Change. It’s inevitable. Despite centuries of collective wisdom bestowed upon the topic, it remains difficult to navigate, or better yet, embrace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the world into an unprecedented halt. What now unfolds, are waves of reverberations which will leave lasting imprints on our future. To withstand what’s ahead, brands need to jump in with both feet, embracing change by allowing it to change them. They must adapt. Yes. But how? 

Looking for new behavior

It’s not all doom and gloom. Just look at some of the greatest brands of the last decade: Uber, Venmo and WhatsApp were all born during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Opportunity can stem from adversity.

Amid change, trends accelerate, others vanish, customers change, and behaviors alter. New context invites an entirely different type of decision-maker. Just look at how quickly the world has accelerated towards telehealth. So many of us who have previously been dubious, now look to it for solace. Analysts at Forrester predict that virtual care visits will soar to more than 1 billion this year.

During times of crisis, actively paying attention could mean finding meaningful opportunities. Brands need to be listening closely to the customer, tapping into a wealth of new data points and anticipating how to move forward with new, durable habits. Otherwise, they risk facing a fate of irrelevancy.

Rethinking engagement

As traditional channels of engagement are being deserted, brands need to prepare for new chapters.

To combat a lull in business, real estate agents Evergrande are using virtual reality to create property tours that continue to engage their clients. Walgreens has rolled out a drive-through shopping experience for selling groceries. Strategic decisions, considering social distancing’s successor, ‘low touch,’ is likely to become a default setting of our gradual return to real life.

This is meaningful change, but not all brands have to adopt virtual reality or repurpose 7,300 pharmacy drive-throughs. Smaller actions can make a difference, too. For instance, optimizing digital experiences and humanizing digital touch-points, an oxymoron, I know. Nonetheless, elevating people, culture and values will create more authentic experiences and stand out amid an increasingly automated, faceless world.

With a steady increase in foot traffic, brands need to prepare for contactless experiences, similar to those taken by Evergrande and Walgreens, to create reassurance in what will assuredly be a bumpy restart of the economy.

Being socially useful 

When the dust settles, only a few things will count to enable brands to endure; the ability to continue building relevant and thoughtful experiences, to engage audiences through meaningful conversations and to simplify everything, from actions to communications.

These principles are both timely during crises and timeless thereafter. They ensure brands remain socially useful and can illuminate a certainly volatile future.