services? 
  • Have your customers adopted new behaviors or abstained from buying? 
  • What are your customers missing and looking forward to?
  1. Changing Desires Lead To New Desires and Choices

Customers may be rethinking their lifestyle or business requirements, even eliminating non-essential purchases to save money. People may be choosing to live on a smaller budget, when they can retire, or even creating additional revenue sources. Some customer choices have had permanent impacts on businesses. Individuals and businesses are cancelling co-workspace memberships. When toilet paper became a scarce commodity, some households purchased bidets.  Car buying, overseas travel, and live sporting events became largely non-existent. It will take some time for these industries and companies to recover.

Personally, I enjoyed trying a number of new services including Instacart grocery shopping and delivery, Splendid Spoon subscription meals, online yoga classes, plus family reunions and happy hours with friends over Zoom. I chose athleisure wear (athletic clothes made for everyday wear) over work attire, wore no makeup, and kept my driving within an eight-mile radius from home. 

Questions to evaluate customers’ choices through new eyes are:

  • Do customers consider your products or services essential or discretionary?
  • Are your products or services’ features and benefits relevant and meeting customers’ needs right now?
  • Are there new criteria your customers use to make purchases?
  1. Different Communications Messages

Well-planned advertising and marketing offers will be necessary to bring back lapsed customers. Since customers have changed, advertising, marketing promotions, and social media will likely need to be updated to motivate buyers. Customers are paying attention to the words, values and spokespeople businesses use. Customers need to know businesses understand the new environment and stand ready to provide what they want during these times. 

It is important that marketing offers and communications messages focus on what’s most important to customers right now. If they are interested in specific issues or values, for example diversity or environmental sustainability, disregarding these may turn customers away. Key questions to evaluate your customers’ responses to your messages include:

  • Are your messages important and relevant to customers or do they need to change?
  • What new issues and messages are emerging in your market?
  • What new messages might help you better connect with customers and stand out as an industry leader? 

Get Into Action  

Here are recommendations that will help your business align with your customers’ current and future needs.  

  1. Update your customer profile 

Do not assume your customers are the same today as they were before the pandemic. Observe how your customers are living, thinking and behaving at this time. Analyze these changes in behaviors and expectations. Summarize on paper your insights and learning, and share with key personnel. Consider updating your data with customer research (telephone interviews and online questionnaires work well remotely). 

In addition, it may be beneficial to work with industry experts or trusted advisors who can provide different perspectives and new recommendations.  A business coach can accelerate your assessment process and identify actions to accelerate your business growth or support you in revising your business strategies, products or services, fine-tuning communications, and more. 

  1.   Create new opportunities to align with possible future scenarios

With updated information on your customers’ desires and needs, consider emerging trends and future scenarios as you look for opportunities to better serve and delight your customers. Rather than react, look for ways to proactively innovate and offer new and improved customer experiences.  Demonstrate you are with them through the change process, and design exciting offers to win them back. 

  1.   Communicate in a currently relevant way

Make ensure all your advertising messages and other communications are relevant for today and tuned into your customers’ feelings and needs. Be culturally sensitive and represent your customers’ interests. Listening and showing your business cares will strengthen customer trust and build loyalty now and for the future.  

Having up-to-date strategies and plans to sustain and grow your customer base during times of change is paramount. Modern Aging’s Personalized 1-on-1 Business Coaching Program can help you weather these challenging times and keep you on track to achieving all your business goals. For more information, click HERE.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, A Business Guide to Recovery: 7 Recommendations on how to Rejuvenate and Grow Post-Lockdown. Part 3.

Susan Rosenthal - Modern Aging

Susan is Co-CEO and Chief Operations Officer of Modern Aging. She is a businesswoman, author and coach with a mission to build global communities, eliminate stereotypes and inspire people to live authentically and fulfilled.

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