Preparing for the "Next Normal"

The Next Normal

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, businesses must shift their focus from “getting back to normal” to identifying opportunities to stand out in the “next normal.”


For the past eight months, customers, employees, and business leaders have been talking nonstop about adjusting to the “new normal” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The problem with this language is that it implies there’s an “old normal” that we’re dying to get back to. While this certainly may be the case, the ramifications of COVID-19 are so widespread that no one can truly predict if or when we’ll fully revert to a pre-pandemic “normal” again. By simply biding time until the pandemic ends, companies are likely to miss out on unique opportunities for growth brought about by shifting consumer behaviors during COVID-19.

McKinsey recently released an article titled “Elevating customer experience excellence in the next normal,” which reframes the “new normal” conversation to examine how companies can position themselves for success during and after COVID. As the pandemic continues to reshape business operations and day-to-day life, organizations must shift their focus from “getting back to normal” to seeing opportunity in the “next normal.”  

Understanding Lasting Consumer Behaviors

The pandemic has forced businesses in all industries to become digitally resilient, shifted business priorities, and drastically changed consumer behaviors. Under normal circumstances, a business owner might see these changes, do some research, and come back a few months later with a new plan to engage customers. This isn’t the case with COVID.

As the pandemic continues to reshape business operations and day-to-day life, organizations must shift their focus from “getting back to normal” to seeing opportunity in the “next normal.”  

The effects of the novel coronavirus vary by region, business size, industry, and sometimes even by the day. With so many factors constantly in flux, the key to thriving both during and after COVID-19 is the ability to identify which consumer behaviors are temporary responses and which are full-fledged paradigm shifts. For example, video conferencing services like Zoom and Skype have been integral to the success of remote work during the pandemic, but will they endure if and when employees return to in-person work? Are video calls a stop-gap solution, or will they fundamentally shift how businesses will operate in the years to come?

Threading that needle in your own industry is easier said than done. Today’s companies must monitor consumer trends, adapt their business models, plan for business continuity, and ensure their own employees stay safe and healthy—all while managing a crisis. The good news is that if they can make the right decisions that lead to smart investments, they have a chance to anticipate lasting consumer behaviors and rise above their competition in the next normal.  

Top Priorities in the Next Normal

Shaped by McKinsey data, here are three lasting trends we believe will define customer experiences in the post-pandemic era. To prepare for the next normal, businesses should focus on prioritizing:

1. Robust omnichannel engagements 

Lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing requirements have spurred record-high engagement on digital platforms. Consumers are streaming more content than ever, and almost every activity—from groceries to fitness to education—now has a digital equivalent. The demand for high-quality digital experiences was already climbing before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has caused it to skyrocket.

What’s more, recent research indicates this shift in behavior will continue for a long time. A survey of consumer sentiment during COVID found that at least 65% of consumers adjusted their behavior in response to the pandemic—for example, doing the bulk of their shopping online—and plan to continue to do so moving forward. 

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Robust digital channels will help companies quickly meet changing customer demands and brace for future industry disruption. Companies that improve their digital offerings can also reap the benefits of increased engagement and position themselves for more cost-effective operations in the years ahead. 

2. Data-driven insights

The shift to digital experiences and platforms gives companies the opportunity to invest in data-driven systems that will help them understand and adapt to changes in consumer behavior. By utilizing tools that analyze consumer data to extract insights in real-time, businesses can better predict consumer behavior and secure a competitive edge.

For example, an airline was able to use machine learning and customer service data to identify the customers that were most likely to contemplate switching to another airline. From there, they went on the offensive, offering these customers more personalized experiences and “surprise and delight” programs. In the end, they saw an 800% increase in customer satisfaction and a 60% decrease in turnover. In other words, businesses that capture and analyze all customer data—not just the data gathered from surveys—can gauge customer needs more accurately and respond accordingly. 

3. Contactless customer journeys

Thanks to the normalization of sanitization and social distancing during a pandemic involving a contagious airborne virus, the way customers want to engage with the world has changed. It’s imperative that companies demonstrate their ability to adapt in a way that makes customers feel safe using their services.

In fact, consumers who have gotten used to a contactless world may not want to return to high-touch environments even when health officials deem it safe. Finding innovative ways to address these customer concerns can set a business apart—both now and later. Small adjustments like contactless delivery, social distancing markers in stores, and more accessible digital options can improve customer experience, drive customer satisfaction, and increase revenue.

No-Code for Long-term Success

Unqork’s enterprise no-code platform can help your business provide digital excellence faster than any other application development methods, empowering you to adjust rapidly and meet the next normal head-on. 

Without the burden of legacy code, Unqork accelerates the process of creating superior digital applications, allowing you to meet your customers where they are. No-code can help you turn around what would have been a year-long IT build in a matter of weeks, giving you more time to see a return on your investment and move on to other new and exciting projects. You can also integrate your application with existing analytics solutions to better predict customer behavior, make data-driven decisions, and future-proof your business.

Want to learn more about how no-code can be used to help you become an industry leader in the next normal? Schedule a personalized demonstration with one of our in-house experts and sign up for the Unqork newsletter for no-code news delivered straight to your inbox.

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