Speed is the New Black: Leading in the ‘Stay-At-Home’ Customer Era

Opinion and Insight 385 Add to collection
The onset of Covid-19 means businesses must be fast and furious, not frozen in the headlights, writes Barbarian Group CEO Steven Moy
Speed is the New Black: Leading in the ‘Stay-At-Home’ Customer Era

In early January 2020, both CES and NRF showcased all of the new connected life experiences that technological innovation can deliver —from Samsung’s Ballie, connected automobiles to connected sex toys. Brands were gearing up to reclaim their customer relationships and data in an increasingly digital economy as retail was showing signs of a slowdown... 

Then, Coronavirus found the rest of the world.  And everything changed.

Virtually every country on the planet has been impacted by the pandemic, and at the moment, our best weapon in the fight against this disease is to be apart. Implementing extreme social-distancing measures has marked a new era of non-essential retail armageddon. For brands, 2020 is not just another new decade, but it has become a decade defined by a new audience segment: The Stay-At-Home Customer.

While the concept of stay-at-home customers isn’t new, we have never in history seen so many people compelled to isolate themselves and their families indoors. More than ever, people are seeking connections in the digital space. Through social media, virtual happy hours, virtual work-outs, Netflix watch parties, you name it. Zoom has become my older family member's new wedding or thanksgiving event, an opportunity to get us all together digitally. In fact, many of my closest friends have mentioned to me that they have never felt more connected to each other.  Not just because we are communicating more, but because we are bonded by these unprecedented times. 

We need each other now more than ever. 

For brands, this is a difficult situation, to say the least. The line between exploitation and expression has become razor-thin. Some brands, like LVMH, Clarins and Yext are winning through actions of authenticity. These brands are mobilising quickly in a crisis by providing real value to people in the form of hand sanitizer or free technology. Others like McDonald’s and Audi are using communications to reinforce a message of social distancing, which has been polarising for many. 

The bottom line remains, for brands to thrive and survive, they need to commercialise new ideas in a matter of days, not weeks.  

Brands that invested in digital over the years are now reaping the benefits. They have curated digital ecosystems that consumers continue to engage with and online commerce experiences that remain vital growth engines. The DTC disruptors are leading the way in this regard, having built their businesses on a foundation of customer-centric, lightweight, adaptable digital products and services. But for many traditional brands, this is a trying time, as speed is the enemy of the siloed and channel-dependent organisations. Inventories that are tied up at retail, antiquated customer & commerce experiences that struggle to drive conversion and a lack of authentic community in the social space are all harsh realities they must face.

But all is not lost. This is the time for these organisations to pivot and commit to digital transformation. To act with conviction and move at pace. Speed has no longer become a marketing nice to have, it is now a critical business imperative. 

So, to the marketers and agencies out there seeking guidance in this time, I offer a few pieces of advice:  

  • Your relationship with your customers and the role of your brand in culture are changing daily. Look deep in your brand purpose and be a host of thoughtful and meaningful conversations. Your customers will welcome your participation to lead and help them through these difficult times. Own your brand moment.
  • You have a captive audience at home, surrounded by technology and craving engagement, now is a time to experiment with new ways to reach and engage them. That VR, Voice or AR idea you’ve tabled? Explore it and mix things up.
  • Digital is your primary platform for communications, commerce and relationship management. Your digital ecosystem is vital to long term business success, you must invest in it now. 
  • Your 2-Pizza team (smaller but cross-discipline integrated teams) is your new source of innovative and culturally relevant ideas.  Surprise your customers by adding value to your customers’ daily lives throughout this pandemic.  

It is important to remember, in times of great difficulty, the power of creativity always finds a way to inspire us. Now is the time for brands to embrace an invention mindset, move at speed and try something new. The results might astonish you. 

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Barbarian, 2 months ago