During economic downturns, brands often view cost-cutting measures such as limiting new products or slashing overheads as the best solution to budgetary struggles. While this approach may help profit margins in the short term, any savings gained are frequently either temporary or negligible. Brands that want to truly recession-proof their business must adopt a completely different mindset—one that is additive rather than subtractive—in order to see opportunity where others see threat.
Companies in any industry, whether ecommerce, service based, or physical storefront, must prioritise creating ecosystems that consumers can’t live without this year and beyond.
While staying ahead of accelerating trends (and impending recessions) can be difficult, ensuring you’re ideally situated in a brand ecosystem is the best way to maintain relevance with your consumers in the ways that matter most to them—in good and bad times. Now is the time to make an investment in yours. Here are four strategies for thriving while doing it:
Focus on relationships rather than transactions.
To begin, keep in mind that, while transactions are one-on-one interactions between a buyer and a seller, relationships are usually more complex. If brands want to make those kinds of meaningful connections, they must first understand the nature of relationships, particularly how they influence consumer behaviours and habits.
Who we are as individuals is a direct reflection of our closest relationships with others: if your coworkers always buy cheeseburgers and fries for lunch, for example, you’re unlikely to eat a salad when you sit down to eat together. The same is true for your company’s brand. Consider how your brand can facilitate a consortium or alliance of complementary brands to assist customers in achieving their goals (even in the face of obstacles), and you’ll be making it that much easier to become an irreplaceable part of their lives.
Design your ecosystem
Nurturing brand ecosystem through smart design is another way to help consumers get the most out of your brand experience. For example, if you own a pet store, you might think about creating an community by collaboration with vets, farriers, and other pet product brands to help customers achieve healthy happy pet goals and earn points with relevant brands.
In this fictitious larger ecosystem, the customer could strengthen relationships with your brand and others, as well as consumers who share similar goals. The customer, who could use their points to get a claw clip , would be introduced to a whole new level of pet care that would benefit your company’s bottom line. Finally, ecosystems facilitate transformational relationships that benefit everyone involved, which is a win for brands and consumers.
Incorporate community collaboration into your product and strategy.
To create a community around your product, you must stay ahead of the blink-and-you-miss-it changes in your industry. (Brand trackers are one way to stay abreast of opportunities). Nike excels at engaging with a diverse range of consumers and communities: it recently collaborated with Polaroid to create a unique skateboarding shoe that highlighted women, non-binary, and LGBTQ skaters. Nike also collaborates with indigenous communities, commissioning indigenous designers to create capsule collections. In addition, Nike’s N7 fund assists Native communities in North America in living healthier lives.
Social communities are especially eager to embrace brands that can contribute to the creator-driven landscape. While rapper Doja Cat may not be considered a “brand-safe” partner, her authenticity allowed Taco Bell to broaden its brand ecosystem and promote the return of the “Mexican Pizza.” It’s just one of many products that benefited from the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hype: in fact, TikTok users spent $824 million on Google Play and the App Store during the fourth quarter of 2021 (the most recent available data at the time of this article), a significant ROI for brands willing to invest in the online ecosystem.
Connection over perfection all the way
Seek connection rather than perfection. Behavioral changes that used to take a decade to occur now happen in a matter of months. New habits are forming faster than ever before, and new opportunities are emerging. Consumers who are tightening their own belts in the coming months will find it much more difficult to abandon brands that have become a part of their ecosystem. Brands that have not established those relationships will not be considered.
Nurturing an ecosystem requires agility, not instant perfection: the ability to quickly iterate and adapt to a network of things will be what drives consumer loyalty and excitement as we weather the storm and emerge together. What matters most will be connection, not perfection.
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