North America's Chief Strategy Officer Curt Munk weighs in on the asting commerce impact of Covid-19.
The events of the last 3 months will likely go down in history as one of the most significant, sad and ultimately avoidable tragedies of the modern era.
What started in a Wuhan market has reverberated around the globe and reminded us all how interconnected and vulnerable we truly are. Borders, language differences and time zones shrink to insignificance when facing a common threat like Covid-19. In these rare moments of global focus, we see the vast potential of human creativity and drive, and it humbles us to see the sacrifice of health care workers, first responders and government officials all working on our behalf.
Aside from global people-focused news coverage, a key theme we are seeing is the discussion around the role of commerce in our lives. The pandemic has highlighted and fast-tracked innovative ways of getting people food and CPG necessities to live. Such advances serve as a window into trends that will define the future of commerce, and we have identified 4 themes that will have lasting influence on the space.
1 – Real change follows real need, not convenience
Some of the biggest leaps in consumer behavior and preferences have followed profound historical events. What we once considered helpful or an expensive convenience a few weeks ago has now become mainstream. Delivery services, social sharing of resources and information, new rules for human interaction and drone delivery have all become essential services today. Postmates, UberEats and GrubHub quickly enabled restaurants forced into closure to offer extended curbside pick-up and delivery options, and New York based e-grocer FreshDirect is donating meals, securing trucks and providing employee volunteers to food pantries in the Bronx experiencing shortages. .
Commerce is set to be the backbone of the stories that we tell our kids about surviving Covid-19 in the years to come because essential change happened faster in our industry than many others.
2 - Availability is the new definition of success
Had Covid-19 struck 10 years earlier many of us would be standing in line for food from the back of government trucks – there was little last-mile delivery infrastructure in place to feed large populations. Today, the heroes of this pandemic are likely going to be the cooks and delivery drivers who are keeping us all going. Commerce’s modern infrastructure is keeping a good portion of the world’s population going and we’re going to see unprecedented up-take in delivery services and 3P providers based upon the success and gratefulness of many nations’ people. The convenience of delivery has become an essential service now and there is no going back.
Amazon almost immediately changed its logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third party- seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies. By steppinged up its delivery capabilities, they are able to offer vital products to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. Even the fitness community has moved digital by providing formerly in-person workouts online including free streamed classes from Barry’s Bootcamp and live instructional sessions from Lululemon on Instagram.
3 – What is Human is understood
We’re desperate to humanize the scale of threats and celebrate those who “made it through”. Four of the top 5 Google searches in the first week of the shutdown in the U.S. were about which celebrities had Coronavirus. What has largely been a fact-dense topic in the U.S. (what to do or not do, how to try to get tested, etc.) is rapidly transitioning into a more human conversation about the disease. During times of stress we crave the comfort of real humans and trust their messages the most.
Within the past week we’ve seen Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson humanize coronavirus with reassuring live updates, and a slew of survivors using social media to contextualize their real cases day by day. By keeping the public informed about their experiences set the tone that this soon shall pass and helped people keep calm during their recovery.
4 – New respect for self-reliance
Covid-19 is causing us all to be a little more thoughtful in how we plan our movements, interactions and purchasing. Even with near-immediate delivery of food we’re seeing social media conversations about being more prepared. The initial stockpiling and hoarding were negative responses to fear and we’re seeing a new more rational approach to thoughtfulness and solutions-oriented messaging to help families ride-out disruptions to commerce and activity.
Digital Magazines and recipe aggregators including Food Network and The Kitchn are offering meal plan ideas for making use of pantry items you already have, in hopes of limiting unnecessary hoarding.
We are going to get through this. The world that will exist post-Covid-19 is a world we’re building today through our actions and innovations. We think we’re going to look back and recognize the huge role that commerce played in sustaining us over these challenging months. The creativity that defines modern commerce is now very much part of our collective global future. We see no signs of that creativity diminishing and as leaders in the future of commerce we aim to stay ahead of this global innovation to keep our client’s brands available, helpful and vital for us all.
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