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Over the past few weeks, I have been working with brands as we slowly “unlock” our cities or at least try to.

From retail to real estate, food to fashion two fundamental questions remain the same across brands:

a. Communicate that it’s safe / safer now to venture out or visit them
b. It’s time to purchase from us

I think what’s clear is the need for empathy & understanding on the brands behalf and the acknowledgement that things are most likely not going to be the same for a while. Most of us don’t know what the future holds and how the scenarios will pan out. Whether we will go back to how things were or is this the new normal.

The pandemic has however leapfrogged our behaviours across several years — what would have taken us a while to adopt — has now occurred in a couple of months. Even though video conferencing was available as a tech for quite sometime — the efficiency and convenience of it — and the fact that it works has catapulted it into our daily lives.

For me personally — the fact that I don’t have to waste time in traffic or the dreaded day trip routine of early morning and late night flights — has been a revelation of using technology to become a lot more efficient.

Similarly our habits as consumers and buyers — or rather participants in the economy has also changed dramatically. For “retail therapy” — would I prefer the convenience of a browser or a standing in a queue for the trial room? If this was question asked a couple of months ago — the answer would definitely have been different.

I think this is an opportunity for brands and organisations to ask really tough questions about their purpose and why consumers would really purchase from them.

What would we feel about going to the mall when apart from the security — we have a infrared gun pointed to our head? What does a sales office experience look like when the receptionist is wearing a mask? What would a dining experience feel like if I saw the chef not wearing a mask?

I suspect that a lot of these questions would lead to a similar path — that brands need to search for and find out how they connect with their consumers at a human and a deeper level. Malls for example are not just places to shop — but places to meet and connect where the parking is clean and hygienic washrooms are available. The sales office experience is often not a sales experience but a way for customers to visualise what their potential life could look like. Our favourite neighbourhood restaurant is not just a dining but a social experience that delivery will never be able to replace.

As services resume and we stagger back to a new normal or the old one, I would hope that we ask these questions and examine them deeply. I know I will be doing the same with the brands that I work with and I hope the journey to those finding those answers leads somewhere better and somewhere new.

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