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Founder and President of Ideas That Evoke, an influencer and social media agency focused on the beauty, lifestyle and luxury markets.
If I could describe 2021 in two words, it would be “cautious optimism.” The shift from hopeless to hopeful is one we’ve been waiting for since March 2020. Now, as people are getting vaccinated, a potential post-Covid era finds itself peeking (shyly) over the horizon, and businesses are eager to run toward it full-force.
While there’s no doubt the world is ready to adopt its newest normal, there are a few hard-learned lessons businesses should keep in mind even after Americans can answer: “Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?”
Digital & Remote Services
Even at the beginning of the pandemic, it was obvious that e-commerce trends we’d been observing for years were about to pick up speed. Now, since tasting the convenience of curbside pickup, contactless delivery and over-the-screen consultations, I doubt customers will want to go back to the way things were.
Although many entrepreneurs are anxious to get back to business as usual, revoking or fully failing to establish these vital offerings is a huge miss for those looking to stay competitive in the post-pandemic economy. Plus, in combination with new demand for in-person interactions (more on that later), businesses that keep alternative options available can meet all consumer needs despite varying levels of crowd comfort.
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Even in the agency space, we’ve observed the benefits of a hybrid digital-physical experience. While the last year of remote work posed new challenges for my team, it also allowed them to create their own ideal work environments, work while supporting their families and maximize overall productivity. Moving forward, both with customers and employees, I believe this flexible, have-it-both-ways environment is here to stay.
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Next, although Americans have been far from perfect in their virus-fighting efforts, this year has widely established a new sense of collective responsibility and compassion. For example, mask mandates and social distancing requirements (on top of the past year’s social justice momentum) have proven our dedication to taking care of one another.
This commitment to our fellow Americans, plus the unprecedented (yes, that word again) excitement to socialize in person, make it all the more important for businesses to establish meaningful interactions on both company and customer levels.
In my experience, our society as a whole has moved to reflect and live more intentionally through the pandemic. Now, businesses can expect consumers to not just purchase but consciously choose brands as an integral part of their identities. Passive buyer-seller relationships are a thing of the past. Instead, it’s time to make your company the space to connect over core values (either through an always-on digital hub or regular, physical gatherings) as well as foster true camaraderie across the board.
A huge piece of my own company’s success throughout the pandemic can be linked directly to encouraging and guiding our clients to adapt and grow in intentional ways. By taking a page from our own book, we have successfully won multiple new contracts over the past year, and therefore have made even greater strides for our clients, new and old.
Return to the Luxuries That Signify Normalcy & Hope
Finally, the change business owners seem to be focusing on most is the return to pre-Covid habits — some of which we now think about as unexpected luxuries. Consider all of the things that were once commonplace that now seem otherworldly. For beauty brands like L’Oréal, it’s the opportunity to
wear lipstick again. For outfitters, it’s the reemergence of fashion for style, not just functionality. For hotels, it’s the long-overdue rise of travel and tourism.
Obviously, we should expect a slow roll back to a true “normal.” However, as vaccine accessibility and optimism rises, so does consumers’ eagerness to get out and experience all that Covid-19 kept from them this last year. Retailers should seek opportunity based on consumers’ pent-up desire to travel (even if just to the local storefront) and socialize.
Whether it’s planning customer appreciation events, turning a sale into a social outing or simply inviting your audience to re-meet your brand (after all, we’re all a bit different after this past year), the coming season is a chance to show all that we’ve learned in 2020 and where we can grow in 2021.
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Author: Kelly Ehlers, Forbes Councils Member