By Silvina Rodríguez Pícaro and Claudia Gioia
Our lives have changed so rapidly over the past few weeks as a result of COVID-19’s rise to pandemic status. That, we can almost say for sure nothing will ever be the same again. While the world shifts gear and we find ourselves isolated in our homes in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, many businesses are organizing their own “Coronavirus Task Force’s” as they think about the unsure continuity of their firms and how they can maintain their relationships with their clients and audiences. This is no time to stand still!
Rethinking the business model with a digital component is no longer an option but a clear need to survive and, why not, to grow!
The new consumer habits that derive from the quarantine, the new government regulations, and the unavoidable digital reconversion will be the catalysts that may accelerate new business models with digital experiences as the key pillars of the relationship with clients. Technology investments, will play an essential role in conquering audiences, with every click, offering improved shopping experiences.
This global crisis created by COVID-19 has been a powerful accelerator of already existing trends and a generator of unthinkable changes until not so long ago. This situation has somehow proven to be a great democratizer. Phrases like “we are all in this together” or “from this, we will go out together” are messages coined as if they were slogans of powerful global brands. A new model has been imposed; one more inclusive and collaborative, a new format of something that was already in its outset, but that now is a requirement. The importance of having a purpose (the reason why), the engagement, and the value of experiences (now digital experiences), as well as the sharing economy (access rather than ownership), are not new, but in the current context have become more relevant.
In short, those companies that rapidly convert and adopt digital components in both the shopping experience and the understanding of the new consumer behaviors will endure and, probably, will have the opportunity to grow beyond what they imagine today.
Where’s the party? Let’s travel!
Airbnb, the giant who led a new paradigm in the travel sector after the 2008’s crisis, was one of the first ones to include “experiences” as a way to continue to differentiate itself from the rest of the providers of travel services. Today it has shown agility to adapt and began to offer digital experiences such as tango classes in Buenos Aires, wine tastings in Portugal, goats rescues in the Balkans, or virtual bike racing with Olympic champions in France. Other brands such as Stella Artois, and Quilmes showed their solidarity side creating a campaign to allow customers to buy restaurant vouchers to be used after the end of the quarantine. Moreover, the brands match up the contribution. Meanwhile, others innovated with new ideas such as the virtual exploration platform of Abu Dhabi, known as #StayCurious, which gives a 360-degree interactive experience. Pacha in Ibiza organized virtual parties with thousands of participants. Meanwhile, hotel chains strive to keep the conversation alive by sending their customers’ exclusive virtual experiences to remain relevant when the world “re-opens.”
The speed of the small ones: SMEs
Some restaurants like Milanezza in Miami have become digital markets to offer their customers everything they purchased from their usual suppliers – from fruits and vegetables to rolls of kitchen tissue–. Others have created online communities, offering cooking classes or packing flour for sale instead of baking and selling bread.
The technologies that once enabled virtual reality and augmented reality experiences will create additional sources of revenue while generating new shopping experiences by combining with the physical delivery of exclusive products. Thus, many will be able to “enjoy” dinner at Michelin restaurants such as Sublimotion in Ibiza or La Tour D’ Argent in Paris. These initiatives will amplify its customer base drastically. Just as perfumes allowed more customers to have access to a luxury brand, these new digital experiences will take customers to new levels, some never seen before.
No one wants to go to the doctor, but…
At some point, we will have to go. Fortunately, doctors pre-empted health insurance regulations by offering online visits, leading to a new trend, and paradigm shift. Finally, health insurance companies accepted that telemedicine is good business. After an efficient video consultation, who might be willing to sit in a crowded waiting room? The ability to talk virtually with patients will not replace the one-on-one appointment. Facebook and Instagram Live have managed to expand the communication channels, so that every doctor has the experience of broadcasting, without having Sanjay Gupta’s invitation to CNN.
Artists, psychologists, lawyers, decorators, actors, teachers, and a wide universe of professionals are seeing their audiences expand thanks to the massive consumer acceptance of new digital channels exponentially. The array of offers range from masseuse classes to surprise your partner with a Thai massage, to party entertainers in Zoom. Examples reach all sectors and geographies. Another example is Coach Rodrigo Garduño (ro54d), who stands out with the success of his R54 platform, getting more than 25,000 people in full quarantine, train, do gymnastics and be inspired together and live through Instagram.
Logistics and means of payment firms like Novapayment, Mercado Pago, PayPal, Zelle, CashApp, Stripe, or Ualá, are key allies to accelerate the processes of digital conversion. While “free” shipping has become the norm, and digital transactions travel at the speed of a click, the cost of the missed opportunity for those who have not updated their model yet has already become clear. Governments, which have pushed society so hard to digitize to improve tax collection, are other major sectors benefiting from the acceleration of digitization.
Predicting the present
We are using technologies that have been available for some time, but that need forces us to adopt them massively and immediately. There is no turning back; the technology accelerator will stay. A study conducted in Spain by Good Rebels (April 2020), with the collaboration of the local marketing association, shows that most of the companies surveyed believe that after the crisis the communication of the brand purpose will be strengthened (84%), new lines of product innovation will be explored (72%), new digital awareness channels will be discovered, investment in loyalty programs will be strengthened (69%) and aggressive recruitment strategies will be launched (55%). These trends are likely to get replicated in most markets.
The time “earned” during this period of solitary confinement due to virtual experiences have given space to another phenomenon: more people have downloaded applications related to spiritual growth such as mindfulness and meditation. This has led to the proliferation of meeting spaces and online experiences. This phenomenon of “virtual spirituality” has also been enhanced by the decline of half of the household incomes and changes in routines pushing people of all generations to seek ways of coping with their new reality.
The transition process that we are going through until it is safe to socialize again will be a long and rough road. Those companies and brands that know how to adapt and dare to adopt new technologies and new business models quickly will be those that survive and emerge triumphant at the beginning of the new chapter of humanity.
Published in Infobae