We are right in the middle of it. The numbers are still climbing. Ever stricter measures are being taken to contain the virus. How can we consider planning when we still don’t know how bad it’s going to get?
No one really knows when we will get a handle on this virus. Right now, we have today’s business problem to solve. Tomorrow, a new obstacle appears that we couldn’t have predicted yesterday. Our business efforts during the pandemic have become so fixed on the transient problem of now that solving for an unknown phase of the future is pushed to the back of the list.
One question becomes three. When will it end? What will the business landscape look like when it does? And, how can we plan when we have answers for neither one?
Part of the solution will be in trying to imagine how and when consumer confidence will return. What will be required to assure the average family that stability is here to stay? How long will things have to be secure in the economy before the discretionary dollar can leave the wallet once again? Schools will reopen. Stores will be back in business. People will get called back and relearn their jobs. Regular income will be restored. Everything will be back to normal, on the face of it. Even so, we must expect a period during which the average person will just sit and wait.
What complicates matters is that the workforce may return in stages. Some businesses may return to normal quickly and in full force, while others will take longer to scale up. With so little history to go on, it will be hard to predict which companies fall into which category. Those most reliant upon discretionary spending will be the hardest hit initially, but it does not necessarily follow that they will be the slowest to see a surge. Pent-up demand after significant world events like what we’ve seen in the travel industry might require a spike in resources as unprecedented as the pandemic itself.
Some of our return to normal will depend on our perception of how the crisis was handled. If we felt confident in the country’s leadership during the pandemic phase, trust in the new normal is likely to be regained quickly. Stability would be trusted, and families would feel more freedom to spend.
Perhaps it is not premature to begin looking ahead. What thought leadership can we launch today to help lay the groundwork for post-pandemic consumer confidence? Once life has returned to relative normal, what might help our customers feel they don’t need to hold their breath anymore?
Food for thought.
Dana Gain is a global sales and marketing executive with a 25-year career in the cruise, airline, hospitality and internet sectors.
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