Innovation paths to pursue in the new normal.

Joanne Suh
Senior VP Client Services and Senior Insight Strategist

All brands right now would welcome a crystal ball to determine exactly what the “new normal” will look like. Absent a crystal-clear prediction for customer behavior in the future, we are seeing early signs and indicators on how people and life might change.

As we know, re-opening the economy is not going to be like switching a light back on to full power. People, businesses and the “normal” things we used to do and take for granted are all going to go through a transitional period. Some things may end up close to where they were prior to the COVID pandemic. But it’s likely that most will not. Here are three areas where we are anticipating more lasting and even disruptive change:

1. Increased share of online shopping.
Many people have migrated primarily to online grocery services including curb-side pick-up and delivery services, as well as home meal kit services. While their market share will level off in the post-COVID world, it’s likely they will enjoy a higher share of the market long-term. The same applies to other retail categories such as clothing, electronics, and home goods. As people become more comfortable using e-commerce for a majority of their purchases, they may be less inclined to visit brick-and-mortar outlets, or prefer curb-side pick-up for everything from computers to lawn mowers to running shoes.

2. Situations involving large groups.
The fear of being in a large group is very real for many people, not just the elderly or other vulnerable populations. This means industries such as travel, entertainment, and conference events will take longer to find their new footing among customers who are hesitant to be exposed to a virus in a large group. Determining the appropriate level of social distancing for customers is going to be key for a return to growth for brands in these industries.

3. Disappearance of brand loyalty.
We all know (and have heard countless jokes) about toilet paper hoarding. But there are many other packaged goods brands that have been difficult for customers to find due to hoarding or supply chain issues. This has forced even very loyal customers to shift to new choices which has led to market share erosion for some brands. Additionally, customers have also been moving to more value-drive and white-label brands given the economic challenges facing many now. To recapture loyal customers, brands may need to invest significantly in traditional and digital media.


At the core of any innovation strategy is staying close to your customers and their need states as they transition to the new norm.”

So how might these shifts impact your brand’s innovation plans? We see a couple of innovation paths to growth that successful companies will pursue during the re-opening of the economy:

  • Start building “transitional” products, services, experiences, and marketing efforts. Now could be the ideal time to launch new ideas that empathize with the attitudes and behaviors of customers as outlined above.
  • Evaluate retailers’ appetite for new products during this time. If your retail channels aren’t inclined to do so, the priority for your brand development team should be identifying ways to enhance messaging around existing products to make them fresh and meaningful.
  • Double-down on your long-term innovation strategy. To maintain or regain brand loyalty, now is not the time to retrench and shy away from innovation opportunities. Introducing new ideas that serve both customer and retailer needs is a win-win in any environment, even the challenging one right now.

At the core of any innovation strategy is staying close to your customers and their need states as they transition to the new norm.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss in more detail your innovation planning for the new norm.