Embracing the New Normal: How Disruptions Can Lead to Innovation

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April 22, 2020
Kirsten Squires Kirsten Squires

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, possibly forever. It’s up to us to decide what to do moving forward.

When is the least ideal time to buy a car? During a pandemic, when uncertainties abound and social distancing is the norm? I would’ve said yes...before I had to do it myself. Yet when my old car bit the dust and I found myself unexpectedly in the market for a new one during Houston’s Stay at Home order, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience.

All my worries were alleviated by dealerships that had nimbly stepped up to the plate and adjusted their business practices to fit with the new normal wrought by COVID-19. Finding car options was simple. Most had listed them on larger third-party websites such as Auto Trader. Seeing the cars up close and personal at a time when we’re encouraged to keep our distance? Many offered to send detailed videos. Test drives? We were sent off on our own. One place even offered to bring the car to my house so I wouldn’t have to venture out.


Of course, I knew they were hustling because times are tough. But I admired their innovation and how swiftly they were able to adapt to their new circumstances. We’ve seen it with almost every business: restaurants are offering family packs and even staple groceries; offices have workers scattered across the city. All of this flux has us wondering what the new normal will be once the pandemic is over and restrictions have lifted. How will we adapt? In this week’s blog, we contemplate what we think will change and—more importantly—what we think should change.


Predicting the New Normal

There’s no doubt that life will be a little different, at least for the foreseeable future. How many of these modifications will stick around for the long haul? In our lifetime, disasters, technology, and human behavior have all led to small, steady changes in the way consumers live and shop. But COVID-19 has resulted in a much more drastic shift. Now is the time to take a step back and assess what you’re doing to decide if your current approach will work moving forward.

An example: one of our clients who works in the residential construction industry has experienced a shift due to Stay at Home orders. While we’re seeing a steady influx of clicks to the website, conversions have gone down, presumably over either fear of face-to-face contact or uncertainty about the economy making them afraid to pull the trigger. Instead of lying down and accepting this fate, we decided to shift our strategy. With the understanding that many people are choosing to be more cautious with spending, we adjusted our messaging to highlight the company’s financing offer.

Great marketers understand this necessity:
as pain points and concerns shift, so must our messaging and tactics.


Evolve or Die

Life is good when things are going well. Businesses experience smooth operations. The problem lies in complacency: without obstacles or adversity, we sometimes lose motivation to push ourselves to grow, resulting in stagnation.


Are companies like Marshalls/Home Goods kicking themselves right now for not having developed a more robust online presence? Is Neiman Marcus, poised to file for bankruptcy, regretting not making smarter business decisions in the past? The COVID-19 shutdown has put our choices under a microscope, forcing us to confront consequences, for better or for worse.

Hindsight is 20/20, as we know. But we can use this time as a teaching moment to do better in the future. While we all want to get back to business as usual, let’s pause and consider what “usual” is—and how we can adjust our thinking to improve on “usual.”


Adjusting for Success

The current crisis has served as a reminder—more like a smack in the head—that life will always surprise us. Businesses that accept this reality and are open to being flexible will see much more success in the days to come. Remember, we’re all in this together, and we can look at this as a setback or we can be optimistic about a future of possibilities. Here’s where we suggest starting.

Assess your current business model

What unexpected challenges have presented themselves during this crisis? We mentioned Home Goods earlier. They’re likely doing some soul searching about the future and whether it’s feasible to remain offline. (Side note: we 100% recommend that ALL businesses have a user-friendly online presence.)

Of the challenges you’ve encountered, have you been able to shift nimbly to overcome them? If you haven’t, it’s time to broaden your perspective and embrace new possibilities.

2: Decide how you would like to adjust, long-term, to be better prepared for the changing future
Even if your business has been able to weather the storm relatively well, you may be thinking of ways you can strengthen your operations to be prepared for future shifts. Maybe your priorities have changed, or maybe you’re seeing things in a new light.

3: Use what you have at your disposal to create
Though some restrictions are starting to be lifted, it will likely take time for consumers and buying habits to return to normal. This is expected, and it will be okay because you have your new plan. You may not have all your resources at the moment, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. How you play this hand will determine your success. Be smart and use the tools you have now to take action on your new adjusted plans.

Learn by Example:

How Companies Have Already Adjusted

Let’s use car buying as an example. We can break down the shift like this:
Old Way
New Way
Went to the dealership Went online
In-person vehicle tour Virtual videos showing car features
Test drive with a salesperson Test drive from the comfort of your home with the vehicle delivered

Sure, some of these shifts were slowly evolving already thanks to technology. But COVID-19 has fast-forwarded our need to account for changing consumer behavior, putting our ability to pivot to the test.

Like every other business, at Adhere we’ve had our own roadblocks to move past thanks to COVID-19. Yet we also recognize that we work in an industry that is constantly evolving, necessitating the ability to be nimble and quick to adapt. In fact, we believe in this so strongly that it’s become part of the Adhere way of being on POINT.

In our case, we’ve been prepping a marketing campaign on case study videos, which we were set to unveil this month. Then came coronavirus. With people choosing to forgo face-to-face interactions, we decided to pause the campaign for now. Our leadership team reflected and saw a huge opportunity to expand our product-focused video capabilities. Now, we’ve begun generating leads to attract those types of clients for ourselves.

We’re not suggesting you change your entire business model. Rather, we want to stress the importance of staying aware of your audience’s needs. It’s this type of forward-thinking that will help keep you afloat in this ever-evolving marketing landscape.


Rise to the Challenge

Let’s not mince words: the COVID-19 situation sucks. But humans have proven time and again that we are inherently resilient. Remember that adversity is often the catalyst for great success. Challenges can shine a light on where you were lacking before. Embrace them and find a better way to overcome, and your company will come out of this experience stronger than you were before.


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