Many predictions have been made in recent weeks about how we will all come out the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. While in the short-term, marketers are thinking about how to communicate and respond to their audiences in the most appropriate way, I believe that in the long-term, the implications for rethinking personas will be even more profound.
Major life events can cause the human mindset to change. Buying a house, having children, moving to a new country, changing job… all can lead to change in social habits, in spending habits and overall intellectual habits. Our habitual behavior is disrupted because the change makes us question whether multiple aspects of our life can or should be different in order to better adapt to the changing situation. The concept of loyalty may become less strictly adhered to, and our propensity to consider something ‘new’ or ‘different’ rises, as our decisions now fall in line with our ‘new’ life.
This is happening now because of the COVID-19 situation. Unlike the major life event examples above, it is happening to all of us at the same time.
The impact of the situation is not only exponentially larger because it is happening to all of us at the same time, but for many there is also more than one major life event occurring at the same time: together with the health crisis is the sudden large unemployment and pending economic crisis.
Most mindsets and behavior will change with regards to mitigating risk or capitalizing on opportunities. Most consumers and businesses are thus going to think differently about saving and spending money, how and where to spend it, and with what brands. McKinsey's survey, US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis, shows this is almost across the board.
The expedited nature of digital disruption is the kicker. The heightened dependency on digital means that "getting on with our lives" can change our decision making processes. It may mean a more fragmented decision-making process for some (cutting out the verification from a quick walk-to-a-colleague's desk), or a more cohesive and collective one for others (if a new 'digital enabled' decision, some want additional approval for the new means). It may shorten decision making processes or lengthen them.
Fundamentally what we are seeing is an expectation shift. As consumers, we will expect companies and brands to service our needs while staying at home. As business customers, we will expect our vendors to empower business continuity through the digital medium. The ‘day in the life’ becomes more digitalized.
This expectation shift was actually already occurring, but COVID-19 expedited it. We no longer go online, but live online. Thus, the focus of persona development has to begin with a more digital analysis. If we live online, how can a brand capture more share of that life online.
Digitizing the persona provides a key opportunity to gain more granular insights and attain true Zero Degrees of Separation from their audience.‘Stay at home’ means we’re doing more online than before, providing more insights and a more holistic view of what our digital day consists of.
Do you believe this change happening? If so, you have an obligation to attain that Zero Degrees of Separation before your competitors do. Those brands that gain this competitive advantage first can be those that adapt their communications, their skill sets, their processes, as well as subsequent technologies required to align with their stakeholders more appropriately.
Smart marketers recognize that there will be a distinct “before” and “after” in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic. You must start now to create the digital tools needed to embed your brand in the customer’s post-COVID life.
Take the time now to identify and understand the new expectations of your customers, and how have their habits and priorities shifted during this time