Getting Forward to New Normal
Retailers have been hit hard by COVID19. Foot traffic is down and online retailers are winning the game.
But that story is only partially true. Online retailers started winning the game long before COVID19 shuttered so many stores. Why would a customer drive to a physical store when they can hop on their phone, search through a huge selection of merchandise, find the best price on the running shoes they want, click the “buy” button, and have those shoes land on their doorstep within a day or two?
So many merchants are waiting for things to get “back to normal.” Others speak of a “new normal” as if anything new could possibly be normal.
Back to Normal
Will we ever get “back to normal?” Well, probably but not “back.” Life marches in one direction: forward.
When treatments, vaccines, or herd immunity allow, we’ll celebrate the reopening of bars and restaurants and retail stores, but working from home and shopping from home are here to stay.
Employers who invite workers to return to the office will hear, “If it’s all the same to you, boss, I’ve proven I can be productive from home. I’m going to skip those dangerous two hours-per-day on the expressway that I never got paid for.”
Some employers will think, “My team’s been producing great results. I’m going to get out of this expensive office lease, sell off all this furniture, and add the savings to the bottom line.
All this means more people working and shopping and attending classes from home, even after the virus threat has been dealt with.
Working from home and shopping from home are here to stay. Smart businesses will adapt to serve customers and employees at home in ways that big stores can’t. A big, online retailer won’t be able to build relationships with customers based on anything more than selection and price.
Your favorite shoe store will invite you to videoconference so you can tell a live expert about the kind of running you do, where your leg hurts, and what your style preferences are. Call in the morning so you can get a same-day appointment. When your doorbell rings, the store rep will be there with the three sets of shoes you want to try, in your size, and also in one size up and down.
Restaurants that have survived by expanding their take-out and delivery businesses will find that many of their customers still work at home, shop at home, and eat at home—even after the pandemic has been addressed.
Have you gotten used to having your groceries delivered yet? When COVID ends, will you skip joyfully off to find a space in the parking garage, hunt down what you want in the aisles, and then wait at the cash register? Why would you?
The New Normal
Unless you’re a dentist or a surgeon, many of your customers and colleagues will be working from home from now on. It’s far more efficient, better for the environment, and the old myths that nobody will work productively unless supervised have been shattered.
As you move forward and adapt to the rapid changes that have impacted us all, innovate ways to serve, feed, train, and educate people at home—and innovate ways to offer value in ways that giant retailers can’t.
The most damaging story we can get stuck in is the one about how the future will magically turn back into the past. Get forward to a new normal, not back. The future of business is “home economics.”