How we choose the products and services we use, what we aim to achieve through them and the approach we take to discovering them are all changing at unprecedented speed.
Many of us around the globe are now quarantined or self-isolating. Whilst this has led to a drop in daily travel and physical service interactions, it has led to a corresponding boom in online deliveries and the use of digital communications and home entertainment. The changes to our daily lives are many and far reaching, but it has also seen us try new products and services and abandon previous ones that are suddenly no longer relevant.
How businesses react will reflect how their users change
In this new era, businesses are finding that they need to re-orientate their products, services and communications to fit the COVID-19 landscape. There is no choice to continue with the days of old (pre-pandemic); businesses must moderate and adapt where needed, to ensure they remain relevant to customers.
In the Middle East, the good news is that many businesses have rapidly adapted - with changes to services ranging from contact-less payments and double-bagged food delivery, to medical consultations via phone, to fitness studios providing remote classes and personal training to their members.
Navigating these changes successfully will require a strong understanding of how customer needs have changed, and, consequently, a reconceptualising of the businesses services to better meet those needs.
It's critical that this
reconceptualising must not stop at rethinking only what the customer receives; instead, it should consider the end-to-end delivery of the service. Lack of labour availability, disrupted supply chains and other medium to long-term impacts will require serious appraisal if organisations are to effectively deliver their reshaped services to customers.
User experience design principles will become an ever more valuable touchstone
Key to undertaking the planning necessary for businesses to thrive in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 era will be a strong and renewed understanding of both service users and service providers - their drivers, values, pain points and other emotional and operational factors which they bring to bear, knowingly and unknowingly, on the success of an organisation’s services.
The core fundamentals of how these factors can be researched and understood remain broadly the same, even during the crisis. It’s these fundamentals that many of the most forward-looking businesses are likely to seek to anchor themselves to as they undertake the research crucial to adapting their strategies. These fundamentals are only likely to grow in importance - the need to maintain an evolving understanding of users as they rapidly change will be critical to successful reinvention.
Armed with a unique understanding of the customer itself, businesses will be able to harness this information and adapt and thrive. Just as users are interacting differently, so to must businesses. How we consume services are changing, and businesses need to be quick to adapt to ensure that they are meeting the end user’s needs.
This could be looking at where further value can be added, how a customer journey can be made simple and faster, and how loyalty can be grown towards an organisation. It all starts with a unique and clear understanding of knowing your customer.
The next step
The true nature of the post-COVID-19 business landscape remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is that those organisations who wield user research principles effectively will be among the best positioned to begin building an understanding of their customers' emergent behaviours. These behaviours may be fluid, and they may have changed from even a few months ago.
What we are seeing now is that the overnight changes in our lifestyles – which have transformed how we consume products and services in ways that would have been unimaginable to us just six months ago – is now becoming the new norm. These principles should be considered a critical part of the strategic toolkit - even for businesses who find themselves at an advantage in the post-COVID-19 world.
As we look forward to a climate beyond the pandemic, what is certain is that there will be a lasting mark on user’s behaviour. But whilst the crisis has the potential to reveal not only a businesses’ vulnerabilities, but it also highlights clear opportunities for improvements and re-evaluations to be made. Ultimately organisations will then be able to exit this period stronger and with a renewed understanding of users’ behaviour that has empowered a level of reinvention they never had before.