As the famous Pineapple Lumps ad once heralded from our TV sets, “Well done New Zealand”. We have endured various levels of lockdown for seven weeks so far, and not because COVID-19 was ravaging our country, but to prevent that from becoming our reality.
There have been moments that have felt like the world has stopped, and in a lot of ways, it has.
So as we begin to emerge from this unprecedented shared experience, it is only to be expected that some things will have changed. But which trends are likely to stick around?
The disruption of traditional models of business and the future of work
For many corporate companies, it’s been proven that we can work from home, without negatively impacting productivity (despite a lot of us becoming part-time teachers on the side). Having broken the barrier between work and home life, it is difficult to go back; especially now your CEO is infinitely more human after their children invaded the budget discussions.
After lockdown, many businesses may be able to develop a more fluid approach to work, and as an offset, save costs with smaller offices. Some may even be able to move entirely to remote working, with meeting spaces rather than offices for when the team needs to get together. This change is likely to have several benefits, including the cutting of transport costs and emissions.
Also, as during other times of financial restraint, we are likely to see the reemergence of a strong freelance talent market, as companies look to more carefully manage staffing costs.
We are all in this together
From our shared global experience, new rhetoric has emerged around individualism and common purpose. This shift is down to the indisputable fact that we are all reliant on each other to do the right thing, and if we don’t, the consequences are something not many of us want to consider.
Out of this newfound focus on ‘common purpose’, essential workers (usually the lowest paid in our society) are being celebrated as heroes. Our admiration no longer sits with the A-list celebrities, and instead, it is the faces of nurses and supermarket cashiers on the front pages of our magazines and newspapers. We’ve all been reminded just how much we depend on the labour of ordinary working people to keep NZ and the world running.
From a business perspective, social-purpose has been on the radar for a while. Still, if it wasn’t already, it should now be a vital part of your business and comms strategy if you want to remain relevant amid this new collective mindset.
Community is back
Shopping for our elderly neighbours, waving at families cycling past and taking the time to enquire how people are fairing has become an essential part of our collective response to COVID-19. This forced return to a slower way of life in our immediate neighbourhood has reconnected many of us to the communities we live in. However, thanks to the Internet, we have also all been busy passing the time joining and growing communities online. A standout to emerge from lockdown is the ‘New Zealand Made Products’ Facebook page, dedicated to supporting New Zealand businesses, products and services.
Businesses who have built a community online during lockdown need to continue this connection through content planning and perhaps the transfer of these online experiences to real-life experiences as we emerge from the other side. What you communicated and how you helped your community through this period will have an impact on your business. If you got it right, the result should be brand loyalty and awareness, but these gains will be undone if there’s no continuity post-COVID.
Buy New Zealand made
Small businesses (20 staff or less) account for approximately 97 per cent of all companies in New Zealand, 29 per cent of employees and an estimated 26 per cent of GDP. It is these businesses that will find it the toughest to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, a fact that hasn’t passed Kiwis by. Like the ‘New Zealand Made Products’ example above proves, Kiwis are ready to vote with their dollars and support local. A welcome relief from the dominance of the big box retailers.
This shift doesn’t just benefit our economy, but in time will hopefully see the return of more local manufacturing which could lessen our reliance on goods imported from other areas of the world, such as China. As we saw in the early stages of the pandemic, this singular supply strategy poses a real risk to the access of critical goods, forcing a call for the diversification of supply lines.
The future of socialising
Thinking ahead to when all restrictions are lifted, there is going to be an eating out and events boom, of course. But perhaps, with our new perspective on community, street parties and local gatherings will also become an essential part of our social calendars. However, we chose to celebrate; it is going to be one heck of a party.
What is less clear, is if our newfound dependence on digital connection will be something we want to keep post lockdown. From the dinner parties to the quiz nights and poker games, we haven’t just been connecting with those nearby, but across the world. Lockdown has seen us spending more time with the people we love, not just the ones we can head to the pub with. It’s hard to believe we will give that up quickly.
Time to tick off that New Zealand bucket list
Before COVID-19 hit, millions of tourists would visit New Zealand every year to enjoy our stunning country. Yet many Kiwis haven’t explored their backyard and all it has to offer. This is partly down to our love of overseas travel, but also the comparatively high costs of travelling around New Zealand.
