“The world will be different after this epidemic. Those businesses will flourish that will understand the challenges of the times better.”
Let’s face it. The economy is already in trouble. The world of business is not going to be an easy place to operate. Businesses that don't have strong reserves yet, like small and medium businesses and startups funded by investors are going to feel the heat the most. A lot of them will be forced to down their shutters either because of the economy or investors or just low demand, and with it a lot of jobs will be lost. With people dealing with constrained resourced and generally low sentiment, making them spend is not going to be same as before. If you are expecting that everything will just bounce back to normal, think again. We have to get ready for the ‘new normal’.
So what is likely to be the ‘new normal’ for our consumers:
1. Essentials before everything:
During these times of uncertainty, feeding the family healthy meals and ensuring health is going to be a priority. People are going to prioritize monies for rent, education and EMI over everything else. Credit card swiping is going to be primarily for essentials.
2. Save more for family
People are likely to save money for a rainy day than splurge on non-essential items. Given the evolving situation and uncertainty of the times we live in, people are going to be conservative with their spending.
3. Feel for the hapless, but not able to do much
People are likely to be emotionally impacted by the plight of the under-privileged. It will become eminent that there are lot of poor people who are likely to struggle for basic necessities and even die. Even though the average person would like to help but would feel helpless in having to prioritize their own near and dear ones.
There 3 key things that will determine how a business is able to sustain itself and survive in these trying times.
1. Mindset – evolve or die
Darwin’s theory applies as much to business as it applies to living species in general. Businesses, small or large, are only a reflection of what consumer’s need or want. If consumers are changing their ways and becoming more survivalist mindset, businesses need to do the same. Businesses are as good as people who patronize it. Let’s try and understand this with an example. So if you were the local patisserie, and you still continue to make the same delicacies that people were so fond of before, then you are missing the point. Your demand for such products which are definitely non-essentials is likely to take a hit. So either you can be ready for that change or suffer losses on the face of changing priorities of customers. One of the ways is to know that ‘breads’ are going to be in more demand because it is more of an essential item. You can definitely re-orient yourself to making breads now. Mind you, you are not out of the patisserie, but you are re-prioritizing what the consumer needs more right now. Obviously, that will keep your main business of patisserie in the reckoning for less often or special occasion indulgences.
2. Understand 'Now' needs
Understand this, if there was a premium for a more evolved service, then you better take a re-look at that approach. People are not going to be willing to dish out premium unless there is a substantial difference in quality for a similar or slightly higher price. So let us go back to the example of the patisserie. Just because you were a patronized patisserie before, and you are making breads now, does not mean you can ask for an exquisite premium now. Your reality is that the current patisserie business is going to take a hit. And the bread market is highly commoditized and competitive. So your move of making breads has to change the game for you, or it is going to be as bad a move as continuing to focus on the delicacies. What can you do? A few smart ways could be, pitch people that you are going to deliver fresh bakes every morning, it will be delivered to their society or home gates and it is going to cost the same as their current breads. Tell them you could even deliver eggs if they need, because you already have an egg supplier who is currently in trouble because of your and businesses like yours slowing down. And while you are doing that, tell them you are still making the same delicacies, but maybe only on placed orders and not off the shelf.
3. Empathy in action
It is very important at these times to humanize your business. What it means is that people and your customers feel that your business understands the hardships that people are going through and your are not out there to do just a transaction with them. And it is not in eloquent words but in real action. You will garner more acceptance and support if are able to demonstrate you are with the community at these times. Let’s go back to our patisserie example. While there are people who can afford to pay for your product, there are others who can’t. While you are reaching out to your existing customers you can always tell them that your business is aware that there are a lot of hungry people out there. That you have been trying to feed as many people a simple meal of bread and broth for free. But with their support of a small additional sum many more people can be fed. And if you update them daily how many more people have been fed because of their support, people will appreciate and patronize your business ever more. People in their hearts want to help and more often than not don’t know how to. Your humane gesture will humanize your business to other people, which is extremely hard to do at other times.
In summary, tough times may be here, but you are tough as well. It is not at all easy to run a fledgling business from ground up. So trust yourself and back yourself up. Because your ideas have only brought your business up till this point. Just be willing to change and see the world with more filters of reality. Keep your ears to the ground. Listen to the people you trust. And take professional advice where required. It is never late to ask for help. But do what needs to be done for the business to survive. Because that will give hope to the people who work with you. Because they also need to take care of their families. And you have a responsibility to help them. But most importantly, give your people and your customers HOPE. Because that is likely to be the biggest thing in short supply.