Everyone has been touched by the effects of COVID-19 this year, either by contracting the illness itself or experiencing its more intangible repercussions, such as unemployment, uncertainty and social isolation. Much can be speculated about how our lives will be forever changed by this virus, which has already taken a great toll. Beyond our personal lives, the pandemic is changing our industry in potentially permanent ways. We believe that there are three key areas the design community will feel the lasting of COVID-19, for better or for worse: how brands approach their consumers and their spending, the increased importance of digital, and how remote working will change agency life as we know it.
The Shifting Landscape of Brand Behavior
- Brands are more vocal about socio-political issues. Brands have never experienced higher visibility or greater levels of scrutiny than they are right now. The increased brand scrutiny and visibility can be contributed to brands’ rising use of social media (more content = more chances to connect with customers—good or bad), rapid news cycle, and the nature of the digital world we live in. Interestingly, brands can spark controversy by standing with a belief or movement just as easily as by doing nothing at all.
- Brands are required to be more transparent. As customers grapple with “fake news” and losing trust in the media and brands as a whole, transparency has become more crucial than ever. It’s not enough to vocalize support. Companies are made to walk the walk, and customers are holding them accountable for how brand’s statements are reflected through company policies, as well as treatment of customers and workers.
- There is a serious shift in how brands spend their money. Due to decreased revenues, many companies have had to cut ad spending, social content creation and workforce numbers. This affects where the money will be spent and what will be deemed “essential,” as well as the future needs of the industry as a whole.
- There is no better time for brands to start fresh. Now is a great time for a new approach, whether that means a new way of doing business, rebranding, developing more creative solutions, or focusing on a new area of growth. Many brands have had to step back from the public eye (restructuring their company, refocusing their strategy, or reducing ad spending) due to the pandemic. Therefore, it is the perfect time to take some space to rework their brand. And because consumer behavior has changed so much, it is also a great time to evaluate the core offerings of their brand and how they speak to consumers.
The Ever-Increasing Emphasis on Digital
- Digital environments and accessibility have never been more crucial than in a quarantined world. Because many brick and mortar stores have had to move online, a solid, easy to use website or app is paramount to surviving an increasingly digital world. Also, with information changing so frequently, consumers rely on social media and customer service access to get the most up to date knowledge (like hours of operation, new store protocols, and availability).
- App-based companies (especially delivery) are more important than ever. Food delivery services and online shopping have risen dramatically and won’t stop anytime soon. Therefore, companies that provide these services need to have apps that are usable, fast and accessible to keep up with customer demand.
- Human interaction cannot be replaced. As important as digital services have become, people crave human interaction and need to have access to real people when going through difficult times. Consumers have little or no access to in-person employees during the purchase process like they did before. Brands that have emphasized this in their messaging understand that this is an issue for their customers, and they must be creative and empathetic to meet those needs.
The Rise of Remote Work
- The importance of digital networking and business services will increase. Products and services like Zoom, Slack, Gmail, and others have become indispensable in our remote work world, and we will likely see even more digital solutions popping up in the near future.
- The rising trend of agencies without brick-and-mortar offices will continue to grow. While ditching the office space may offer a larger pool of candidates from more diverse backgrounds and allow companies to save on rent, it has the potential to hinder collaboration, communication and ease of processes (such as brainstorming or producing final materials).
- Companies are required to have greater flexibility than ever before. Dealing with different employee home situations, environments, sick leave, families with kids at home, mental health, and more necessitates extra adaptability from employers.
- COVID-19 will impact the way we interact with vendors, clients and one another, even once the virus is controlled. We may not sit as close together, have clients in the office, share equipment or structure offices the same as we did pre-pandemic.