By Steve Radick
PRSA Sponsorship Lead
[Originally published at SteveRadick.com]
It’s been said necessity is the mother of invention. Well, we’re all going to find out just how true that is really soon. On March 11, 2020, everything changed. From manufacturing to travel to sports, every industry was forced to rethink everything.
Since then, companies around the world moved millions of office workers to remote work in a span of just a few weeks. Restaurants moved their entire business to carryout and delivery. Retailers figured out how to do curbside pickup without months of red tape getting in the way.
I’ve been particularly impressed at how agile brands (big and small) have been in adapting to this “new normal.” And while some of these adaptations have been most welcome (no middle seats!), they’ve been driven primarily by survival. What happens when brands start using this as an opportunity to strategically think about how to transform … everything?
Looking forward, there won’t be a return back to normal. The story won’t be about recovery. It will be about transformation. The agility that we’ve seen over the last few months will become the new expectation, and the brands that realize this will come out on top.
Across industries, there are virtually limitless first mover opportunities for brands to creatively address some of the most long-standing and frustrating customer experience issues. I’ve listed some below but could easily come up with a dozen others over a beer or two.
- Will contractors that commit to wearing PPE while in your home become a permanent policy?
- What commercial hygiene products (sanitizers, air dryers, etc.) will become “must-have” items for today’s homeowners?
- Will homeowners look to create permanent “quarantine spaces” to allow for easier separation of sick family members?
- What builders will focus on retrofitting homes with multi-generational spaces to allow older family members to cohabitate vs. going to a senior living facility?
- Will contactless payments via phone replace credit cards much faster than we thought?
- How should shoppers navigate the store differently?
- Is there a more hygienic way to touch and try out in-store products before you buy?
- Have masks and hand sanitizer received permanent placement in checkout aisles?
- Will self-checkout become the new standard at all retailers – clothing, toys, electronics, etc.?
- How can the dressing room be re-imagined to keep people coming into the store to try things on?
- Which restaurants will replace the traditional tipping on the receipt with Starbucks’ “post-purchase tipping” method?
- What’s the most realistic/effective face covering for cooks? Servers?
- Is there a new algorithm for determining the optimal seating arrangement in a COVID-19 environment that minimizes the spread of the virus?
- Which traditional sit-down restaurants will embrace the pizza slice model and transition entirely to carryout and delivery?
- Can we develop a new way for football fans to watch a game at the stadium?
- What’s the new way to sell hot dogs, beer, and cotton candy to fans in their seats?
- What’s the new way for players to give autographs to kids?
- Beyond touchless toilets and faucets, is there a way to make stadium restrooms more sanitary and efficient for fans?
- What do live broadcasts look like when there are no fans?
- What sports broadcast will finally move forward with the most obvious of innovations – real-time on-field audio?
- What’s the future of the hotel check-in counter?
- What’s the new standard for cleaning hotel rooms?
- How can we eliminate middle seats on planes forever?
- Is there a safer, more efficient way to board passengers on a flight?
- Can seatback touchscreens be made touchless?
- What’s the optimal post-COVID seat design on trains, buses, and planes?
- Do we really need to still manually adjust the fan dial above our heads?
- Will subway cars reorient seating so no one faces one another? Will car occupancy be limited?
- Is there quick and effective anti-viral material or spray that can be used to disinfect rides in between runs?
- What can be used to show you purchased a ticket instead of relying on wristbands?
- What replaces the turnstiles everyone touches as they enter the park?
- How can makeup counters be adapted to be more sanitary?
- Nike’s created hijabs using performance material – who’s going to innovate face masks optimized for sports?
- Is there a better way to sanitize gym equipment in between uses or will we continue to use sprays and paper towels?
- We’ve already seen companies specialize in creating gym equipment that fits into your décor – who’s going to create furniture that doubles as gym equipment? Chairs that convert into weight-lifting benches? Rugs that double as yoga mats?
Commercial Real Estate
- What’s an optimal post COVID office seating plan look like?
- How many office buildings are going to install walk-through body temperature scanners?
- Touchless faucets/soap dispensers/toilets and toilet lids seem obvious, but what companies will use this opportunity to rethink the very way a toilet or a sink is designed?
- What will doors without door handles look like? More automatic revolving doors? Foot-operated doors?
- Will we see voice-activated elevators?
- What TV brands will make webcams and microphones standard in their TVs (to allow for easier at-home fitness sessions and remote-learning classes)?
- What laptop brand will make ring-lighted webcams standard?
- Which company will create the mobile UV light sanitizer that can be attached to your phone?
- Learning to live with roommates is a key part of the college experience. What college will be the first to rethink the way dorms are set up?
- Sitting students every other seat is the most simplistic way to create social distancing, but is there a more creative way to rethink the traditional classroom setup?
- What college will entirely rethink remote learning as a core part of the four-year college experience?
Whatever industry you’re in, there are unlimited opportunities to write a new future, all while your competitors are trying to return to the past. And if you don’t, someone else will … push the envelope, create the headlines, fail (and learn) quickly, and create an entirely new reality, one that may or may not include you.