They’re tough to break, tough to make. For local businesses and even the biggest brands, they’re going to decide the future of what the ‘new normal’ looks like.
Over the past three months, there has been a lot of talk about getting back to normal. The US has just surpassed an important milestone of roughly 10% of the adult population getting vaccinated. Even more encouraging is the news that all adults will be eligible to sign up for the vaccine by May. That’s a much-needed bright spot for individuals and families, communities and businesses who have spent the last year isolated, uncertain, and facing myriad hardships.
Normal is coming, but it’s important to remember the impact of habits. We’ve spent the last year forcibly changed our day-to-day habits that have completely reshaped our lives. Working from home, learning from home, and eating at home have restructured our personal ties for sure, but also had a sizable impact on our spending habits as well. Even if the virus disappeared tomorrow, brands can’t expect a long lasting impact until they’ve given their customers a reason to break their new habits and rediscover others.
That’s especially tricky these days, because even as the risk of coronavirus recedes, it won’t do so uniformly, nor will all consumers have the same sort of confidence to get out of the home. First, uniformity; we won’t all have the vaccine at the same time. Even with an accelerated timeline to give all Americans access to sign up by May, it could still take months to get the estimated 69% of the population willing to take the job completed. As restaurants and restrictions open up around the country, don’t mistake an initial surge in a sign of lasting, consistent behavior.
Secondly, not everyone will be as eager to engage in most face-to-face activities for some time to come. They have every right, and very good reason, to show hesitancy; despite the good news reported over the past few months, the US is still experiencing an unprecedented health crisis. The seven-day average for both cases and deaths was up at the beginning of March, and the nation is still losing over 1,000 people per day to the disease. With experts predicting over 600,000 deaths by May, there is understandable and palpable pain.
Finally, we’ve created all new routines that have changed where we go and, as a result, how we spend our money. The businesses that were habitual pit stops on our way to or from home, or to or from dropping the kids off at school, will need ways to get those customers now committed to remote work back in the door. I might be a perfect example. For almost three year, I worked the first four hours of my day at a local coffee shop. Now, even as occupancy restrictions have relaxed, it hasn’t figured back into my routine. Our family has restructured our mornings and, to be honest, the thought of packing up my office each morning seems like a somewhat inefficient use of time.
The key for all of these businesses will be to reach customers where they’re at, and with many still at home, that means creating new digital tools and paid campaigns to entice, entice, and cue new behaviors…even if the behaviors you’re looking for are old ones.
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