How Customer Experience Focused Businesses Can Work Through Coronavirus Pandemic
Whether you live in New York, Beijing or Kansas, there’s a contagious feeling in the air of uncertainty and anxiety going around. And it’s spreading fast. The announcements by Fortune 500 enterprises like MasterCard, Microsoft, Apple and United Airlines offer a reading on how COVID-19 is affecting consumer behavior and economic repercussions. And if you do enough digging, you can get a better sense than most on how this pandemic will unfold.
NYT's economic analysis
“These corporate bulletins — and what executives do in response — could determine how much economic damage the outbreak inflicts and whether a recession looms… If executives see a threat beyond the first three months of the year, they may pare planned investments and even start laying off workers… The stock-market plunge this week, the steepest since the financial crisis, suggests that investors are bracing for a lot more bad news,” the New York Times reported on February 28th (the beginning of the ongoing pandemic). 2 weeks later, we are watching these predictions come to fruition.
COVID-19 will most directly shape economic losses through supply chains, demand, and financial markets, affecting business investment, household consumption, and international trade. And it will do so both in traditional, textbook supply-and-demand ways and through the introduction of potentially large levels of uncertainty.
According to a report by NBC published on Tuesday, the number of people infected with the coronavirus has surpassed 114,000 worldwide. The Harvard Business Review predicts that we are about to enter the peak of the epidemic, and all the consumer behavioral and financial changes that entails.
But in times of existential dread and anxiety caused by behavioral economic backlash of the coronavirus, it’s never been a more imperative time to keep our wits about us. What do I mean by that? Remote working will soon be a long term norm for most businesses. (Google just asked all of its North America staff to work from home, according to the Financial Times).
But with great uncertainty, comes great opportunity. For customer-centric businesses upset about the drop in Q1 revenue, you will never get a better opportunity to invest in your organization’s future through digital solutions. Customers not walking through your door like they were in January? Enhance your CX knowledge by consuming specific media outlets. Can’t attend the live conference your team was going to this month? Attend a virtual one. Not getting the Marketing exposure you once were? Use the extra time to explore new media partners or analyst firms to increase your lead count.
The bottom line is, for the first time since the financial crisis in 2008, we’re seeing a radical shift in global economic behavior, including consumer psychology, new remote working standards, and drastically declining GDP. Don’t fall in the trap of mass hysteria. Use this time of uncertainty to find digital alternatives and invest in your businesses’ future.
As PYMNTS described, “the connected, digital economy — and the many players who enable business within and across the ecosystems that support it — is helping enterprises, workers and consumers continue to interact and do business, even as the virus continues to spread. Even if the way we all do business may be different in the short term — and, quite possibly, the long term.”
Doubling down on digital
In China, as a result of the coronavirus, digital content and the platforms that serve and create it are thriving, as people take to one of their many screens at home to ingest it. Gaming apps have surged in popularity in the country as people download video content. Museums are putting their exhibitions online for people who want to visit but are unable to currently. Educators at all levels (as in the U.S.), are putting coursework online.
Online sales have seen an uptick in China, and Alibaba reportedly added 10 new servers to accommodate the demand. Observers recall similarities to the SARS outbreak in 2003, which they say ignited China’s online retail sales, and expect a similar spike and continued upward surge.
Similar concepts are beginning to surface in the U.S.
Department store sales slid 3.6% in February and restaurants took a 6.4% hit, while spending on clothing dropped 1.7%.
Travel agents and airlines saw sales fall by 0.3% and 0.7% respectively – before the most severe travel restrictions, involving China kicked in.
In contrast, digital content and subscriptions services, such as Netflix, as one example, saw growth of 12.4% (and for good reason).
While Netflix's streaming platform is great, digital subscription outlets that provide (more productive) advisory analyst services and Marketing outreach like CCW Digital or PYMNTS are also seeing surges in demand for high-quality, consumable content, as executives take to their homes instead of airports to stay up-to-date on who is doing what and how best to reach them.
And consumers are increasingly taking to their screens at home to watch a variety of content, including some of the live events they might otherwise watch in person.
When we come out on the other side, the world may very well be a different place. And it will be the connected economy of digital innovators who will pave the way.