Is your business ready for the new Covid-19 normal?

Today, we will look at a macro-trend that is emerging from this pandemic. If your business doesn’t jump on this trend, it may not survive.

To understand this macro-trend, we will first, look at the world of retail. Many bricks-and-mortars business owners are facing an apocalypse. As this Sydney Morning Herald article reported,

There is a lot of discussion about how the coronavirus pandemic might create new normals in behaviours and in industry landscapes. For property landlords, that combination could create very significant and quite unpleasant structural changes.

The lockdowns have prevented consumers from physically visiting retailers, restaurants, cafes, gyms, shopping centres, and so on. This is just the beginning of the shift towards the new normal.

Social Distancing Mayhem

As countries progressively get on top of the Covid-19 situation, lockdown restrictions will be gradually lifted. However, no matter how much restrictions are loosened, the Coronavirus will still be lurking in the background, ready to seize on any chance to re-assert itself in the form of outbreaks and the dreaded ‘second wave’. Therefore, until Covid-19 is completely eradicated (which will take at least a couple of years), some forms of social distancing rules will still remain.

Social distancing in any forms will significantly curtail retail business turnover. This is unavoidable.

So, how will social distancing affect retail businesses?

For example, restaurants will have to space out their tables, resulting in fewer customers at any one time.

Social distancing rules will also result in longer queues due to the obvious reason that people have to stand further apart. Furthermore, there will be long queues of people waiting outside the stores as there will be a limit on the number of people allowed to be inside at any one time.

Worse still, in some jurisdictions, customers will face more hurdles as medical and sanitisation procedures are enacted (eg temperature checks at the door, more regular cleaning).

So, one thing is clear. In this new normal, shopping, as we know it, will be more time-consuming and thus, less convenient.

Post-Lockdown Psychology

This ABC article reported an interesting finding:

Australians may remain hesitant to venture out of their homes or gather in large groups even if the nation’s various coronavirus restrictions are eased or lifted, a study has found, leading to fresh concerns for key sectors.

A new survey of 2,225 people by Vox Pop Labs in collaboration with the ABC has found that only about 1 in 8 Australians would attend a large event even if they could, fewer than 1 in 5 would get on a plane, and only 40 per cent would go to a bar or restaurant.

For many people, the old normal cannot return unless a vaccine is found:

Dr Turner says she won’t fully relax until there’s a vaccine, which could be 12 to 18 months away — or at worst, may never come at all.

And this is the key:

“It’s very normal for people to feel two opposing feelings at once,” she says.

“You can feel hope and excitement about the fact the social isolation and restrictions are loosening while at the same time feeling fear and apprehension, that’s completely normal.”

To put it simply, even when restrictions are lifted, fear will still keep people away from the shops.

So, what does this mean for my business?

To summarise, in this new normal, shopping will be more time-consuming and inconvenient. People will still be afraid to go out to the shops.

That can only mean one thing. Instead of shopping at the stores, customers will shop online instead. Online shopping is more convenient, quicker and best of all, is risk-free in terms of getting exposed to the Coronavirus. There will be no queues, no masks and no temperature checks. As a bonus, customers will save time as there will be no need to travel to the stores. There will be no driving, no walking and no parking.

In essence, this means that the trend towards online shopping over the years will accelerate because of Covid-19.

More than just shopping is going online

Now, you have to make this clear.

As the mass-migration towards shopping online happens, customers are going to raise their expectations on what else they can do online. They are going to expect to do more kinds of transactions and interactions online too.

For example, before Coronavirus, you can only see the doctor face-to-face. Now, patients can see their doctors online (i.e. telehealth). They are going to expect to be able to have a meeting with their accountants and lawyers online. They are going to expect to attend yoga class online. They are going to expect to receive computer technical support online. They are going to expect to attend lessons entirely online. Hey, even wedding ceremonies and funerals are happening online too!

And make no mistake. As this shift occurs, it is not going to stop, let alone reverse. The old normal of business-as-usual is gone forever.

The big question is this: Is your business ready for the coming mass-migration towards online? If not, you are going to lose customers over to competitors who are ready!

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I am a Technology Consultant, whose passion is to help small businesses reach their full potential through mastery of digital technologies, strategies and marketing.