What are UK and US businesses doing to navigate COVID-19?

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Coronavirus has hit many industries hard; according to the Office for National Statistics, a quarter of UK companies have temporarily closed because of the pandemic. To better understand the business landscape during this time, we surveyed UK and US business decision-makers to understand their COVID-19 strategies and their outlook going forward. 

Positivity and clarity

Our consumer research revealed that Brits are looking to brands to spread some positivity during this time and the business world reflects this sentiment. Indeed, over 2 in 5 (45%) business decision-makers said one of the most important things UK businesses need to do to get through the difficulties posed by COVID-19 is to be as positive as they can in messaging to consumers. Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly given their stereotypically cheerier disposition, the percentage is even higher for business decision-makers in the US as half (50%) said the same. 

Another trend the research revealed the importance business decision-makers placed on internal communication with their employees. The last six weeks have seen the media and consumers scrutinise brands that have failed to treat their employees well during this time. Another piece of our consumer research revealed that over 4 in 5 (84%) of Brits said it was important* to them that brands support their employees during COVID-19, with almost two thirds (64%) stating that this was very important. This is echoed in our research with business decision-makers as over 2 in 5 in the UK (43%) said one of the most important things UK businesses need to do to get through the difficulties posed by COVID-19 is ensuring that communications with employees is as clear as possible. For respondents in the US, this rose to half (50%). 

Adapting business vs remaining authentic 

From restaurants offering delivery for the first time, through to offline learning courses moving to a virtual setting, many businesses have adapted in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s not as easy for many to adapt and diversify, however, our research did find that over a third of business decision-makers (35%) said one of the most important things UK businesses need to do to get through the difficulties posed by COVID-19 is diversifying the services/products they offer. For US respondents, this was slightly lower at just under 3 in 10 (29%) who said the same. 

Conversely, just under a third of business decision-makers (32%) said one of the most important things UK businesses need to do to get through the difficulties posed by COVID-19 is remaining authentic in what their core offerings are. For our US respondents, this was much higher at  2 in 5 (40%) who said the same. 

Being seen and heard

Whatever the strategy, businesses still need to be seen and heard during this time – again, our consumer research revealed that almost half (48%) of Brits agree** they’re noticing brand news more because they’re reading the news more.

For our US and UK business decision-makers, many placed importance on this. A fifth (20%) of the US respondents said one of the most important things US businesses need to do to get through the difficulties posed by COVID-19 is ensuring brand exposure through marketing and PR. For the UK respondents, this rose to 22%.

Understanding customers 

Strategies should always be underpinned with insight and data – after all, it’s cheaper to do your research than get important decisions about the future of your business wrong. Further, there have been many reports on the change in consumer behaviour – at the time of writing a report today showed that the weekly shop has made a comeback. 

It was encouraging to see how many respondents have been taking this time to better understand their customers during COVID-19. Over a third (36%) of business decision-makers in the UK have conducted proactive research into what their customers are thinking to better understand them during COVID-19 while in the US, this increases to a very significant 51%. 

Meanwhile, 2 in 5 (40%) business decision-makers in the UK have been paying attention to research produced by other companies to try and understand their customers better during COVID-19, which again, increases for the US to 48%.

From the data, we can see that business strategies are adapting quickly and align with the ever-changing wants and needs of consumers and governments. We expect both consumer and business behaviour to continue shifting as we are thrown unpredictable challenges in this global pandemic. What is now the ‘new norm’ will quickly be replaced by other ‘new norms’ as we navigate lockdown lifts, second phases and continually adapt in order to save lives and support our healthcare systems. 

Market research offers an easy way to gain valuable insight into the behaviour of both consumer and B2B audiences in these uncertain times. If you are interested in chatting about how it could help your business/your clients then please touch base at 0207 251 9955 or [email protected] to talk to a consultant.

Notes: 
*combination of very and somewhat important 
*combination of very and somewhat important 
**combination of either somewhat or strongly agree 

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