• Fast Moving Consumer Goods

The Corona crisis is changing consumer behaviour – and thus the business model of companies

By Dr. Anja Behrens

The corona virus and the measures installed to contain it have not only turned the working lives of millions of employees in Germany and the EU upside down in a very short time, but also private consumer behaviour. Working in the home office or having everyday consumer goods delivered to the front door is a new experience for many people. Even if it is not yet possible to predict when the pandemic and the economic crisis it has triggered will abate, one thing seems certain: consumers will no longer behave in the same way as before the outbreak of the Corona crisis. There are many companies that recorded an enormous sales growth via digital channels during the initial restrictions. Conversely, many companies of stationary trade, such as the large department stores, have had to close down for several weeks. Not all of them were able to make up for this with delivery or other services. One thing is certain, however: studies clearly indicate that consumers are going through a “change curve” in which preferences and needs are rearranged. This creates a new kind of “in-home reality” that companies should take a closer look at. Those who succeed to pick up the consumer at the right place in this change and adapt their strategies accordingly have a very good chance of developing a competitive advantage.

The fact that in many industries sales are increasingly being made online is nothing new. But in the wake of the Corona crisis, digitisation has received a strong boost – and with it online trade. In our fast-moving times, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Amazon was a small start-up that only sold its first books in 1995. Today, it is one of the most valuable companies and the most famous brands in the world. With the pandemic, this global trend is now reaching markets where it was previously difficult to gain a foothold. These include primarily fresh foods, but also durable foods and hygiene products, which have so far mainly been traded in stationery stores. By contrast, even before the pandemic, every third to fourth euro spent on books, consumer electronics or fashion was already being generated online.

However, the rapid spread and global nature of the crisis is causing consumers to critically question globalisation itself. Couldn’t more goods that can be ordered digitally come from the region where you live? In my view, this opens up new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises with regional roots. The adaptation of the business model to consumer 4.0, which is necessary in the wake of the crisis, will hardly be successful without personnel changes. What is needed are managers who see accelerated digital change as an opportunity and who are able to motivate employees for new things.

Using the “new normal” as an opportunity

In order to adapt to the changed conditions after the Corona crisis, I recommend a number of measures:

  • Do the post-corona check
    Which goods and distribution channels have functioned well during the crisis, where is there still room for improvement in terms of product range or organisation in order to continue to meet changing consumer needs? What moves the consumer and what does the “new in-home reality” mean for my products? Will it be possible to work more in the home office in the future – if employees wish to do so? If you are going to digitalize your business model to a greater extent in order to adapt to the new consumer behaviour, the success of the new strategy must be ensured by organizational and personnel changes.
  • Check the competencies of your employees
    In every management team and department, there are employees who show their true abilities and virtues in times of crisis. Others tend to shy away. Watch out for the chaff and promote the wheat. Because you need employees who are agile in thinking and acting in order to react adequately to necessary changes or to anticipate them. And who can bring along extended or new competencies or can acquire them quickly. In addition to specialist know-how, certain personal skills such as willingness to change are also necessary. Otherwise, they won’t be able to shape change and actively support it. Therefore, first check the new requirements and job profiles and then the people who currently fill these positions.
  • Recruit where it is necessary
    Anyone who has had a good grip on the predominantly stationary business so far is not necessarily a good leader in the digital change. Missing competences and skills in the management team must be compensated for by appropriate recruiting – deliberately through anti-cyclical attitudes. The Corona crisis is shuffling the cards anew – also in the candidate market. Companies have the chance to win over top performers right now.

Equipped for the world after the crisis

As rapidly as the economy was affected by the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001 and the financial crisis in 2008, it has subsequently recovered as quickly. The German economy, in particular, has proven to be robust and adaptable. There is no reason to doubt that it can succeed in doing so again. However, it is important for individual companies to set the course as early as possible. The transition to the post-Corona economy is a challenge that consumer goods manufacturers must now face. In addition to the restructuring of distribution channels, the products themselves and the sustainability associated with them are increasingly under scrutiny. Only those who convince their customers and open up new target groups will be successful. With the right employees on board, this can definitely succeed.

What opportunities are arising for you as a company as a result of changing consumer behaviour? Let's talk about it and feel free to contact me.

Dr. Anja Behrens  |  Senior Consultant
Mobil: +49 172 69 36 528  |  Office: +40 85 17 16 33