Weathering the storm isn’t enough: The trillion dollar post-COVID question

Executive Director & Partner

Business leaders are now re-evaluating the impact of Covid-19 on their organizations and looking to what’s next.

Many had unforeseen success as digital platforms became critical and consumer behavior underwent a massive shift, driving increased demand for their products and services. Yet those brands more dependent on in-person interactions suffered heavily. Boom or bust was a question of timing; success may be short-lived while brands that stumbled still have time to chart a path back.

Tucker Fort, Partner at Smart Design was recently featured on Michelle Greenwald’s podcast ‘Catalyzing Innovation’ about the innovation journey. Listen to Episode 2 and read his follow-on thoughts about how brands need to approach innovation for post-Covid consumer behavior.

Episode 2

Catalyzing Innovation

Michelle Greenwald speaks with Tucker Fort

Episode 2

Catalyzing Innovation

Michelle Greenwald speaks with Tucker Fort

Companies experienced the changes deeply and in real time.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to massive disruptions in all our lives, and major changes in consumer behavior on a scale rarely seen in modern history. Across regions, cultures, income levels and demographic groups, we are all doing things very differently — which has significant implications for businesses, especially in innovation.
Organizations are experiencing the changes deeply and in real time. Few brands were spared from upheaval. There continue to be winners and losers: e-commerce has boomed, while many big-name retailers have gone bust. Videoconferencing has surged, as have sales of legacy food brands (think canned soup and boxed macaroni and cheese), as homebound families and individuals alike have turned to packaged products for comfort and convenience. Airlines are muddling through and ridesharing companies have slumped. Meanwhile home rental platforms initially faltered but have recently come back strong, as remote work empties urban centers.
The challenge now is for companies to figure out which of these changes in consumer behavior will remain relevant, and which are likely to disappear. The New York Times reports that consumers are sitting on a trillion-dollar mountain of cash. Will they spend it on frozen pizzas, puzzles, sweat pants, gardening tools and home improvement projects, as they did under stay-at-home orders? Or will they splurge on fine dining, a villa in Tuscany or a new wardrobe?
An equally important question: how will brands avoid becoming a cautionary tale in the post-Covid world by converting these shifts in consumer behavior into sustained growth?
One of the many valuable lessons learned over the past year was the rate of adoption of emerging technology across all demographics. Seven-year-olds are just as comfortable with videoconferencing as their grandparents are using QR codes. Is this the shape of things to come, or simply a matter of brands being in the right place at the right time?  
Clearly, the ground is shifting so quickly that as we come out of the Covid crisis, it’s nearly impossible to accurately forecast how open people will be to trying new offerings, or whether they will simply retreat to the familiar, or perhaps a combination of both. With such looming uncertainties, brand leaders must keep the following in mind:

Make a commitment to innovation

It’s not enough to simply weather (or ignore) the storm. Companies that wait likely won’t survive. Maintain your focus on innovation with investments now in order to reimagine your products and services. Even if your company is currently dealing with short-term problems such as supply chain disruptions or Covid restrictions.

Speed up experimentation

If consumers continue to embrace new behaviors, be prepared by accelerating pilot projects to get things out the door faster, even if they are not fully developed. Especially now, progress is more important than perfection.

Create a flexible ecosystem

An ecosystem of complementary products and services is not a single vision of the future, but rather a living roadmap that can be altered over time. It allows you to mix and reconfigure offerings as both market conditions and competition evolve.
Regardless of how your brand fared during the pandemic, the transition to a post-Covid economy will likely be equally challenging. There are incredible opportunities opening up in every sector, and therefore good reason to be optimistic and excited about the future.

Let’s design a smarter world together