Beth Thompson

Adaptability is the new competitive advantage

There has been a notable shift in the needs of consumers over the last few months compared to what we would expect to see year on year.

The ability to adapt to these new customer requirements is what has given the businesses the edge and that competitive advantage over others in the last few uncertain months.

Since the ‘return of the high street’ in mid-June, we’ve seen that physical stores are certainly not a thing of the past, with shoppers returning in their droves to revisit their favourite shops, even if just for a taste of the ‘comforts’ of normality they knew before the pandemic.

However, as predicted, the new ‘normal’ is, and will continue to be, a lot different from the normal we knew before. Since the long-term economic outlook is still uncertain, this will likely impact the priorities of consumers long into the future, affecting their purchase decisions.

Adapting to the new mindset of consumers will provide retailers with the competitive advantage they need to thrive in a post Coronavirus world. Keeping clear lines of communication with your consumers helps to keep people at ease throughout uncertainty, and those that have adapted and innovated in line with new needs have thrived.


Effective and thoughtful communication with consumers throughout this time period is key to retaining loyalty once a new ‘normal’ settles in - particularly those who have provided comfort and demonstrated how they have adapted to be able to meet new consumer needs as they are feeling uncomfortable with uncertainty.

It has been important to:

  • Keep customers aware of any changes to your situation, service delivery, how you are keeping staff safe and the new services you are providing to customers to meet their new needs.
  • Offer a form of ‘distraction’ from the uncertainty, through providing a personal snapshot of your business, such as some good news stories, insights into your team or customer spotlights, or a look ‘behind the scenes’.


Brands who have been able to innovate throughout the uncertainty have seen real growth. The increase in the quantity of online consumers and the decrease in people leaving the home has meant that creativity has been at a peak.

Companies that traditionally provide experiences have had to rely on creative innovation to continue to be able to cater to loyal customers. We’ve seen Michelin star restaurants begin to offer a ‘takeaway with a twist’, providing gourmet experiences to the foodies out there, gyms delving into the virtual world more than ever before with a huge increase in video content and virtual classes, and many stores offer VIP experiences with 1-1 (distanced!) shopping experiences through utilising In-store Appointments.


Now is prime time to invest in digital marketing due to a large increase in a brand new demographic of online shoppers, and a reduction in the number of retailers saturating the digital space - meaning you’re also highly likely to get ‘more bang for your buck’ than ever before! The knee-jerk reaction to cut spend, for many retailers, proved to be the wrong decision.

Samuel Scott also reported in 2008 that across 85 brands who stopped advertising during the last recession, brand usage dropped by 13% on average.

Jane Ostler, Global Head of Media at Kantar Insights, reported that “brand health becomes vulnerable when companies stop advertising. If they do this for longer than six months it destroys both short and long term health”.

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