Covid transformation. What to expect? - Irina Khomutova, Khomutova & Partners

Covid transformation. What to expect?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the world has changed. Simultaneously with systemic shifts in the economy, there is a significant transformation in society, which is a consequence of a change in the perception of each member of the surrounding reality. Despite all the seeming versatility of such reactions, all of them with some certainty can be entered into the psychological model of the five stages of acceptance, proposed back in 1969 by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her studies of the near-death experiences of patients - taking into account its subsequent refinement in the part that a person goes through these stages of acceptance not only when faced with the fear of death, but also in the face of any existential threat. Five sequential stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In essence, the acceptance stage is a defense mechanism that helps a person psychologically adapt to change. If you look closely at the stages that have already been passed since the beginning of the pandemic, you can fairly accurately predict the timing of the transition to the final stage of adoption, accompanied by a positive search for opportunities, adaptation to a new reality and personality change in general.

Spring 2020 was accompanied by the theses characteristic of the first stage of denial: “world conspiracy”, “politics”, “the media just aggravates the situation”, “it won't touch me”, “none of my acquaintances is sick”, “masks are useless”. The news caused shock and complete rejection. By the summer, the stage of denial was replaced by anger and the search for the guilty. Accusations were heard from different sides that the restrictions are illegal, the state does not help, there are no masks and national medicine is not ready. Together with anger, people experienced fear, since no one had previously thought about deadly viruses. Consciousness was captured by the negative.

Following denial and anger, society moved to the stage of bargaining, accompanied by active measures to correct the situation: the purchase of the most effective masks and screens, compliance social distance. The vaccination program launched in various countries has been met with great enthusiasm. The community is encouraged by its first victories, and everyone is looking forward to the early completion of this story. What's next?

As soon as the stage of bargaining is over, along with the feeling of the achieved success, the optimism that temporarily gripped the society will go away. 2020 is over, and epidemiological activities will continue. There is no objective reason to expect that the coronavirus epidemic will end with the beginning of the new year. At the same time, will mass vaccination radically change the situation? Certainly. But given the capacity of enterprises producing vaccines, there is no need to wait for the emergence of herd immunity and the end of the pandemic before the end of this year, even taking into account imports from countries where vaccines are manufactured under license. Is it possible to strengthen quarantine measures in 2021? Yes, absolutely. Moreover, if the epidemic reaches its next peak and the health care system ceases to cope, the neuroticization of society will be so great that it itself will require everyone to be locked up.

So, the protracted measures and the periodically worsening situation will gradually plunge society into depression, which will be characterized by regret about the past, helplessness, a feeling of loneliness, irritability and a desire to retire: there will be no help from the state, there will be no waiting time for vaccination, all the same get sick, we are all mortal, you can remove the protection, etc. - all restrictions are meaningless.

What new challenges and tasks will the business face at this stage? This will be a difficult period with a general decline in business activity. The task of the business at this time is to demonstrate to the audience its adaptability to new conditions, to offer clear and comfortable solutions, to broadcast confident positivity and support. The consumer market will stop regretting the past way of life and habits if you formulate current values, fill communications with other meanings, use the opportunities that have arisen and propose new formats.

Reloading the sales and communications strategy

Society, of course, is still experiencing resistance and is not ready to fully integrate into the new reality, but this is a matter of time. We entered 2021 with challenges that we have yet to find solutions to, however, in order to avoid inconsistency with the changed value system of the audience, the business needs to turn on critical thinking and learn to look at the world through the eyes of its customers, taking into account new mental barriers and the natural change curve. the reaction of a society going through the stage of accepting the inevitable.

Now is the time to reboot and prepare for the inevitable transformation. Those companies that will be able to break out of psychological traps and the expectation of the return of previous conditions will find solutions and provide customers of the new formation with exactly the product and services that will fit into the changed consumer scenarios. For this, it is important to take into account the factors that contribute to the formation of a competitive offer in the face of uncertainty and the evolving mentality of the digital consumer:

  • Development of scenarios of behavior at each point of contact and empathic mapping of changes in archetypal models will help to see the transformation of purchasing behavior and build a customer-centric ecosystem, including product, service, marketing and sales, eliminating the risks of losing loyalty to a changed audience;
  • Adapting companies to changing consumer scenarios in the face of uncertainty will help keep the proposed solutions relevant;
  • The introduction of digital technologies into the design of interaction with customers will provide omnichannel communications with the audience. As we design the buyer-seller relationship of the future, artificial intelligence will become a key success factor and empower businesses to communicate effectively with the digital consumer.

The role of business

The role of business is changing. In the face of uncertainty faced by the market, rethinking and deep understanding of new consumer behavior scenarios becomes the main reference point in making many decisions and understanding the new role. The traditional buyer-seller relationship is no longer sufficient for the audience. Society expects support, complex communications and interaction appropriate to the situation. It is important to note that business has already demonstrated its adaptability, and in this sense, I am close to the position of Andrew Winston, mentioned in his Harvard Business Review article "How the role of business has changed in 2020".

Affordable online services, introduced in almost all spheres of life, are gradually compensating for the lack of live communication. In conditions of restrictions and potential danger, more and more preference is given to places free of people. Of course, the issue of the speed of society's transition to full recognition of the changed reality directly depends on the success of the epidemiological measures taken and the international information field in relation to this problem; time.

The pandemic has turned the consumer market upside down by changing habits, values, expectations, barriers, opportunities and lifestyles. We are dealing with a rapidly evolving digital generation of users of a wide variety of services, which, in the context of epidemiological constraints around the world and the massively developing COVID-hypochondria, is acquiring new forms and dimensions. According to the latest research, up to 50% of millennials are already choosing remote service formats - without sellers or other customers. What will these percentages be by the end of 2021? Will it be sixty or seventy? While this is difficult to predict, we know for sure that the pandemic has served as a catalyst. Once the behavioral scenarios are completely changed, there is no turning back.

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