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Angus Jones, Former CMO Of LG: COVID-19 Will Not End Any Time Soon

I wish I did not write this headline and this is all a dream. However, of all industries, the Consumer Electronics industry is in one of the better positions. Yes, people will get sick, yes, this will close some businesses and yes, people will be out of work, BUT let me talk you through the positives.

The year was 1991 and I worked for Panasonic at the time they assembled TVs at a plant in Penrith, New South Wales.  It is also the year that Australia was last in recession (side note GFC was not a recession for Australia).  According to Paul Keating, the Treasurer at the time, it was the recession we had to have.  People lost jobs and four banks collapsed. However Panasonic sold every TV and video recorder product it could build. Why?  Because people who still had jobs spent more time at home rather than going out.  For the majority, their salary never changed.  However human instinct is to withdraw!

Fast track to March 2020. In a matter of days people went from having a secure job to losing it, watched businesses close and were forced, along with the rest of the nation, to stay at home. This means the only place you can spend money is from your home.

When will we be allowed out again and how will we behave differently?  The Covid 19 pandemic will end when one of three things happen:  1. the majority of us have had it and recovered; 2. a cure is found or 3. an anti-virus is found.  Politicians might suggest restrictions will be raised in 90 days but if we all start venturing out again we accelerate the spread of the virus again.  My guess is that we will be back out by Christmas.  When it is over people will react differently in the world and for Australia I believe two key changes will occur 1. People will want to still work from home and 2. Australians will be far more open/reliant on home/online shopping than before.  We have always trailed America in this space.

So what are we seeing now? We are seeing a surge in demand for some products and some organisations adapting their business models.  If you make food or medicines/medical, provide home entertainment like gaming, streaming, audio or TVs, support IT solutions or furniture for working from home, self-sufficiency products like coffee machines, bread makers, online gym classes and solar panels/batteries you are going to be very busy meeting demand.  It is interesting to see organisations adapt with innovative companies like McDonald’s now offering milk in their drive through. Google Maps no longer suggests home or work on the front screen rather takeaway or delivery now.

What does all this mean for the consumer electronics industry?  Most likely it means more sales but less foot traffic.  How should you adapt to this change?  Is it as simple as having an online store and fast or free delivery?  People will change the way they go about shopping but they will not change the process quickly.  Up till now most consumers visited retail store and spoke to a sales person.  Australian consumers like to be told they are making the right decision or have someone explain what is right for their needs.  Now a consumer is hesitant to talk to someone in a store assuming they even venture out. There will be massive demand as people treat themselves at home, like in 1991, but this time amplified by the fact they cannot leave home.

Why I could be wrong!  In 1991 we did not have social media.  Social media is creating such a frenzy of panic and fear it has scared us into wrongly thinking supermarkets will run out of items.  If people shut down and withdraw on a long term basis they will not spend.  If this happens we are certainly in much bigger trouble!

However my belief is that Australian consumers who can spend will spend and they will turn to people they feel they can trust. This will include forums, journalists, respected retailers for answers, comparisons and advice.  Moving forward, content will play an even more important role not just price.  Consumers will seek out clear content that shows the customer benefit and gives them a reason to buy that clearly shows how this thing will make their life better!

Full disclosure – I am a marketer with 30 years’ experience executing innovative solutions, creating content and currently looking for a job.  I recommend moving your resources to support the above.  This includes working with journalists more closely, improving your content, doubling down on digital presales customer service and continuing to advertise.

 

Commentary piece by Angus Jones, Former Chief Marketing Officer at LG Electronics. Angus is a career marketer helping organisations sell more.

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