It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered the way we live daily. It has caused mass panic, not only to the general population but governments and business owners across the globe as well. The effects of these changes—such an increase in e-commerce traffic, larger investments in automation, and a general rise of a contact-free economy—will not only be seen while the virus is still rampant but even well after the signs of the virus have subsided.
Businesses have tried countless ways to counter the effects of COVID-19. Some of them made hard decisions, such as furloughing non-essential employees and closing a significant number of their storefronts, to make up for the losses incurred during the pandemic. However, there are others who continue to strive by rethinking their business models and setting up work-from-home opportunities for their employees.
For some, implementing the work-from-home setup has become an effective way for them to resume their workflow instead of simply waiting to get back to the office. Some companies, however, have decided to go beyond that by incorporating the situation into their branding and advertising initiatives. The idea is to promote remote working conditions as part of the “new normal” even after the pandemic is over, citing that it provides better productivity and less stressful conditions.
The Balance between Function and Form at Home
E-commerce has, for the most part, seen a tremendous amount of traffic as lockdowns and quarantines have limited people’s mobility, as well as drastically decreased the usage rate of public spaces, such as restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas. This switch in reality―where 34.1% of Americans had gone from commuting to work to working from home, in addition to the 14.6% who were already in this setup―brings the total to 48.7% of the workforce telecommuting, which is huge. The overall hindrance in mobility has led to a further increase of transactions being made online, as if people needed more time spent on their phones.
Retail companies, in particular, have gone beyond their existing offerings to adapt to the “new normal” lifestyle by labeling themselves as essential brands for people staying and working at home. In the U.S. and Europe, clothing companies like Mack Weldon, Everlane, and Universal Standard saw a boost in sales, up to nearly 40% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to same time last year, after advertising their line of bathrobes and sweatpants.
The message in this idea was to make people feel comfortable even when they’re working at home. Some workers may not enjoy bringing work to their safe space, but considering the duration of the pandemic, they may as well adjust to their new working environment. The aforementioned brands figured that helping their customers wear comfortable clothes for the duration of their work shift can keep or increase their productivity.
Aside from clothes, retailers in the home furniture industry are also changing their marketing efforts to fit the work-from-home setup of their customers. Many remote employees are now investing into improving their home office setup to increase productivity and simulate a professional environment. Companies such as Overstock and Best Buy have both reported an increase in their sales for home office furniture and equipment such as laptops, monitors, and webcams.
It’s evident that business should now begin a shift from brick-and-mortar to click-and-mortar to connect with the WFH crowd, as consumers continue to look online for their essentials. In trying to achieve this, it’s essential for brands to grow a loyal base of support, building an online community and using technology available to them to maximize their e-commerce capabilities.
From Face to Face to Online Space
Aside from changes in the e-commerce space, companies are also shifting their advertising tactics to the digital space. Social interaction in person has always been an effective way of communicating, but with quarantine measures put in place, discouraging people from leaving their homes, marketing brands have to find a way to remain connected to their target market.
Brands should recognize that consumer behavior and business operations have significantly changed. The writing is already on the wall: they need to change tactics with interaction towards their target audience, otherwise they run the risk of being labeled as uncaring, insensitive or opportunistic about the situation. The onset of the pandemic alone set the entire retail industry back some years, says retail expert Sucharita Kodali in an interview with Modern Retail.
Most brands have shifted their marketing efforts into utilizing social media as their medium, using the most popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get around and promote their product. Even better if they see the management be active in interaction, as proven in a report from Sprout, noting that 70% of their respondents feel more connected to brands that have very social media-active CEOs posting about their products.
Celebrities have it easier here, as they can stem their connection with the fans by posting most of their current happenings. For example, prior to releasing her eighth studio album “Folklore”, Taylor Swift dropped subtle hints about it throughout her social media channels. By the time she officially announced the actual release date, her fans were already chomping at the bit to listen to the entirety of it on Spotify.
Many companies have also opted to conduct their events online. A prime example of this is the G Music Festival, the first fully digital music festival provided by Globe Telecom at absolutely no cost at all. Aside from live entertainment for the world’s biggest artists, participants can enjoy other activities, games and other interactive entertainment.
In another instance, on-demand service provider MyKuya held an online press conference where CEO Shabab Shabibi shared how their online platform has extended the much needed help to furloughed workers, customers and their partners alike during the pandemic.
Survival of the Fittest
It’s no secret that the pandemic caught everyone by surprise, and there’s no doubt that a similar crisis will happen in the future. This reason alone is why brands should learn how to adapt to the new reality by doing a combination of three things: reassess growth opportunities, dive deeper into data, and look at situations from different perspectives.
Part of reassessing growth opportunities is understanding the changing customer journey. Unless brands can identify their customers’ new buying habits and their effects, they’ll most likely miss many opportunities.
In connection with brands being able to reassess growth, diving deeper into data to identify patterns can serve as a guide on what steps brands should take moving forward. With all things now moving online, businesses, especially those who initially operated offline, should work on building their digital channels to reach their target market and succeed in this new economic environment.
Finally, as with everything else, businesses should also look at varying perspectives to break down their problems. Being a one-dimensional brand is a sure-fire way to set businesses up for failure. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but those who have the willingness and flexibility to modify long-term plans and build from the ground up are more likely to survive than those who don’t.
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Visual by: Chloe Gaw