Series #fmbewords: Will Your Customers Divorce You After Quarantine?

Brad Lawless, Director of Solution Architecture, Movista

Our world changed in a matter of weeks, and every routine your customers had, from work and childcare to meal preparation and house cleaning, changed with it. Every retail store still operating reflected that change in empty shelves for the things shoppers most valued to help them weather the long stay-at-home periods to come.

As you ponder in what retail world your brands will exist for the balance of 2020, consider looking to the social side of the pandemic for inspiration. Early reports from the frontlines of reopening society in China describe an upswing not only in sales, but in divorces. Weeks of forced isolation tend to exacerbate issues in a relationship. Without the proper communication techniques, these issues can quickly turn into huge rifts, and by the time someone gets to leave their house, the only thing place they want to go is straight to the divorce solicitor.

As your customers emerge from isolation, will they want to divorce you or renew their vows? No one is going “back to normal” anytime soon, and as cliché as it has become, we will all instead need to acclimate to a new normal. In this brave new normal world, brands and retailers should question any assumptions they hold dear as governments experiment with loosening work and travel restrictions.

In a rapid economic recovery, shoppers might try to make up for lost time and opportunity by spending on luxury items, and a slower recovery could drive shoppers to hold on to more of their money, saving and planning for possible stay-at-home reoccurrence. Weeks of out-of-stocks around key isolation items have trained shoppers to focus more on utility and availability than on a brand promise and quippy marketing tagline.

Build a relationship with your customers the same way you would in personal relationship. Understand to the best of your ability what they want and need instead of pushing your idea of what they want onto them. They might want to try your new tropical flavoured drink in the limited edition can design, but it’s just as likely that your shoppers will seek out comfort and security in their purchases for quite some time to come.

Shoppers may have less patience for brand missteps in coming months. Customer relationships rooted in understanding and empathy will give brands and retailers the credibility needed to sustain business today and grow it organically as the economy grows. Failing to do so could lead a shopper to divorce themselves from you for good.


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