Why will COVID-19 have lasting impact on demand patterns and customer preferences?
What COVID-19 experiences will have lasting impact on customer requirements in the post-crisis market?
The COVID-19 experience has far-reaching effect on people’s lives. We believe this will have lasting impact on demand patterns and preferences of people and businesses in the post-COVID-19 future. Winners will adapt to the New Normal by launching products and services fit for the new opportunities. Losers … well, they will lose when not responding to customer requirements
I am a leader of a group of very talented technology and product developers at IPU, so naturally I believe in the opportunities of applying new and technologies, fit for the New Normal.
In a series of articles my colleagues and I will share our insights and recommendations for how to join the winning team of companies launching products and services that are aligned with the post-COVID-19 customer expectations. The key learning point, we have learned so far during this crisis, is expecting the unexpected.
We will start our journey towards the launch of New Normal products and services by studying, what we believe are important experiences for people during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, experiences that may have significant impact on their behavior and preferences as consumers, clients, advisors and decision makers in the post-COVID-19 era. We call it the COVID-19 Experience Base. (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – The journey from understanding COVID-19 experiences to launching new products and services
We have identified 6 key experiences (Figure 2) that may have lasting impact on clients, advisors, and decision makers on the B2B market. The COVID-19 crisis has amplified our attention on several negative risk factors however, we have also learned new skills, we will bring along to the post-COVID-19 period.
Figure 2 – Six key COVID-19 experiences that may have lasting impact on B2B markets
Health and Safety Vulnerability – We have experienced how exposed our loved ones and ourselves are. We will continue being concerned about our health and safety at work, in public and at home. The speed and aggressiveness of the invisible COVID-19 virus have brought fear and worries into our lives. We are concerned about our seniors and other dear one, belonging to risk groups. We may also be frightened for our personal well-being. We have all been reminded of our own mortality.
Now we are aware of the risks of being in close physical distance to other people, being part of larger groups, entering and staying in contained spaces with strangers, touching door handles, pushbuttons, touchscreens, shopping carts etc., shaking hands, public transportation,…
In general we have grown our attention to many types of health and safety risks, not only the COVID-19 related, and we have experienced the value of self-protection and systems, guides and procedures, that ensure other persons will or can not harm us with their negligence and carelessness.
Tangible, visible, and effective health & safety features will without doubt become important design factors of future products, systems, and services.
Supply Chain and Service Fragility – Our supply and service networks have been hit radically, and we will try minimizing these risks going forward.
Many European enterprises working on world markets have been hit by a series of delayed events, starting with supply shortages due to lockdown of e.g. China, later lockdown of facilities and markets in Europe, and eventually lockdowns of facilities and markets in USA, while demand starts growing in the markets that were hit first and now are able to slowly return to a new normal business activity level. The ability to adapt production, sourcing, and service to rapidly changing market needs, and supply constraints has proven to be extremely important.
Long complicated global and in some cases single sourced supply chains have proven their extreme vulnerability. These experiences will most likely amplify a trend, already started prior to the COVID-19 crisis: Insourcing and sourcing locally, enabled by digitalization and advanced automation.
We expect design for agility, business continuity and local/internal sourcing to be high priority preferences for decision makers designing, building, and operating manufacturing and logistics systems in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.
Travel and Transportation Challenges – Our new sense of risk associated with travelling combined with higher prices and reduced capacity will influence our preferences. During the COVID-19 lockdowns national, and in some case even regional borders have been closed, travel by flight cancelled, and other ways of transportation of people and goods have been obstructed. People and companies have been forced to find alternative solutions. Looking ahead we believe that in line with projections from several airline we will reduce flying for a long period, due to higher prices, reduced capacity, more tedious health and safety procedures in airports, and our personal and corporate concerns about health and safety.
We expect travel and transportation reducing technologies to be preferred in the post-COVID-19 B2B marketplace.
Key People Dependencies – Many have experienced missing that particularly skilled colleague or external specialist being at site fixing an urgent problem or task. In our pre-COVID-19 corporate lives, we may have been slightly lazy: You may recognize the situation, when a problem or a non-standard situation occurred with our IT, changing set-up and operating the special machine or system X, analyzing and interpreting non-trivial data etc. we called the special skilled colleague, or external service technician/specialist, who entered your office, workshop, lab and solved the issue. He or she may even have jumped into a car or airplane and travelled to your point of interest. During the crisis it has in many cases not been feasible, due to problems with illness, quarantine, travel restrictions and many other practical problems. In other words, our clients’ attention has been turned to their exposure to very experienced technicians, specialists, operators, service technicians etc.
To ensure business continuity, but also improve OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency), and yield, technologies supporting self-service, operator assistance, and smarter automation, will a brighter future in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.
Virtual Meeting Efficiency – We have learned how to complete tasks remotely, using digital communication and collaborative tools, and we will continue doing so. Many of us have learned new tricks and skills, becoming very capable in using MS Teams, Skype, Zoom, Slack, and whatever the systems are called. The crisis has accelerated the penetration of digital communication and collaborative tools, and they have proven efficient and versatile in many cases, in some cases even improving productivity, compared to the old world of face-to-face meetings.
We expect digital communication and collaborative platforms to continue growing in popularity, and generally customer / user expectations will be changing: Most likely customers / user will expect products, systems, and services in general to be provided with digital communication and collaborative technology – the level of expectations will simply jump to a new standard.
E-Commerce Value – Digital sales channels proved their point in particularly when leveraging insights based on data. Consumers have turned their attention to digital sales channel during the crisis. Traditional B2C brick- and mortar-based companies have either been left behind with no business or have been forced to develop or upgrade their digital sales channels urgently. Consumers have become more mature and more open to the digital way of shopping products and services. Consumer behavior will most likely influence their way of working professionally too. Clients expectation to digital services will grow.
We believe digital services covering e.g. advisory, configuration, ordering, remote monitoring, and maintenance needs to be further developed soonest, if companies want to fulfill customers’ expectations going forward.
The COVID-19 experiences will have lasting impact on our future behavior and preferences as customers, decision makers, and advisors however, some fundamental change drivers continue to be relevant – even in the post-COVID-19 B2B markets.
We are entering a financial crisis, due to COVID-19 lockouts, where several sectors are extremely hurt, but negative effects will cascade down to other directly or indirectly related sectors. The always relevant focus on cost will therefore continue, ensuring that focus on technologies with impact on reducing material, production and service cost will be prioritized.
The green transformation, bringing societies to a carbon neutral future, may not have been creating news headlines recently, but the global challenge continues, and many governments are suggesting investing more in this area to boost economies after the COVID-19 related financial crisis.
In this article we have tried to capture some of the most important changes in market demand patterns and preferences, that will create opportunities for technology enabled growth in the post-COVID-19 B2B marketplace. In the next articles we will try digging deeper into selected technologies and hopefully inspire your future product and technology development planning.