Bernard May is the CEO of National Positions, a 5-time Inc. 500 company, award-winning marketing agency and Google Premier Partner.
As Covid-19 vaccines reach more and more people, one question remains: What’s next?
More specifically, for us marketers, what’s next when it comes to business and customers in a post-pandemic world?
The way most companies operate (including my own) has been impacted by the pandemic, and there is an unending thirst to get back to “business as usual.” But after such a prolonged shift in consumer behavior, it seems unlikely that a simple flip of a switch will all of a sudden undo what has transpired over the last 18 or so months.
Perspectives have changed, habits have changed and (understandably) our needs have changed.
So, with all of this in mind, let’s put on some forward-thinking glasses and check out some post-pandemic places to keep an eye on as things continue to shift yet again.
For most of us, staying distanced, separated and divided from our pre-pandemic routines has finally become the norm, and the thought of doing and having access to more “things” might give us pause. We learned very quickly that we could purchase almost anything we wanted online and have it delivered in record time.
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However, one aspect of life that the digital world can not replace is the daily experience of interacting with our families and communities — or even solo outings to the theatre. I see experiences of all kinds — from escape rooms to walking tours — making a huge comeback over the next year.
In short, even if you are not in the “experience industry,” take a deep dive into how you can provide better experiences for your customers and prospects alike. Because after the past year, we are all going to value the experience more than ever before — even in the customer journey.
Travel and Vacations
I’m putting vacation and travel-based activities in their own category separate from day-to-day experiences. The travel industry is a whole other ball of wax.
Who doesn’t want to book a vacation and leave the past year behind? Consider the restrictions put on theme parks, cruises, tours and flights. The world is itching to (safely) plan that next vacation. With heavy hitters like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood having opened in April, the light may be starting to shine on those ready to lock in those travel plans.
While I 100% expect travel to be primed for re-establishment and growth this year, we know from history that things like airline prices are going to be fluctuating wildly, which may fuel more staycations than in previous years. Keep your eyes peeled as cities once again become destinations and theme park churros become readily available!
Out of convenience, word count, and keeping your busy schedule in mind, I’m housing everything “online” under the umbrella of e-commerce. On one hand, there is no disputing that after a year of e-commerce growth, and more customers using the likes of Amazon, that a large portion of this activity will remain online.
While this is not music to the ears of traditional retail locations, it has also shifted the entrepreneurial spirit to focus their efforts online — a lower-cost option with far fewer barriers to entry for small businesses.
During the pandemic, many businesses moved their operations completely online due to stay-at-home orders (and to save on costs), and those that have found success may not be so quick to rejoin the retail space. A notable 64% of small businesses surveyed said that the changes they made to their businesses using e-commerce and social media to adapt in 2020 will continue in 2021.
So, expect that most brands that can function with lower costs online will dig their heels in for the long haul.
Hybrid Workplaces and Remote Working
Let’s pause for a moment on predictions as they pertain to customer habits and turn our attention on the workplace.
The workplace as we know it has been disrupted. And, in many ways, for the better.
Truth be told, many businesses around the world had adopted remote working arrangements long before the pandemic. So, in essence, 2020 just expedited this already-growing trend. Even my agency has gone fully remote with plans to adopt a hybrid model in the near future. The silver lining? Our team has gone nationwide.
Businesses of all kinds have realized that they can function remotely and will continue to leverage the flexibility of remote working. Not to mention that remote working also allows agencies like ours to hire new talent regardless of their geography.
All of this being said, I expect that the majority of businesses — at least those that are able to retain a remote working or hybrid model for their teams — will continue to do so in the future.
Preventive Health and Fitness
I might just be personally hopeful, but I think we’ll see a renewed interest in feeling rejuvenated and taking control of our health. Between unending medical news, not to mention the more sedentary lifestyle many of us have found ourselves adopting, expect to see more customers ready to sweat. But just getting back to the gym may not be on everyone’s 2021 to-do list. Simply being more attentive to the benefits of different dietary regimens and general preventive health measures will not go unnoticed.
With such a prolonged “season of self-reflection,” I expect to see consumers wanting to come out of this pandemic with a new, healthier approach to life. Let us not forget that being healthy also extends to our mental states, so expect to see a renewed focus on lower stress levels.
All in all, the only way to look is forward. As they say, “all that looking backwards will mess up your neck.” In business, both as professionals and as consumers, the world has shifted around us and it is our focus to ride the waves rather than attempt to control the tides.
While there are many more predictions to come, these are a few I am excited to see unfold and evolve throughout 2021 and beyond.
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Author: Bernard May, Forbes Councils Member