We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered the global business economy. There have been crises in the past where disruptive impact rippled through business commerce. In the last 100 years, the Great Depression, War World II, 9/11, and the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis come to mind. We now find ourselves in the midst of a crisis where the global economy, as we know it, or now correctly stated, as we knew it, was forced to flick the switch from on to off. An order of magnitude disruption unlike any other in modern history.
While governments and public health agencies wrestle with containment, mitigation, therapeutic interventions, and the race for a vaccine, buyer behavior is undergoing drastic change.
Changes that can be characterized as casting away of old habits, accelerating recent trends, and creation of new behaviors unforeseen.
In the past few weeks, we have engaged in an informal polling of business leaders on the impact of COVID-19. The following represent generalized buyer insight observations on buyer behavior, which we hope to follow-up with more formal surveying.
Trends related to digitization and digital transformation will accelerate. Organizations that began to address digitization a few years ago will be in a better position than those that are now forced due to the pandemic. The digitization of business models and processes will become more the norm as we endure at the minimum, the next two years.
The Way Work and Commerce Gets Done
The way work and commerce get done will need to be reinvented and reimagined. Thousands of workers are working from home. And, unfortunately, thousands have been furloughed or laid off. Businesses will need to figure out how to protect workers in manufacturing, logistics, and office environments. Adaptability to the use of new tools will take time. Old habits related to how people gathered in meetings, cafeterias, conference rooms, and etc. will be cast aside. New behaviors and protocols will emerge as the digitization of work and commerce materialize over time.
Competence, Performance, Expertise
New worker expectations and hiring requirements will begin to emerge. At this point, it is too early to call out exactly what they may be. However, it is safe to say as work and commerce change, so will expectations as related to workforce competence, performance and expertise.
Since founding the concept of buyer personas for B2B in 2001, there has never been a need for a new type of persona. Businesses will need to understand the “Pandemic Persona” in the context of business and commerce. New goals, thinking, situations, and more will begin to emerge over the next few months and years. To think that buyers will just go back to “normal” is unrealistic. Forward-thinking companies will get ahead of this evolving development.
Demos, Conferences, Conventions On Hold
It is evident, whether in the race for a vaccine timetable or mandates from public health officials, large gatherings found at conventions, conferences, and exhibits will be on hold for an estimate of up to two years. There will be extreme hesitancy for international travel further complicating the ability to conduct conferences and exhibits. For many businesses, in particular those who relied on demoing, conferences, exhibits, and etc. as a major source of leads will have to figure out a new avenue. As we adapt, it is guessed that the value of returning to large gathering conferences and exhibits may be called into question.
Artificial Intelligence Will Accelerate
In the past few years, we have seen a rise in AI utility. We will see an acceleration of AI as organizations attempt to learn more about how buyers and existing customers are changing. And, buyers will expect companies to share of AI data.
Insight Needs Will Accelerate
A refrain heard often today, like an echo in a mountain range, is simply “I don’t know.” Anticipating the impact of the pandemic on businesses in this current state is guesswork at best. Business leaders today will stress the need for deep insights into buyers and buying behaviors. The ability to anticipate how buyers will change and adapt will become paramount. As noted above, buyers will demand insights from sellers and partners.
Business leaders will further their focus on trying to estimate the long-term outlook for their organizations, markets, buyers, and partnering industries. Planning has never been harder. Without the ability to periscope ahead in rough waters, deterring a path forward will be a difficult challenge.
These are eight factors for business organizations and leaders to consider as they assess how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting buyer behaviors. Not only for their buyers but for themselves as well. What we can be certain of is this – the expectations, behaviors, adaptability, attitudes, and perceptions of buyers will change.
The imperative at hand for business leaders today in the pandemic crisis world we find ourselves is – knowing how.
(For many businesses and leaders today, uncertainty regarding the future will hover over all of us for the coming months and years. I am offering 30-minute free consultations to help in learning how to use buyer insights for future planning. You can schedule here: SoHelpful With Tony)