The next normal may be a ways off. In the meantime, here are three trends that will likely influence how customers connect with brands
“Leaders who identified how to quickly pivot … not only saw new sustainable paths to profitability but also increased brand value.” That’s how Jason Edelboim recently described a key defining feature of brands who survived and thrived in 2020 – and are poised to apply the lessons they learned to a profitable 2021.
That’s first on his list and I’d argue, most important. But, as I read the piece, I was struck by the fact that all three trends he names highlight what I consider a critical business competency found among the brands best positioned to succeed in the years ahead: the commitment, willingness, and ability to truly understand their customers, meet them where they are, and deliver the experience they need. A tall order. But if this year proved anything, it proved that this is all possible.
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Navigating The Emerging Business Trends Of The Next Decade
By Jason Edelboim
Between the United Kingdom officially leaving the European Union, a drop in the U.S. stock market that was the worst since 1987, the Covid-19 pandemic and a contentious U.S. presidential election, businesses had a challenging year. Leaders were forced to track fast-moving risks and disruptions to their operations and determine what those meant for their future.
The pandemic alone has unearthed gaps in workplace innovation, one of which is most notably the lack of preparedness for a fully remote or hybrid workforce in any environment, whether it’s an office, classroom or brick-and-mortar retailer. For example, look at telehealth: Only about 11% of care was delivered digitally before the pandemic, according to McKinsey. Now, with the acceleration of adoption by both consumers and health providers, there has been a significant increase in U.S. consumers using telehealth to replace healthcare visits.
The events of 2020 have proliferated the adoption of new and advanced technologies, initiated a rethinking of organizational design and agility, and made central the role of brand empathy in addition to other trends.
So what’s next? From my perspective, the emerging decade-defining trends business leaders should be paying attention to include:
Agility And The Need For Flexibility
No organization was entirely pandemic-proof. Whether the structure of operations had to be adjusted, scrapped or accelerated, an organization’s ability to pivot and adapt became an indicator of resilience.
Leaders who identified how to quickly pivot to business models or organizational structures that enabled both short-term survival and long-term resilience and growth not only saw new sustainable paths to profitability but also increased brand value.
We witnessed several examples of this in the restaurant industry this summer when restaurants began to transform into independent grocery stores by selling the ingredients they buy in bulk to individual customers. This move helped them rely less on the usual dine-in customers and more on providing access to essential items that were increasingly harder to come by (without sacrificing more of their income).
Another example is the collective shift in how consumers and investors perceive corporate growth. Not long ago, a company’s ability to expand its physical footprint (e.g., a new regional office or retail location) was considered a competitive advantage and a major indicator of success, specifically throughout the retail, food and technology sectors.
However, in the post-Covid-19 world, the value of physical locations needs to be reexamined. Organizations whose culture values were based heavily on in-office perks and communal work spaces need to rethink their office locations as more of a space for teams to collaborate and less of a place where people occupy assigned spaces to accomplish work in relative isolation.
That way, businesses can reduce real estate costs and reallocate that expense to strengthening a tech stack that would support an alternative workplace strategy.
Between having multiple physical locations and the reliance on global supply chains, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer brands experienced new and evolved risks in addition to sharp changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic.
From a customer experience and work culture perspective, the level of comfort in densely populated spaces has dramatically decreased. I predict this evolution will materialize in the acceleration of delivery options for everything, and in the workplace, it will mean fewer physical offices and more global employees.
Looking forward, it is clear to me that leaders must revamp their long- and short-term value proposition, growth strategies, business models and resilience planning to reflect this shift in behavior and culture.
But with structural and operational agility must come emotional agility…
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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