With the tourism industry the hardest hit from the global shutdown, the businesses that rely on tourists for their livelihoods are going to need to look for ways to pivot to focus on the domestic tourism market for the foreseeable future. This will include reconsidering service offerings, experiences and pricing that is attainable for Kiwis. The upside is that we might all finally get a chance to tick off our New Zealand bucket list before we head off around the world again.
The tipping point for e-commerce
Online shopping is by no means a new trend, with the impacts of e-commerce felt on bricks and mortar stores for years. However, the COVID-19 restrictions have pushed our adoption of online shopping over the tipping point – forcing even the most sceptical amongst us to head online to get what we need. This change in behaviour is one that is likely to stick around. But this won’t just impact bricks and mortar stores, who will need to finally heed the calls to make the shopping experience precisely that – more of an experience. It will also require every retailer to consider how their digital experience stacks up against their competitors. Because the one thing consumers don’t have when shopping online is patience for a bad experience.
The shift back to self-reliance and a culture of less
The shock of sudden COVID-19 restrictions and the ensuing panic buying across our supermarkets left a lot of people feeling unprepared. Unlike many of our parents and grandparents who remember the impact of global shocks like the Great Depression and World War II, a lot of us have lost touch with the necessary skills for self-reliance. In a world dominated by convenience, knowledge such as how to grow your own produce, basic mending and repairs and bread baking have been lost for a lot of us. However, COVID-19 has provided quite the wakeup call, creating not only a rush on toilet paper but flour, yeast and vegetable, herb and fruit seedlings. This is a trend that is likely to continue, as households look for ways to recalibrate their spending.
This shift is also likely to give a significant boost to the existing trends of ‘waste-free living’ and a ‘minimalist lifestyle’. This move away from mass consumerism was already bubbling along, and the global pandemic will force more people to consider where their dollars are being spent. This does not mean that cheap goods win; in fact, it is about buying less, better quality items that will last. For businesses, this means a careful look at all aspects of your products, packaging and customer care to ensure consumers are choosing to spend with you and not your competitor.
The elephant in the room (and it’s a big one)
Climate change has seemingly been forced to take a backseat during the global pandemic, as we’ve needed to focus on more immediate challenges. However, as we’ve slowed down and headed indoors, nature has started to respond. And it is these tangible responses that have created headlines around the world, from fish in Venice’s canals to distant skylines visible for the first time in years.
As Jonathan Watts wrote for The Guardian, “For many experts, it is a glimpse of what the world might look like without fossil fuels. But hopes that humanity could emerge from this horror into a healthier, cleaner world will depend not on the short-term impact of the virus, but on the long-term political decisions made about what follows.”
And while it’s true that we need the right political decisions to be made, brands and businesses also have an essential part to play in ‘what next’. The temptation is to get the economy moving again at any cost, but the price could be more than we can sustain. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, named failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change as the key concern for the Forum’s network of business leaders, NGOs, academics and others. They placed it as the number one risk by impact and number two by likelihood over the next ten years.
Collectively, we have been given an opportunity to rebuild, and consumers are calling on both politicians and businesses to not just return to business as usual, but to restart our economy in a way that protects us now and in the future. That is the challenge.
There is no doubt that this unprecedented shared experience has changed us all; the question is, how will your business or brand respond to ‘what next’? And more importantly, how will you use your position in consumers’ lives to help the world adapt to a future that we can all be proud of? For more from our #YS_FutureCurious Series, check out – ‘The surprising ways that staying home is reshaping the media landscape’ or ‘Why curiosity is the antidote to today’s uncertain times’.
This piece was co-written by Claire Backhouse and Anne Boothroyd.
Claire has over 17 years of international strategic marketing and campaign planning experience, both client and agency side. She has worked on brands such as Red Bull, Universal Pictures, Sony PlayStation, Cadbury and Air New Zealand.
Anne is Creative Director at YoungShand. She has 17 years of experience working across some of New Zealand’s most iconic brands and creating work that has been recognised globally for its creativity and effectiveness.
TechApr 30, 2020
Why a culture of innovation helps your business respond to moments of crisis
When the need for something becomes essential, we are forced to find ways of achieving it.