In this transitional period of recovery from COVID-19, it is crucial to understand the lingering economic impacts of the pandemic in order to navigate into the new reality successfully.
Restrictions set in place in response to COVID-19 earlier this year caused profound shifts in consumer behavior and economic hardships affecting businesses across sectors. As these shifts stabilize and post-pandemic normal sets in, marketing and sales leaders have a crucial role in assuring their businesses to meet the challenges and emerge stronger. Business is not as usual, nor is this summer.
A recent article by McKinsey Co., Leading with Purpose: How marketing and sales leaders can shape the next normal,” by Brian Gregg, Aimee Kim, and Jesko Perrey, explains why the shifts in the economy and consumer behavior call for marketing and sales officers to the frontline of resilient business recovery and elaborate on how they can lead their businesses to success and prosperity. The authors examine the current reality, provide lessons to learn from past downturns, and suggest a course of action for CMSOs on a dynamic continuum; from navigating the here and now, through planning for recovery, to leading the next normal.
One of the lingering effects of COVID-19 on the economy, from both the consumer and business standpoint, is the fast-forwarding of digital transformation and innovative analytics. Consumer Sentiment Surveys conducted by McKinsey describe the vast adaptation to digital sales channels and to new delivery methods. Necessity has brought innovation in the ways businesses interact with customers, and even predominantly off-line customers have opened up to exploring multi-channel digital interactions and technologies; as well as exploring alternative brands. These consumer behaviors and trends are shaping the post-pandemic normal.
In many sectors, focus on quick adaptation to digital interactions with customers became essential for the brand’s survival. Trends in consumer spending have negatively affected most business sectors, leading to short and long term budget cuts. On the continuum, we are still at the recovery phase, and we are yet to experience more changes in the marketplace.
While business closures or consolidations are inevitable for some businesses, new opportunities will emerge. Thus, the importance of leading with innovation. In fact, McKinsey’s survey assesses the impact of spend-changes by category on B2Bs budget, shows that 40-50 % of B2Bs seem optimistic.
Why are CMSOs Called Upon to Lead the ‘Mission Control’ in this Crisis?
Tapping into the nuances of customer’s behavioral and spending shifts is the answer. No need to call Superman to the rescue, this is a job for CMSOs! Leading through this economic uncertainty with resilience calls for a growth mindset, socially and economically; it calls for boldness, innovations, and agility in action and planning. A start-up mindset. “…it’s crucial that marketing and sales leaders act decisively to help stabilize the business, and in some cases, fight to stay afloat.” (pp. 178) While adapting to the customer’s spending mindset may call for short-term budget cuts, in the long term, according to research, spending is likely to increase in advanced industries and retail companies.
The article offers CMSOs a detailed course of action for their response to the COVID-19 crisis along a timeline; from the immediate response, through recovery, and into the next new normal. Leading the response across the continuum requires:
Startup mindset – resilient spirit embracing change with innovation, flexibility, and purpose;
Human at the core – socially relevant responses both internally and externally;
Reimagine ecosystem strategies to drive resilience;
Digital, tech, and analytics acceleration – as the shift to digital stabilized in the new normal, CMSOs need to drive growth in analytics capabilities and pave the way for scaling the tech stack;
Purpose-led customer vision – create a new customer playbook aligned with shifts in customer sentiment as they stabilize in a new normal.
A deeper look into the latter two traits accentuates the important role of tech, digital, and analytics acceleration as well as clarity into newly defined customers’ values. These are the connecting thread through the continuum leading to the next new normal.
From the business point of view, planning for recovery requires urgent investment in digital tools and analytics engines while strategizing for a possible uptick in demand, while simultaneously planning for the next phase by leveraging advanced analytics and innovative AI-based digital solutions to scale the tech stack.
From the customer perspective, marketing and sales leaders should plan for redefining the value propositions and designing a new purpose-driven customer playbook; staying relevant and attuned to their customers, and adjusting the playbook to fit the consumer’s changing journey behaviors.
New business models are called for to lead into the post-pandemic normal, models that highlight the customer and deliver experiences that are relevant and better align with the purpose that the interaction plays within the bigger picture. In the recovery stage, leaders should focus on socially relevant customer engagement and loyalty journeys. For example, the authors refer to research showing that COVID-19 led to an increase in customer’s willingness to try new brands. The authors contend that such consumer decisioning behavior is likely to ‘stick’ and brand awareness will be an important factor for determining purchase propensity. An AI-based personalization platform, like ZineOne’s Intelligent Customer Engagement platform, offers a solution that meets both aspects mentioned above. Innovative data analytics, advanced machine learning, and real-time adaptability enable purchase predictions at scale, while fine-tuning interactions to align with each and every customer at their journey and sentiment.
The new normal is quickly unveiling and short-term actions are long behind us. CMSOs are in a unique position to chart the course for their businesses; defining and scaling survival, leading to success and growth in the post-pandemic market. Leaders will need to embrace innovative technology like Artificial Intelligence, and plan for a new customer playbook to create differentiated customer experiences that promote trust and empower their brand. I am excited about rising to the challenge. How about you?