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What does your customer want?

The answer can change based on the day of the week and is susceptible to influences that are both cultural and economic.

At times, figuring it out can be like trying to solve a Rubik’s that moves on its own when you aren’t looking.

Big businesses can easily be lured into the belief that they have it all figured out when the profits are soaring, but the moment you fall in love with your product as it is, you sacrifice your ability to question if it is what your customer will want in the future.

The cautionary tale of Kodak’s demise illustrates this point only too well.

Founded in 1888, Kodak’s 1981 sales passed an unbelievable $10 billion.

In 2012 they filed for bankruptcy.

You might be excused for accepting this as a technological inevitability given the almost antique nature of an analogue camera, but a trip into the figurative dark room of Kodak’s past allows a clearer picture to develop.

Sending printed images to their millions of customers allowed Kodak to strike gold but it was their inability to stop digging at this same old mine that was to play a huge part in their undoing.

By the late 80’s digital cameras rendered analogue versions all but obsolete.

A Kodak engineer invented a digital camera in 1975, but the company never released a version for sale until 1991. They sat on their success and missed the shift in the wants of their customer base.

Many years before Facebook, Kodak acquired the photo sharing site Ofoto in 2001. Instead of going down the Instagram route, they tried to push their outdated desire for printing onto a modernised concept and a modernised audience.

In 2012, when Kodak were filing for bankruptcy, Facebook were buying Instagram, the big new photo sharing social network for $1 billion.

Rising fuel prices, mortgage hikes, unemployment and economic output decline are the modern issues facing today’s consumers. Couple this with a seemingly apocalyptic mini budget, a cost-of-living crisis and astronomical household bills, the spending habits of your customer have very likely changed.

Life is tough.

People will start to shop brands, brands they know and trust. If you can’t get face to face with your customers right now, then you should be gaining their trust by looking after them in other ways. Give them advice where you can. Showcase things they need.

Help them.

How could you redirect your intentions as a business to serve their needs? A helping hand during these difficult times could be the thing that is remembered down the line. Not every interaction needs to be pushing a sale or looking to gain new custom. Keeping your brand front of mind is also of benefit. Even more so if you are delivering helpful and supportive messaging.

The Covid businesses that thrived were the ones emailing, sending info or incentives and offering vouchers or freebies.

A great article by Tony Robbins explains that in a recession the businesses that thrive are grocery stores, healthcare, confectionary, alcohol, discount retail, pet care, children’s goods and general repairs. Read the full article here.

Where does your business sit within these categories?

If it doesn’t, could you make it fit?

Is there a potential collaboration here you could leverage?

Could you develop what you have?

Of course, not every business will be able to, and for some it simply won’t work, but you can at least say you exhausted all possible angles.

There may come a time when you have to accept that your customers are not going to be in your stores, on your websites or visiting your marketplaces for a while.

And where will they be instead?

They are in the grocery stores taking the 'nice-to-haves' out of the trolley.

They are having quiet nights in, hoping to squirrel a few pounds away for their children’s Christmas gifts.

They are walking their dogs, buying alcohol, searching for discounted goods and doing things that don’t cost too much money.

So where should you be?

Right by their side.

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