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StrategyJan 06, 2021

Now, Next, Future: Strategic Insights for the New Normal

Gail Stout Perry, Alex Griggs, and Kaylin Blancas

Understanding customer needs is no longer an option for businesses; now, more than ever, executives should be championing this concept to survive in our increasingly customer-centric, digital marketplace. Digitization has been the future, but the global pandemic has accelerated change in customer expectations for a convenient and personalized omni-channel experience. To reach this evolved customer, companies must raise their digital standard of performance. The new normal is here, and strategic digital initiatives for businesses are necessary to prepare for what comes next and to enable future growth.

now: short-term management trends for businesses

Questioning whether your business can handle change becomes a required reality rather than a debatable topic when a global pandemic disrupts business operations. Nearly every industry has been impacted by COVID-19, notably retail, food service, travel, and energy. In direct response, businesses have reacted by:

  • Stabilizing supply chain.

  • Improving workforce protection measures.

  • Listening to employees.

  • Focusing on the customer experience.

  • Developing or enhancing a virtual strategy.

  • Or a combination of the above.

COVID-19 has tested the world’s resiliency and creativity. There have been mobilizations across every industry in unique ways: clothing companies scrambling to mass produce masks and personal protective equipment (PPE); distilleries repurposing their business models to develop and distribute hand sanitizer; and restaurants, grocery stores, and brick-and-mortar retail stores working around the clock to find remedies to service their customers. All these solutions have a common denominator: They are a frantic sprint toward survival.

next: understanding customer needs and the current state of your business

Several months beyond the initial hit of the pandemic, some businesses are still waiting for what is next—for 2020 to end and 2021 to bring back operational familiarity. Next is here, and it is opportunistic for businesses to assess their current state and reprioritize company goals for the coming year. It is time to focus on strategic innovations that will be essential as well as differentiating in the “new normal.” For example, digital connection with customers quickly evolved from optional to must have and businesses who are late adopters will face increasing headwinds.

right place: digitally connect with your target consumer

Restricted by safety regulations, consumers turned to tech devices to meet evolving search needs; to meet these needs, digital platforms help businesses bridge the gap between user search queries and a business’s offering. According to Brightedge, an enterprise-grade performance management platform, search smartphone and tablet usage grew 50% from March 2019 to March 2020. Buy online searches also increased by 50%. The modern consumer anticipates fast page load speed, targeted content, and auto-fill features among others. Digital platforms should be equipped with adequate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to increase user experience performance. Integrated platforms enhance CRM management to strengthen customer affinity and lengthen the customer lifecycle over time. Developing your digital infrastructure is a necessary investment to grow and cultivate a loyal user base.

right time: upgrade your content marketing strategy

Consumers desire information, but more than that, they want the right information to match their search query at the right stage in their customer journey. Finding the appropriate mix of marketing channels and creating quality content are two ways to reduce marketing spend over time while increasing potential target market reach. Companies should look to leverage both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) to enable a comprehensive keyword strategy, thus capturing user voice across micro-journeys.

right value: lock in brand loyalty with brand communities

Businesses strengthen brand loyalty through community building. With unlimited product and service options within a hyper competitive search engine results page (SERP) environment, capturing consumer interest requires a dynamic value proposition. In a time where daily social distancing is best practice, people are looking for new ways to connect. Brands meet this need through experience-oriented culture. It is important to align community voice and interests to additional content or experiences. For example, if your community includes aspirational learners, then consider hosting webinars, producing informative video, or streaming a podcast. Engage hands-on creators with how-to videos, recipes, or digital classes. Communities are sustainable investments to yield brand loyalty, which reduces cost over time compared to brand acquisition.

Digitally connecting with your targeted customers, upgrading your content marketing strategy, and locking in brand loyalty with brand communities are the three steps to support long-term resilience.

future: build business resilience

A global pandemic has shown companies the importance of a resilient business model, the adaptability of their leadership teams, and the prioritization of the new customer. Plenty of companies have installed temporary fixes to their operating model, while others have chosen to look forward and not only ride the wave that is COVID-19, but to take advantage of the mass digitization and improve their operating model for a long-term benefit. Resilience planning requires strategic review before taking long-term action.

Leading companies are building resilience by investing in digital transformation to meet customers’ needs. Business leaders are focusing on reaching previously out-of-scope customers through various digital improvements — including creating a single view of the customer, defining targeted customer journeys, and establishing a holistic omni-channel experience. Together, these dynamic initiatives drive impact across the value chain.

take the opportunity

Companies that listen to the trends and their customers have the opportunity to equip themselves with the right tools to face this new normal. General Motors’ U.S. sales chief, Steve Hill, phrased it best, “You never want to let a good crisis go to waste.” If you want to learn more about how you can equip your company for the future, please visit our strategy offerings or reach out to our team at findoutmore@credera.com.

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