The four horsemen coming from the apocalypse

Do you remember that scene from Austin Powers? That scene has been playing out in my head as we slowly emerge from the clutches of the pandemic and head into the next great unknown. It’s very clear that recovery will look like a good old recession but one the likes of which we’ve never had to deal with before. Whatever the truth is of what’s to come it won’t be a normal recovery — mostly because we’ve had enough time to adjust to living with a pandemic. Our habits have changed. What was unthinkable in January is now normal.

Along with the massive disruption to our lives are incredible opportunities to build upon for businesses. We have the chance to accelerate the rules of business, build new revenue streams and deepen relationships with customers like never before.

For 100 days we’ve had time to reflect and prepare for the coming recession. Stopping the economy dead in its tracks will have some serious consequences as we slowly open up to the new normal. This will be a world that has not conquered the virus yet. We can’t wait for that to happen so we’ll all have to make adjustments to the way we operate.

The four massive adjustments that will come out of our COVID-19 start to 2020 are:

The Delivery Economy

Without a doubt this will have the largest impact on our recovery post-pandemic. Businesses that were on the fence about delivery must now operationalize and quickly. Consumer expectations, coupled with their unwillingness to go into a store, mean if you want to grow your business you must get good at delivery.

This is not limited to simply figuring out how to deliver existing product to existing customers. Take this time to think about new lines of business. New revenue streams. Some closed restaurants have started wine pairings by subscription, some have started selling prepared meals shipped to your door. Both of these can continue even when the restaurant is fully operational as entirely new earning opportunities.

It used to be that a customer had to come to your place of business to deepen the relationship but that has changed because the habit of delivery happened. How can your business extend offerings to core customers and have it arrive on their doorstep — bringing your relationship into their homes.

Appointment economy

Most services work in the appointment economy but given there will be restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate at any one time we’ll start needing a more sophisticated way to make appointments for our appointments. We won’t be able to arrive early for our appointments and that means fewer time slots, more delays and less revenue for those businesses.

This is a great way to right the wrongs of delays that typically happen at hair salons or dentists or doctors offices. Businesses are asking customers to wait in their cars until their appointment time and this is a great opportunity to surprise and delight those idling outside or, even better, to send a preparatory package to their customer prior to their appointment. In the case of a hair salon, they could send a sample size of shampoo and conditioner ahead of time so they can wash their own hair before arriving.

I think generally adhering to appointments will be a huge step forward for all of us — especially in family medicine and dentistry.

Video economy

Video used to be feared or make people uncomfortable but today has become a staple of our day. Zoom and Hangouts are the norm and we’ve learned to connect with friends, family and coworkers more as a result. This will not go away now that we are all set up to use the tools. Businesses large and small — from all industries — will need to look at how to incorporate video calls. It can help with triage, solve for limited gathering sizes or even in between appointment support.

There are so many service industry opportunities with video as business slowly ramps up. There are already live and canned music and cooking lessons available online but they aren’t often localized. Why not leverage some down time to do this. Teach online. Deepen the relationship and extend further into your customers life.

The Community economy

At no time has there ever been more of a community business focus. Support local has become a battle cry to help our restaurants and niche shops survive while the pandemic rages. More people will search for ways to help neighborhoods reopen by shopping and vacationing localy.

We are craving human interaction and while the convenience of online and delivery is indisputable, we all need to get out and be a part of the community. The crowds will come and the lines will grow outside of local businesses opening up several chances to make it a unique experience. Waiting in line or scheduling appointments for the gym or to buy a tent are not normal behaviours for us but they will be going forward. Local businesses need to create a differentiated experience outside and inside their stores in order to make the effort to show up worthwhile — all the while making sure they feel safe.

The best businesses will combine all 4 of these approaches. Doing this will create unforgettable interactions with their customers and deepen the relationships they’ve worked hard to start and maintain. In this brand new world of convenience every business needs to find a way to be more than just a physical incarnation of an online store. Personality, thoughtfulness and connection is at the core of the recovery. Do not take customers for granted. Put in the effort or fear the convenience of one-click purchases.