ICG IN THE MEDIA: What Are the Emerging Customer Needs Post COVID-19?

Customer Experience Magazine


Stephen Hewett

Research shows that today’s wants become tomorrow’s needs.

Great organisations respond by thinking strategically about emerging needs. What your customers need from your business may be dramatically different from a few weeks ago.

This applies to both B2B and B2C and across industries. In this post we’ll discuss emerging needs post COVID-19, highlight examples of how organisations are responding to these needs, and provide 8 tips for getting started to determine emerging customer needs for your company

What is the difference between a need and a want?

.Before we continue, it is important to have a common understanding of the terminology. We define a need as something that must be there or else the experience, service or product is failing. A want is something customers may notice, positively comment on, and may pay extra for, or invest time in.

Usually it takes time for needs to evolve, but once in a hundred-year events like COVID-19 cause needs to mutate rapidly. Emotions and needs are running high compared to regular periods. Customers will perceive different brands in different ways. This event will alter consumer motivations, expectations, and actions.

Our opportunity to delight, or disappoint our customers is greatest right now.

Take our quick on-line survey to find out how prepared you are to meet your customers’ emerging needs.

Emerging trends in consumers’ attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits

There probably aren’t any genuine new needs, but there may be new needs for your business.

For instance, infection control was always a need in hospitals, but it is a new need in a supermarket setting. Face masks were always part of equipment in a healthcare setting. Now, they are potentially required in supermarkets and on public transport.

The overriding emerging need is safety. Putting measures in place to protect people’s health is an emerging need no matter what type of business you run.

Going beyond the focus on health and safety, there are three other trends:

  • The balance between global and local supply chains has changed. Global supply chains are too extended and aren’t resilient to this type of event. There will be increased pressure to bring supply chains closer to home.
  • A virtual presence will be a higher priority because it offers the ability to go beyond the home.
  • Retail will become highly specialised where physical interaction is a genuine need and not a ‘nice to have’.

A recent study done by Accenture discovered that, “Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.” The study also noted that 55 percent of people will continue to make time with their family a priority post-pandemic. This will impact the way people spend their leisure time. DIY and entertainment will benefit from this consumer shift.

Be genuine

“With the right customer-centric attitude and an awareness of what people need right now, companies can emerge from this crisis having strengthened their relationships with customers. Give consumers your HEART during this difficult time. It will cultivate long-lasting goodwill with past customers and help ensure they will stay with you in the future.” Harvard Business Review

People will remember whether organisations genuinely tried to meet their needs, or the needs of the business. This will be a major driver of business in the future.

Price is always a major motivator. If a business can redesign their operating model to use lower costs (e.g. non-human assets) and then share that saving with the customer, they will keep more customers.

For example, if an organisation meets a need by offering the lowest price and does so by implementing changes such as installing self-service screens to place an order vs placing an order with a person, it generates a warm feeling on the part of the customer because that business has met their needs.

“On the other hand, there are businesses that profess to be worried about the needs of their customer but are just trying to generate business. The problem arises when businesses reduce costs but keep the extra margin”

If self-service screens are introduced, but the price of the food doesn’t come down then people will feel that the business was not genuinely concerned about meeting their needs.

Another example of a business that is demonstrating a genuine interest in meeting their customer’s needs is a music website in the UK promoting small bands and individual artists. They encourage their listeners to buy music on Fridays because all the money from the sales that day goes to the artists. That brand is genuinely being seen as supporting the artists. The artists love it because it’s helping them generate an income when they can’t play in the local pub. The customers love it because they are supporting the music they care about. This action is seen as a genuine sacrifice on the part of the brand. It sends the message, “We believe in the music we support.”

Eighty percent of people buy on price so it’s difficult to determine how long this effect will last. However, there will be a percentage of customers where this will continue to influence their buying preference.

The economy will have an enormous impact as well. We will be faced with more poverty and unemployment. It is important for businesses to genuinely meet the needs of this group of individuals without being insincere.

Actions you can take right now

Great organisations not only meet their customers’ needs but also deliver against the changed perspectives of their clients. Identify potential changes in customers’ journeys and the touchpoints that may be most important to customers in these unusual times. Understand, anticipate, and go above and beyond to fulfil customer needs.

Use this time now to:

  • Ensure that whatever pop-up model you’ve created is sustainable
  • Invest in your CX and UX – research customers to uncover the changes to customer needs and journeys
  • Leverage the right technology to stay ahead of your competitors – invest in building end-to-end, personalised digital strategies vs simply adapting your live events strategies to virtual ones.
  • Communicate messages focused on helping customers
  • Improve or expand on what you offer, driven by meeting needs and wants
  • Go through all the fixes teams wished they had time to do – stop putting band-aids on flawed products
  • Walk through a proper user-centred design process to make improvements
  • Service design your internal workers’ experiences

People are changing in ways they don’t realise

The impact of not meeting needs can be significant. Events like COVID-19 force people to change in ways they don’t realise. What we can be certain of is that our customers have changed their perspective on something, and possibly in very dramatic ways. Prepare for these changes. Get ahead of the curve.

Evaluate your customer data and forecast shifts in future wants and needs is a customer-centric way to anticipate the evolving needs of your customers. The best companies in the world will prepare NOW for how to meet the future needs of their customers.

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This article is a part of a two-piece series. Stay tuned for the next part on how to prepare for the emerging customer needs in post COVID-19 world.