It has been almost nine months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone still wonders when the world and our lives will return to normal. The bitter reality is that it could take three years before life begins to resemble pre-Coronavirus times.
The prolonged waiting and the scrambling to adjust to a new way of working and taking care of our families is exhausting. But now is not the time to be complacent while waiting for the world to shift around us. Even in these difficult times, our businesses can grow, so we should explore where some of those opportunities may lie, starting with channels and markets.
Channels are the means of bringing products and services to market for customers to buy. They can be direct (from producer to consumer) or indirect (involving a retailer or distributor). On the other hand, markets are the people, organizations, and activities necessary to transfer ownership of goods from the point of production to the point of consumption. Aligning your channels with your markets is critical to driving more revenue. And in today’s environment, one or both, may change and you need to be prepared to shift too.
We are seeing so much emergency pivoting in channels and markets as a necessary response to changes in the world this year. The explosion of curbside pick-up, virtual meetings, webinars, and everything that replaces face-to-face interaction has been an innovative means to reach customers. However, these opportunistic pivots may come with unintended consequences.
We could not have predicted Amazon’s sudden surge in volume and demand in pre-pandemic times. Though business is hopping, the retail Goliath’s reputation has struggled as third-party delivery services they contract to fulfill orders have placed quality customer service on the backburner. That said, the demand surge has also led to the creation of new delivery partnerships, such as the USPS working on Sundays to deliver the abundance of goods moving through Amazon’s platform.
Webinars and virtual meetings, once used as infrequent points of contact, have become the only option. This potentially undermines a business’s ability to genuinely connect with customers and clients, both repeat and new prospects. The question to be asking is, how are these external market changes affecting the way you connect with your target customers?
Our Assess-Design-Evaluate methodology helps us guide you through these journeys – away from limitations and toward an outcome that inspires instead of constrains.
First, we review your customers. Are they still there, have they disappeared (temporarily or permanently), or have they sought alternative channels to meet their needs? We then help you package your products or services to deliver to relevant markets instead of waiting for customers to find you. As the economy moves and consumer habits and desires shift, your preferred channels and markets may require fine-tuning, disappear altogether, or emerge in entirely new versions. Continuous evaluation keeps you poised to stay the course within your current market, expand to new geographies, or pursue alternative avenues with confidence.
When Delivery Providers Become Your New Channels
Shelter-in-place ordinances significantly impacted a grower/retailer garden center when its stores were ordered to close. While the business maintained a website, this was for informational purposes only. Management quickly created an online store to begin offering their products online. Initially, their online sales were regionally driven; however, four months into the pandemic and bolstered by robust social media marketing, the company has expanded its sales territory to include shipping non-perishable items nationally. This inspired the company to launch a holiday line including products manufactured in its warehouse with supplies already on hand that were recycled and reused.
A technology consultancy that went from in-person delivery and training to remote built an on-demand, fee-based subscription for its video and audio academy. This product served technical administrators, super users, and end users with a vastly different pricing structure from its traditional approach. The timing coincided with an explosion in training needs as businesses scrambled to implement solutions on premised-based systems in the cloud.
These two examples demonstrate why you should always evaluate your channels and markets, and why you should also revisit your Packaging in a rapidly changing environment. As we outlined in our previous article, you may also need to repackage your products and services to make them easier and less risky for customers to buy during a recession.
We can help you review your channel and market strategies to ensure you seize opportunities created by a shift in the marketplace. Contact Chris Andersen.