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The Key To Better Business Continuity Planning? Habits

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Matt Wujciak
08/20/2020

“The adoption or adaption of existing technologies, depending upon how you look at it was thrown three to five years in the future…” WSJ and NYT bestselling customer experience author, Shep Hyken recently told me. 

In the era of Uber Eats, Apple Pay, and Zoom, modern consumers are finding themselves in an exponentially changing environment, adopting new communication and purchasing behaviors as a result of shifting societal norms, while brands do their best to adjust business continuity accordingly. Many of these trends will become more permanent. Many won’t. The way to find out which trends will stick and which won’t in order to create a better business continuity plan is to identify the pandemic’s real impact on habits. (You’ll see what I mean shortly). 

Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a “new normal”

A study on habit formation suggests that the average time for a new habit to form is 66 days, with a minimum of 21 days, according to the Harvard Business Review. The duration of the pandemic has more than doubled those 66 days thus far. While many habits have been engraved in our daily lives, it’s important to understand why in determining what’s here to stay and what’s not. 

Read More: Special Report: Emerging Customer Experience Trends And Technologies - Finance And Insurance

Many behavioral shifts for brands and consumers in response to the pandemic were driven by either fear of infection or compliance with government regulations. Habits that were brought about by fear of infection or compliance will eventually die down. 

(Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a new normal). However, habits that were accompanied by greater convenience for a brand or consumer such as online shopping, digital communication, subscription services, a need for better customer experiences, and many more, will continue to grow over time. By understanding habit-driven outcomes and the COVID-19 era’s impact, organizations can plan future business continuity more effectively.  

For example, an analysis showed that the recent drop-off in cinema attendance occurred before theaters were shut down in the United States as a result of the pandemic.

Consumers were already exchanging trips to the movie theaters for streaming services and binge watching habits. This, combined with an existing trend of declining attendance, suggested that the shift was consumer-driven and perhaps likely to persist in the absence of innovation. 

Looking at a list of retailers that primarily operate(d) under a brick-and-mortar infrastructure, and filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic - Lord & Taylor, J.Crew, J.C. Penny, Brooks Brothers, as well as a countless number of malls across the world. Many were headed in that direction already.

The pandemic was the nail in the coffin for laggards that didn’t have a strong enough digital presence – the digital presence being the make-or-break trend that was becoming increasingly important before the pandemic. In other words, those who didn’t tap into the online habits of consumers were struggling before a pandemic, and crashing during one.

Read More: Has The Pandmeic Made Subscriptions The New Common Currency? Ask Walmart Or Amazon

Live sports attendance, concerts, and business exchanges/gatherings, in contrast, declined only when in-person events were officially canceled, suggesting a stronger possibility of a behavioral rebound. Trends that have emerged during the pandemic are either a result of fear of infection/compliance with regulations, such as in-person events (which will eventually grow again), or expedited outcomes for dying operations, such as movie theatres (which won’t). 

Behind the numbers

Together, these factors explain why, in a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, 63% said the Covid-19 crisis would accelerate their technological investment despite financial pressures (back in May). Only 6% said it would slow it down. But to make a difference, those IT investments should focus on specific business-model innovations to progress, rather than increase the use of digital technologies for the sake of sustainability. As technology advances at an unprecedented and exponential rate, brands that focus on “maintaining” become laggards. 

According to CCW Digital June Market Study, when we asked respondents: how important are the following objectives, considering their existing and future AI investments. 64% responded to collecting more insight / understanding customer intent in the “Extremely” category. Brands (and entire industries) that were slow to prioritize the right technologies, metrics, and processes experienced negative and expedited outcomes while pioneers will eventually innovate and grow back stronger.  

Read More: How-to Guide: How To Create A 360 Degree Customer View

Business continuity planning may be psychologically hard to do during a crisis, when cash flows are stressed, but now is precisely the time to take a few well-considered risks. Research shows that the most successful companies not only invest more than their peers in new opportunities but also put their eggs in fewer baskets, devoting more than 90% of net spending to segments with higher growth and returns. Putting eggs in fewer baskets can apply to technology investments. But it can also be customers, focusing on retention over costly acquisition (and the new sales and marketing efforts involved in acquiring new customers). Of course, investing in the right technologies and retaining the right customers (with higher customer lifetime value) are two sides of the same coin.   

“When you start to understand what these customers are worth, it makes a lot of sense to invest in the right places to scale out your services,” as Shep says. 

This is a time when the world is vulnerable, where every person and organization is adapting to life with a live virus in their midst, where no one is operating from a best-in-class pandemic playbook to survive modern financial Darwinism. Brands, including marketers and customer experience departments must become the very people they’re trying to reach. This means that among innovation, compliance, time and technology, humanity must become the greatest application. 

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For media coverage, lead gen, and digital marketing inquiries, (or to say hi), contact me at matt.wujciak@customermanagementpractice.com, or connect with me on Linkedin at Matt Wujciak.

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