Coronavirus Will Change Buying Behaviors Forever. Will We Know How?

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Tony Zambito

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Many of us will remember a moment when the world shifted like an earthquake in mid-March of 2020.  Maybe it was the NBA canceling its season abruptly that made us go – “what just happened!?”  Or, it was the announcement that Tom Hanks and his wife had contracted the coronavirus labeled COVID-19.  Schools closed.  Offices closed.  There will be a memory at some point when for you personally – it became a reality.

Sadly, since, people have been personally affected by the loss of a loved one, a relative, an associate, or a friend.  People who deserve our thoughts and prayers.

We now know that returning to normal is impossible.  Because normal does not exist anymore.  We cannot return to something that will no longer exist.  A cataclysmic global pandemic will alter many facets of life as we know  it.  Creating, not a “new normal,” but a new world of existence.  How we work, travel, communicate, relate, and aspire towards goals will all look and feel different.

For many businesses across the globe whether in business-to-business or business-to-consumer, pressing questions are top of mind.  Perhaps none more important than – how will buying change?

We are beginning to see trends we anticipated growth in five years begin to accelerate as a result of the pandemic.  Such as the adoption of online grocery shopping via Instacart and more interest in stores of the future like the cashier-less Amazon Go Grocery Store.  Some trends, like these mentioned, will be obvious.  However, there are many that will not be so obvious and hard to predict.

When I first founded the concept of buyer personas back in 2001-2002, the intent was to help organizations to achieve a deeper understanding of their buyers and customers.  This need for deeper understanding and insights is now more relevant and timelier than ever. 

Will we know how buying will change?  Not immediately.  It is fair to say though not gaining insights into how changes are occurring will be a grave mistake.  There are 3 actions organizations can begin to do now. 

Commit To Buyer Insights

The initial shock and awe of shutting down the economy is beginning to fade and clearer minds are prevailing.  We are at a point of having to first admit and commit to the reality that we are in a territory we have not been in before.  We simply do not know how buying will change.  But, we must commit to finding out. 

Engage in Buyer Insights Research

Put plans in place to engage your buyers in qualitative buyer insights research.  It can be light or deep but engage you must.  Buyers and customers will not be returning to a world where they can easily flick a switch and operate as they had.  Initially, there will be a number of phased-in constraints that will make choices and purchase decisions difficult at best.  How long?  We do not know.  A year?  Two years?  Plan for the long haul.

Make Sure Your Buyer Personas Are Based On Goals

User personas and buyer personas were founded on the principle of gaining insights into the underlying goals that motivate choices and decisions.  We have seen many articles and books mention buyer personas incorrectly over the past 20 years.  A development that frankly saddens me to see.  So, let me say this.  If you can get one thing right – as in right now – it is to make sure your buyer personas are based on goals.  A seismic shift in underlying goals for individuals and organizations is underway and will grow exponentially in the next year.  Buyer personas based on sales data, account profiling, customer AI data, and the likes will not help you now in an existing and post-coronavirus pandemic world. 

As a result of COVID-19, there will be new rules for buying emerging in the next year.  For businesses, today, walking blindly when the economy phases in reopening into the next year is not a choice.  The only choice is to grab the flashlight of buyer insights and go bravely forth into the future.

(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)