How can businesses keep up as priorities change?

Businesses have experienced a sharp change in consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the measures implemented, health effects, social distancing and store closures, there has been an increase in Online purchasing. Payment and security protocols for said operations are on the rise. Remote working arragements and confinement highlighted how essential certain services are, such as broadband, and pushed for a faster adoption of certain digital platforms. Futhermore, there has been an increase of digital advertising outlets.

As governments around the world begin to relax confinement, it's hard to predict when consumers will become less concerced with personal risk reduction. Alternatively, businesses will have to quickly shift their approach to meet customers' priorities.

Many marketing organisations have been building complexity in their processes over time, which makes it hard for them to make fast and accurate decisions. Traditional planning, annual targets and large-scale campaings go against modern priorities such as real-time, one-to-one marketing and performance testing. In short, the way most businesses operate currently may not be applicable in a post-Covid-19 world.

How can these organisations become better and faster at making accurate decisions? According to our research and our work with industry leaders, there are three questions must ask themselves:

What is in the way of operating faster?
Organisations with large corporate structures tend to require changes to go up the command chain before getting approval. This process can't keep up with consumers or market changes. According to studies, over 30% of companies admit that slow decision making is a key barrier holding back smooth operations.

The past few months have been a clear example of how industry leaders have often moved faster than others. For instance, Louis Vuitton was one of the first companies in France to shift its manufacturing towards hand sanitiser. The company followed up by ordering 40 million face masks; these actions will be remembered by consumers.

Do we test what we think we know?
One way of achieving a leaner process is to set up Agile teams made of a variety of disciplines. Isolating teams from each other can be a critical barrier to innovation; leading businesses manage this carefully, building cross-functional teams and promoting collaboration.

Surveys found that leading companies are almost 3 times more likely to use Agile methodologies than others. In Agile, small and multidisciplinary teams break complex tasks into simpler deliverables, running in a loop of constant building and testing to improve their product. Leaders run in-market tests on a regular basis, which helps their organisation learn how their consumers behave and adapt their offerings faster.

This feedback loop has become essential. With drastic changes in consumer behaviour, most legacy operating models have become obsolete. Instead, constant testing allows firms to learn quickly about new customer habits and pricing dynamics. Leaders are therefore twice as likely to use test-and-learn approach than others.

Are our priorities aligned?
Agile teams sometimes extend outside your organisation, involving external partners. Any shift in focus on your business should be met by an equal shift on their side. Your partners should work just as fast as you, learning as you learn and creating value.

Fast, accurate decisions require everyone to be involved and have clear roles and responsibilities. Companies that implement a constant feedback-loop are able to create content in days instead of months, and produce 80 campaigns every year, not 8.

Regardless of the mix of in-house and outsourced resources, all parties must be closely integrated into decision-making. While leaders tend to keep most capabilities in-house, they are also much more likely to integrate external sources into their processes.

Life will change after Covid-19 passes, although we don't know to what extent. We could see an increase in remote work, e-commerce sales, alternative media formats and a decrease in travel. We could also see unexpected spikes in demand for specific goods and services.

This scenario of uncertainty puts a premium on fast decision making. An Agile team in sync with the companie's objectives and a well-implemented feedback-loop can get you closer to your consumers' needs as their priorities change.