By all accounts, we're still at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, so it's hard to say when the world will start to put itself back together again, and how it's going to look. But if one thing is certain, it's that the world won't be the same on the other side of this.
Marketers and communicators will need to start preparing for it now so that they can be ready.
Based on some observations that I've made in the last few weeks, here's how I think the world will be different after COVID-19, and how I think marketers and communicators can respond.
1) Remote Work is Here to Stay
For years, employers have been supporting their employees in working from home. They've embraced tools and technology while creating policies to facilitate their employees being productive from anywhere. The only thing this pandemic did for many employers that were lagging on this is push them to implement remote working solutions faster than they might have planned. If they had doubts about lagging productivity or the ability to collaborate effectively, those were probably dealt with during the pandemic.
I believe that this is going to lead many to take a strong look at how they use their workspace, how much space they have, and make some tough decisions about letting go of square footage. I also think that anyone who is client or customer-facing is going to start to look for ways to include their clients or customers in that collaboration, and that you might start to see clients and customers asking for digital channels to be made available to them.
You can start to get ahead of the curve now by looking at all of your touch-points and seeing where you can bring technology into the fold. Look at digital support options like chat and ticketing systems that integrate with your CRM in a way that give you a better view of how your customers (or prospects) are interacting with you.
One good example of this is Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa. We helped them improve their ability to connect with their target customers by developing a new website that better integrates valuable content to generate leads, a donation platform to drive revenue for the foundation and ecommerce to sell flowers.
2) New Era of Minimalism
Concerns over food supply, supply chain disruptions and economic uncertainty have forced us all to take a strong, hard look at what we spend our money on. Being forced to stay home has forced us to confront the reality of where we've been spending our money for years. Some people have had time to go through everything they own and de-clutter.
I think that we're going to see a new wave of people embracing the concepts of minimalism. All of those things we were buying never really made us happy. They just ended up as more things we needed to get rid of. Things we thought were important to buy didn't seem as important once they weren't available to us. I think more people are going grow their own food, fix things instead of replacing them, and support people making higher-quality goods that last longer.
We've actually blogged about minimalism before and how it's a big trend with millennials, but I think more people are going to embrace the concept. Your job is going to be re-evaluating your value proposition in light of the new reality and look to emphasize utility, value and stability.
While I do think we're likely to all be kinder and more compassionate after this is over, the fact will be that charities and non-profits will be competing for an increasingly smaller pool of available funds for donations.
3) Hello eCommerce!
Any retailer who was still trying to figure out how to embrace ecommerce was probably already pushed into making the leap. Restaurants rushed to set up online ordering as retailers pivoted to take phone orders based on Instagram posts. Sure, people will go back to shopping in-person once stores are open, but I think that the pace of ecommerce growth is going to increase as people spend more of their money through digital channels.
Anyone selling anything offline will require an online channel to accept orders. They will do this not only because that's where revenue will be coming from, but because they learned that you need to be prepared to pivot quickly when disaster strikes.
It's a great time to think about expanding the ways that people can support your business through ecommerce. Maybe you have already set up an online store but if not, it might be a great time to think about setting up an online merchandise store so people can buy branded promotional items from you. Innovations in on-demand printing and drop-shipping mean you don't have to carry physical inventory.
4) Meet Your Maker
I think this pandemic is going teach us that we can, and should, be making more stuff on our own. We're seeing people pull out old sewing machines to make masks for healthcare workers. Faced with shortages of bread, people are starting to make their own bread and in the process, discover how easy it is. Just last week, my wife and kids made butter and not only was it easy, but it was really tasty.
I think the joy and satisfaction of making things is going to stay with us after this is over and it's going to be a big shot in the arm for the maker movement.
Maybe you can find a way to embrace the maker movement for you brand. Maybe you have a platform that you can extend to makers as a means of showcasing/selling their products? Perhaps you can offer your product as a kit that people can assemble themselves? Maybe you could share your process and/or tools with people so they can use them?
5) Digital Over Physical
When this is over, musicians will start touring again, movie theatres will open up, and people will start going back to parks. But I think that people are going to be much more selective about what they go to in person. The last few years, I started to get a sense that people were feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of events. It seemed that every weekend had three craft beer events, two foodie events, and a charity run. I think it was becoming a bit much before COVID-19 and I think things won't be the same when this is over.
I think that we're going to be seeing a lot more virtual events. Organizations are going to start hosting more virtual AGMs, in-person meetings will be held over video conferencing and most charity events will need to have some sort of digital component. If you want to learn more about hosting virtual AGMS, we hosted a webinar on the topic in partnership with CANARIE. You can view the recording here:
Perhaps you can build a mobile app that acts as a companion or way for people to connect and raise funds virtually? Maybe you can record your conference content and sell the videos as part of an online learning initiative?
Together, we will get through this. We always do. Perhaps the biggest bright spot in all of this uncertainty is the knowledge that when we work together, we can overcome insurmountable odds. The groundswell of support for local business has been amazing to see. I believe that these feelings are going to stay with us for a long time after this is all over.
If you, your brand, your organization or your business is struggling and needs any help, don't hesitate to contact us. For over 25 years, we've been helping people just like you.