Changing customer behaviors amid COVID-19

Suddenly, everyone is going digital. Companies are implementing work-from-home, moving to cloud computing, upgrading their networks and applications, and adopting e-learning and videoconference practices. Banks are fastracking their digital banking offerings. Hospitals are doing telemedicine. Universities are incentivizing their teachers to develop online courses. Small and medium enterprises are putting up their websites and exploring ecommerce.

COVID-19 has become the forcing function for organizations to digitally transform, such that even the traditionally conservative industries as the education and healthcare industries, are racing to develop digital offerings.But organizations shouldn’t treat these digital initiatives as stopgap measures just to weather the storm of coronavirus.

Consumers and business customers will develop new behaviors and habits that will impact the way they buy, consume, learn, play and get entertained, and conduct business. Until a vaccine is developed, which experts say will take 18 months to make it available to the market, Covid-19 will have permanent chilling effects among people, even if quarantines and lockdowns are lifted.

The general consumer population will limit face-to-face interactions and movements to and in public places. This will spur all digital transactions such as ecommerce, use of electronic payments and delivery apps, webinars and teleconferences, telemedicine, e-learning, movie streaming, and so on.

Business customers, on the other hand, will likewise restrict their face-to-face transactions within and to the outside world. Hence, they will permanently adopt work-from-home arrangements, use more digital collaboration tools, enhance their electronic banking transactions, adopt ecommerce platforms, accelerate their move to cloud comput¬ing, and train their employees via e-learning.

But organizations are responding to these drivers in a knee-jerk way because of the current exigencies. While this is fine in the short-term, business leaders should rationalize these digitization efforts in a strategic way. This means truly understanding the new consumer and customer behaviors through market research, understanding emergent customer personas, and mapping their journey throughout the digital touch points of the organization.

From these, the organization can discover other areas that require digitization and/ or automation. For example, while many banks now in the country are rolling out their digital banking offerings, check deposit remains to be a cumbersome task of physically going to the bank and depositing it. Unionbank has successfully made this step digitally seamless by just scanning the check through the app and on with the check clearing.

In the same manner, employees are internal customers that need to be understood with their new behaviors and habits. Take for instance e-learning, where many organizations are now just starting to adopt this new way of training and learning. Pure e-learning delivery or pure live webinar delivery will not work due to the lack of readiness among employees who have been used to face-to-face learning. A seamless digital learning experience, with a combination of online materials, short real-time lectures and coaching becomes requisite.

Understanding the new customer norms is the first step to truly plan ahead for digital transformation of your organization. Those who will create seamless digital experiences in the new normal will emerge as winners when the global economy bounces back.


The author is Co-founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse,, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the Country Representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia (ICTPA) and Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at rey.lugtu@hungry¬