“Hope is the dream of a waking man.” — Aristotle
We are experiencing a paradigm shift on the game board for brands and businesses where digital transformation has been established as the fundamental basis for future survival and growth.
Our lives have changed so rapidly over the past few months as a result of COVID-19’s rise to pandemic status that we can almost say for sure nothing will ever be the same again. While the world shifts gear and we find ourselves isolated in our homes in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, many businesses are organizing their own coronavirus task forces as they think about the future of their firms and how they can maintain their relationships with their clients and audiences. This is not the time to stand still!
Rethinking the business model with a digital component is no longer an option but a clear necessity for survival and, why not? growth.
The new consumer habits that derive from the quarantine, the new government regulations and the unavoidable digital preeminence will be the catalysts that may accelerate new business models with digital experiences as the key pillars of the relationship with clients. Technology investments will play an essential role, with every click offering improved shopping experiences.
This global crisis has been a powerful accelerator of already existing trends and a generator of changes that were unthinkable not so long ago. This situation has somehow proven to be a great democratizer. Phrases like “we are all in this together” or “from this, we will go forward together” are messages coined as if they were slogans of powerful global brands. A new model has been imposed; one more inclusive and collaborative. The importance of having purpose, engagement, and recognizing the value of experiences (now digital) as well as of a sharing economy (access rather than ownership), are not new, but have become more relevant in the current context.
In short, those companies that rapidly convert and adopt digital components in both the shopping experience they offer customers and in their understanding of the new consumer behaviors will endure and thrive.
Where’s the party? Let’s travel!
Airbnb, the giant who led a new paradigm in the travel sector after the 2008 crisis, was one of the first ones to include “experiences” as a way to continue to differentiate itself from the other travel services providers. Today, it has shown agility to adapt as it began to offer digital experiences such as tango classes in Buenos Aires, wine tastings in Portugal, goats rescues in the Balkans, or virtual bike racing with Olympic champions in France. Other brands such as Stella Artois, and Quilmes created campaigns to allow customers to buy restaurant vouchers to be used when businesses reopen. New ideas abound, such as the virtual exploration platform of Abu Dhabi, known as #StayCurious, which gives a 360-degree interactive experience. Pacha in Ibiza organized virtual parties with thousands of participants. Meanwhile, hotel chains strive to keep the conversation alive by sending their customers’ exclusive virtual experiences in order to remain relevant when the world re-opens.
The speed of the small ones: SMEs
Some restaurants like Milanezza in Miami have become digital markets to offer their customers everything they purchased from their usual suppliers, from fruits and vegetables to rolls of kitchen towels. Others have created online communities, offering cooking classes or packing flour for sale instead of baking and selling bread.
The technologies that once enabled virtual reality and augmented reality experiences will create additional sources of revenue while generating new shopping experiences by incorporating the physical delivery of exclusive products. Thus, many will be able to “enjoy” dinner at Michelin restaurants such as Sublimotion in Ibiza or La Tour D’ Argent in Paris. These initiatives will amplify their customer base exponentially. Just as perfumes allowed more customers to have access to a luxury brand, these new digital experiences will take customers to new levels.
In Part II, we’ll look at some other businesses that have made the paradigm shift work for them and what it means for our present and future.
[Claudia Gioia-Wencenblat and Silvina Rodriguez Picaro collaborated on this article.]