Consumer-facing companies were dealing with changing consumer preferences and business models in flux well before the current crisis, which is serving to further catalyze these existing forces. The situation is grim. However, companies combining a strong digital presence with a human connection to the qualities that define their brand are well-positioned for recovery. For a reopening at scale, transparency will matter more than ever, as will brand trust — far more than the relentless quest for experience, pre-crisis.
As states begin to loosen shelter-in-place restrictions, consumer-facing companies are planning ahead — to reopen their doors in phases. Safety is paramount: 60% of CFOs in consumer markets (CM) say they are very confident they can provide a safe working environment for employees while 69% are very confident they can meet customers’ safety expectations.
Finance leaders are implementing workplace safety measures, reconfiguring work sites to promote physical distancing and alternating work crews to limit exposure. These measures are important to consumers: 39% of respondents to a PwC survey of 1600+ consumers conducted May 4 to 7 said they would shop in stores if physical distancing and other safety measures were in place.
After an initial spike, consumer spending is starting to stabilize for essential goods and services, while continuing to plummet in other areas. This reflects CM CFOs’ projections about the adverse impact of the current crisis: More than three times as many (20% vs. 6% for all sectors) project a decrease in revenue and/or profit of 50% or more in 2020.
The current situation has necessitated new ways to serve customers (51% vs. 44% for all sectors), which will allow CM companies to emerge stronger over the long term. CM CFOs told us they will also rely on improved resilience and agility (76%, in line with all sectors at 72%), leaner operations (58% vs. 47% for all sectors) and technology investments (49%, the same as all sectors).
Consumers are cautiously optimistic about the recovery. While almost 40% told us they would shop in stores if safety measures were in place, a scant 12% of respondents said they would shop in stores immediately after reopening. And 30% said they would shop in stores only if a product wasn’t available online immediately. In fact, consumers are signaling that they will likely stay loyal to new brands they’ve tried over the past few weeks, which offers CM companies the opportunity to nurture these nascent customer relationships while also cementing existing brand trust.