A Practical, Researched and Psychodynamic viewpoint
Written by Wong Mei Wai
We now live in the “new normal” which is an outcome of changes in consumer behaviour caused by a significant recalibration of consumer needs and beliefs that have taken place as a result of the pandemic. This is further exacerbated by the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic including the impact of lock-downs and general stress in the global economy leading to (among others) organisational restructuring and retrenchments as organisations seek to maintain lean structures and be in a “conserve mode”.
Whilst the pandemic has led to a variety of different responses from Asian markets, it is possible to distil clear similarities to derive 3 key watch-out areas to be mindful of when navigating change management during these uncertain times.
1. Get to know your Customers again as they have new needs and priorities
Changes in consumer needs, beliefs and behaviours during the pandemic has led them to reappraise brands they have been loyal to and (at the same time) they would be open to try brands that they would not have considered previously - had their needs, beliefs and behaviours not been impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, they may not purchase their usual brands as frequently nor at the same quantity and may also put on hold their previous regular purchases – all of these are driven by many factors which needs to be examined in detail if we are to navigate change management in these disrupted times.
For instance, the heightened safety sentiments (Diagram 1) has led to the shift of emphasis on experiential food, retail and travel that takes place out of home and which focus on consumer luxury – to shift (post-COVID-19) to focus in-home where the home has become the “playground”, “theatre”, “ extended education” and “office premise”. These shifts have even driven a spike in home improvements and renovations in some cases. Such safety concerns and focus on personal health and hygiene (i.e. a redefinition of personal and household hygiene) as seen in Diagram 2 has posed an opportunity for companies prepared to innovate around these needs ( Diagram 3).
Diagram 1 : Sentiments Scale across 11 cities
Diagram 2 : Change in Priorities due to COVID-19
Diagram 3: New Normal Business Implications across 11 cities
The Acorn COVID-19 Market Research across 11 cities confirms that consumers are still spending but there are changes in their consumption patterns and priorities. In Change Management it is also essential to understand pricing and priorities of each category (in-home and out of home) as well as shifts of consumer behaviour to channels that are safer and more hygienic for consumers to access their solutions.
2. The “Domino” effect on the CX journey requires a proper remapping and repositioning of your business.
Pre-COVID-19, the consumers had already begun to disrupt the traditional consumer experience (CX) journey in the last 5 years.
-Customer experience (CX) refers to how a company engages with its customers across every aspect of the customer journey. It is the sum total of all interactions a customer has with a brand experience. The disruption is caused by both the external customers( all our external stake-holders) and the internal customer (our teams, talent and employees ).
However, it took the pandemic to create the “Domino Effect” on the CX journey impacting external customers (who are also internal customer in organisations). Companies have to confront this and move from the “re-patching” (patchwork mode) to and redesigning the new CX journeys with positive and relevant experiences across all channels and touchpoints.
The initial stage of New Normal witnessed organisations reacting by pivoting to make the changes through minor tweaks like rushing to set up their eCommerce. However, such organisations soon realise such “patching” without a full comprehension of the shifts in CX journey is insufficient to build competitive advantage over their competitors in the longer term .
For example, while many believe that the travel industry has collapsed, it was found in research that many people miss business and holiday travels, to the extent it is a key worry ( Diagram 5 : Key Worries in the New Normal). However, what can a viable CX journey of a traveler be like during and post pandemic if one is to fully plan and designed an experience in preparations for gradual opening of the travel route. While we know what to expect from airport to destination to hotel pre-pandemic, we do not know what to expect post-pandemic unless that is mapped and communicated to us (as potential consumers) in a manner that resonates with travelers CX. Fear can be reduced with an effective communication plan and without fear, one of the key barriers to adoption is eliminated.
Diagram 4: Wish list of Travel Destination in the New Normal
Diagram 5 : Key Worries in the New Normal
3. Be mindful of the role of psychodyamics and unconsciousness of Change
Some of the disruptive change in the New Normal are physical but many are also psychological. The uncertainty of the pandemic in health, political, trade (impacting supply etc.) has also led to heightened defense mechanisms, like anxiety that can impact the progress of Change management.
The unprecedented disruption of the CX journey can cause people experiencing change to have physical and psychological unease/ discomfort due to the uncertainty of change.
Many people experiencing change have recounted that they faced situations where they experienced primal and survival instincts soar-with the need to protect oneself, family and business being put above everything else. Thoughts also forms in people’s minds due to distancing, resulting in greater defense mechanisms and impacting mental health. There are different approaches to address this discussed for instance understanding your triggers, reframing the situation, practicing gratitude, therapy coaching and mindfulness.
Financial insecurity is also a key trigger to unconscious thoughts and behavior during the pandemic. During this period, balancing savings versus investment is evident (Diagram 6). Through a deeper understanding behind the dynamics and needs, institutions and the government may be able to provide tailored solutions through innovation, with the purpose of helping the community during the pandemic.
Diagram 6 : Financial Considerations and Priorities across 11 cities
While some markets had a head-start in digitalisation and are coping well, for other markets the accelerated rate of digitalisation during the pandemic (Diagram 7) has triggered fear and insecurity, especially with the Baby Boomers. Therefore, a deep understanding of Change from a psychodynamic perspective can provide insights how to better manage and implement Change with empathy.
Diagram 7 : Comparative Increase in Digital Adoption (e.g e-wallets) across 11 cities*
This article explores themes based on based on questions received after the APAC Change Insider Episode 1 : On the Pulse of the New Normal- Unfolding Change in APAC Consumer Behaviour on the Ground, where Wong Mei Wai, Laura Cozijnsen and Nawanut Lorkitiyakul ( Dolly ) Regional Covid-19 Research lead from Acorn Group- the largest Independent Research Group. The research covered 11 cities with a sample of 1,359.