Illustration of man waving a banner which reads, "Virus Free"

New Zealand is officially COVID free. Yes, it’s a time to celebrate, I think we should all do a little dance down the high street. The country is open for business again. But what is on the horizon?

That initial surge to spend after lockdown will be tempered by a little dose of uncertainty.

Post COVID business

Lost jobs and lost income will not go away. Companies will try to reduce those losses by cutting costs – that means jobs. That’s just how the numbers work. With job insecurity comes shopping insecurity. People are going to be a little more cautious with their money.

On a positive note, this was not a financial crash, where the economy hissed and ran out of steam. This was a viral brick wall that the whole world ran into. We are now over that wall and people will want to get up and running again. There might be a few stumbles along the way but people want to move on.

What has changed are their expectations of what is the best way to work.

Work life balance

Lockdown wasn’t so bad. In fact, a lot of people really enjoyed it. The freedom to choose how and when they work. Escaping from the greyness of the office. Lockdown has brought the focus back to what is important in their lives and not just the company they work for.

What do kiwis want going forward? Who knows. We may or may not see the 4-day week and universal income but people have tasted a bit of freedom and will find it hard to give up.

What is also heartening for many companies is that people have embraced shopping online. According to BNZ, online spending was up 24% in March compared to the previous year. Booze predictively was the biggest winner, up 43%.

The high street has had its heyday

New Zealand and Australia had been slow to embrace online shopping compared to other markets around the world, but now that we have had a taste of it, it will surely grow.

The benchmark for online shopping is Amazon. Over half of US consumers start their online shopping experience there. It sets the standard for convenience, price, speed and shopping experience.

Amazon’s dominance is also its Achilles heel. People are also distrustful of large behemoth vanilla brands. They want great online service but they’ll look elsewhere for character and support the little guy.There is room for improvement. Only 66% of small businesses in New Zealand have a website and only 44% are set up for online sales. In Australia the figures are even more surprising. According to GoDaddy, 59% of small businesses do not have a website.

Brand success stories

Companies with great brand stories and intuitive, well designed shopping sites are going to be the big winners. The customer experience online has to be taken much more seriously.

Companies that take that to heart will, like the phoenix from the flames, rise to become the real winners from this COVID crisis.

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