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Jakarta Post

It’s time for brands to embrace the 'new normal'

  • Rahmatullah Akbar

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Jakarta   /   Thu, July 23, 2020   /   09:29 am
It’s time for brands to embrace the 'new normal' Business as usual: Customers browse through a cosmetics and skincare retailer at Lippo Mall Puri shopping center in West Jakarta on Jan. 20. As businesses reopen after three months of restrictions due to COVID-19, brands will need to adapt to changes in consumer behavior. (JP/Dionnasius Aditya)

After more than three months of partial lockdown, now we enter the next episode of the COVID-19 pandemic called the “new normal”, during which cities, states and countries cautiously open. So, what is the new normal actually? The new normal is the new way of living that forces every citizen to strictly follow health protocols such as wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding crowds, keeping a distance etc.

This new way of living will make a huge impact on consumer lives, and obviously brands will also need to adapt to changes in consumer behavior in this new normal era. If there is a key mindset that we need to adapt with these changes it is this: We will never return to the world that we knew before this crisis, so stop thinking that things will go back to normal because they aren’t going to. The world is going to be a different place, let’s hope for the better.

The positive side is, it is time for brand managers and marketers to propose a marketing or advertising strategy that you think is ideal, where in the past it might have been difficult to get approved by a board of directors who always played it safe.

Through reading insightful reports from various credible sources and observations on brand and consumer behavior in this early episode of the new normal, the author discovered five key themes that every brand owner needs to consider and answers to stay relevant and thrive in this new normal era.

Under large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), consumers expect brands to provide home experience, in the new normal, consumers expect brands to ensure that they implement all relevant public health measures. Brands that are seen as effectively protecting both staff and customers are likely to be appreciated and trusted.

Besides ensuring public health measures, it is important for brands to think outside the box while allowing customers to feed into the new processes and experience. How to provide an authentic and socially rewarding experience, while implementing social distancing and health protocol rules, e.g. table service only, limited toilet access and no live music.

If we want to encourage a customer to try a new experience, make sure it is easy, satisfying and positive - negative interactions will only lead to greater resistance, while a positive experience will build connection and loyalty. After all, as Charles Darwin reminds us, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The most successful will adopt and embrace entirely new ways of interacting. And this will lead to new ways of working and living that will make an entirely “new normal”.

After almost three months, people have been forced to stay and work at home and there is still no good news about a COVID-19 vaccine, meaning that people are likely to leave the house less often. This formed behavior makes consumers likely to use more digital and online services. Whether it’s for work, school, shopping, food or entertainment. Instead of going to the mall or meeting up at a restaurant – more people are likely to opt to stay home and enjoy movies, games and food right in the comfort of their homes. Not only is it more convenient – but logistics has allowed this to be possible and hassle free.

It is therefore vital for brands to continue to invest in their online channels for shopping, communication and customer service. Brands must also expect and facilitate more interaction between online and traditional shopping channels in the future, e.g. showrooming and webrooming.

In a theory proposed by Abraham Maslow called the “hierarchy of needs”, the third level is about belonging - the need to be part of a family, a group of friends, a community and/or a country. COVID-19 is fueling people's desire to survive together and therefore, also help others in need. People are more dependent on local facilities in their neighborhood and feel the need to support locals. They seek a local focus of retailers and want to be part of a community in order to feel safe, grounded and to create a sense of belonging. Interestingly, consumers indicate they would like to keep this caring attitude toward the community. Brands should consider how to reshape their current brand position to be part of the shoppers' community.

As there is no crystal clear exit strategy for socioeconomic situations affected by the pandemic, consumers are likely to save up for things they truly need. Rather than spending on luxury goods and entertainment, money is likely spent on daily necessities such as food and toiletries.

Brands must therefore highlight the value of their products and services more than ever to stay competitive. Help your customers understand how they can save money or how your product can help them save money. Look for ways to keep your costs down so you can pass those savings on to your customers.

Adjusting to the “new normal” is an opportunity to target new customer groups and develop new revenue streams. During the crisis, several brands have done this with success, e.g. restaurants offering ready-to-cook and home services, etc. The “new normal” will be challenging, but brands that approach this in an effective and innovative way might find themselves appealing to new target groups or even able to develop new revenue streams for their business, including online sales or even immersive virtual shopping.

After all, the key point is this is a good time to assess the situation and measure the health of the brand, continue to embrace creative thinking in your business. The world will be a different place and it will be difficult to predict all of the changes that lie before us. Customers will come to you with new challenges and you have to be able to adjust to those changes. 

The long-term effects of the pandemic will be far-reaching and long-lasting and brands will need customer loyalty now and in the days after this crisis.

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The writer is head of content at SAC advertising agency. The views expressed are his own.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.