Frances Cook New Zealand Herald

By: Frances Cook
NZ Herald podcast production manager
Originally published on the New Zealand Herald, 25 May 2020.

Listen to the full interview on The Pivot Pod episode here.

If you're feeling like a cosy little homebody after lockdown, then you're not alone.
New research from Dentsu shows the coronavirus crisis has changed priorities for many customers, and they now want something different from businesses.

It's products, but it's also the role businesses have in communities too.

The research shows we're turning inwards, and prioritising our homes and close communities first. That means, even though many are watching their pennies elsewhere, we're more open to spending on home improvements, DIY, or home décor. Twenty-two per cent even said they were planning to spend more money on home improvement.

Meanwhile, luxury goods, dining out, and travel are out; partly reflecting an increased anxiety about money issues, and the realities of border closures making some activities more difficult. But customers are also looking to companies to embody those local values in the way they do business.

The research shows New Zealanders no longer as interested in saving the world, but focused on saving their local community. Any businesses that can contribute to that will get the all-important halo effect. This even extends to how businesses treat their staff, with Dentsu finding many New Zealanders wanted businesses to look after staff ahead of making profits.

An incredible 95 per cent said they expected brands to look after their employees, and 78 per cent expected brands to be donating time, money, and products to those in need.

Dentsu chief commercial officer Rachel Anderson-Cormack said on The Pivot Pod that businesses should be trying to show their solidarity with New Zealanders at this time.

"What came through strongly was, you must look after your employees, and you must put people first in this environment," she said.
"And another swing we saw was the need to look after your local community, and I think that's an extension of looking after people. "So a focus on hyper-local, a focus on supporting the businesses and communities in your local environment.
"We're seeing that come through even stronger as the weeks go by, and we see these small businesses have a lot of financial pressure put on them."

While many small businesses may be struggling to go more online, there's good news there. It's true that doing business through the online world has exploded, and many customers are unlikely to go back. 

But while it's convenient, the Dentsu research found a few devils in the detail. Many customers were missing the connection of talking to people in store, with 63 per cent saying they preferred the human interaction, and 65 per cent saying it was sometimes hard to get what they wanted online. 

There are two lessons here for any type of business.

For those businesses trying to keep a physical presence, it seems the key is offering a more valuable, personalised service than before. Deepen the relationship with your customer, and they'll keep coming in person. For those that were already online or have moved there, the experience needs to be as seamless as possible. It needs to be as good as in store, or better if you can.

Anderson-Cormack said while small business often has difficulty batting against the big players, this research showed they had a unique advantage to exploit. "Small businesses really need to jump on board the sense of community.
"I think that's a really big opportunity for them, versus some of the larger businesses, because they can do that in a much more authentic way.
"So thinking around some of the local marketplaces they can be involved in, any localised messages to talk to their communities, and use of social media to target different areas and target your messages to the local communities.
"The other thing I think is really interesting is the use of local influencers. Who are the people that are well-respected in the community who can talk on your behalf?
"Is that an opportunity for you to form longer-term partnerships, where you're both helping each other?
"I think that can give a lot of value and credentials for small businesses as they talk to their local communities."

Listen to the full interview on The Pivot Pod episode here.

Rachel Anderson-Cormack, Chief Commercial Officer

Chief Commercial Officer

Rachel Cormack-Andersin

Rachel is a communication specialist with over twenty years’ experience in the Marketing industry working in both Agencies and Media businesses.