Wise up to how your customers are changing

The last quarter of 2020 won’t be the one many businesses had originally planned.  Even though the restrictions of lock-down are very gradually being lifted, it’s still a different world we all find ourselves in.  Some aspects may have changed forever – such as a keenness to maintain a degree of remote working, and a rethink of traditional business operations.

 

Your customers have changed

Most business and people’s needs have shifted, behaviours have changed and with the UK now officially in a recession, the challenging economic outlook means change looks set to continue.  All of which means that those plans based on a pre-COVID view of an organisation’s market will need to be revised.

Customers are and will continue to be different to what they were at the start of the year.  Markets are shifting and reconfiguring.  Those businesses that monitor these changes will certainly cope better than those who don’t.

Of course, during the pandemic, there have been great examples of business agility – such as organisations adapting to new trading conditions and speeding up innovation to create fresh approaches to meet the new needs.

 

What to expect

So what changes might businesses see in their markets?

As and when social distancing and COVID-secure measures are removed, things are unlikely to return to the normal they once were.  The recession and Brexit (to name but a few) will continue to alter buyer behaviour.

Price will no doubt come under even greater scrutiny.  Decision-making may rise higher up an organisation or involve more people as businesses try and keep a tight grip on costs.  Purchasing and delivery may rely even more on technology and previous demand for certain products and services will shift as organisations rethink their traditional premises and make a blend of remote working more permanent.

The essential is likely to be prioritised over the luxury and some organisations’ plans will be put on hold, whilst others propelled up the agenda.  With uncertainty still big on most horizons, those suppliers and advisers that can help customers make good of the now and gain some clarity of the future will be immensely valued.

 

How to spot the changes

So consider, has your market changed and how is it continue to change?

Here are where you can find clues so you can adapt your approach to best meet customer needs, strengthen their loyalty and stimulate sales.

Review enquiries and sales over the past 6 months and plot trends. Consider:

  • What were customers/potential customers drawn to?
  • What did they buy (what does this tell you about immediate needs?)
  • Who was involved in the buying process (this will start to show you the decision-making structure in customers)
  • How did they buy?
  • What price point were they happy with and why?
  • If you have a sales team, what anecdotal information have they got from their discussions with customers as to changing requirements, immediate challenge and plans going forward?

Going forward it will be important to maintain a dialogue with your key customer accounts to determine what challenges and opportunities they face and explore areas where you can help.

 

What to do with the insights

Be prepared to review the core aspects of your offering in line with the insights you gain.  Aspects here will include:

  • the nature of your product/service
  • how you deliver it
  •  the price you charge
  • turnaround time – (possibly a demand for shorter timescales)
  • how you promote it.

If you source supplies from overseas and haven’t already, now’s the time to plan how you will maintain those stocks in the new trade deals following Brexit.

And when it comes to promoting your products and services, recognise that people’s attention spans have shortened further with all the digital media they’ve received with this year.

Quality instead of quantity will help you get noticed.  Be sure to monitor the key issues facing your customers.  Craft campaigns and promotions that add value and support them in these areas.  Recognise the importance of dialogue in creating engagement – particularly online meetings, on calls, and in your premises if its open. Be mindful of a growing appetite to buy local and make more of this.  Seasonal issues are also likely to remain important.

Above all, don’t rest on your laurels.  Make monitoring how your market’s needs are changing a permanent thing on your to-do list.  Fix it as a regular talking point amongst your team and use it to drive ideas and improvements in your approach this Autumn and beyond.

 

Can we help?

If you need help evaluating and responding to changes and in your market and customer behaviour, please do get in touch.