Delphi Salon with Sven Palys co-CEO of Yuzukyodai
October 9, 3pm Zoom
“These are subtle concepts but it’s clear that it’s the foreign CEOs that actually grasp them that will storm ahead in the coming years”
There are many books (I am reading “How We Lived then” by Norman Longmate) about how people change their habits profoundly during a crisis. Thus, practices and character traits Brits think of as typically “English” such as orderly queuing, a free health service, weird pub opening times etc – actually emerged very quickly under very unusual circumstances. But their legacy outlives the circumstances which spawned them by many decades.
The same is happening in Japan as a result of the latest crisis.
Sven Palys, brand semiotician, Japan expert and co-CEO Yuzu Kyodai points out how Japan’s psycho-social characteristics have suddenly shown up in intensified form over the past few months. Their impact on consumer behaviour could be very deep – especially as this virus appears to be with us for a while yet.
Most striking in terms of psychological attitudes is the fear, not of being infected, but of infecting others. In other words the urge is to push away “social risk” and preferably have others take on the responsibility. The stigma of letting down the community has become the worst outcome.
Businesses need to ask detailed questions: how are consumers changing their shopping behaviour in the wake of the panic surrounding Covid 19? How should businesses respond? Are they doing enough? Do they understand their ‘new’ consumer?
These are not easy challenges. But it’s clear that the foreign CEOs who grasp them can storm ahead in the coming years.
Based on Sven’s observations, the first thing to note is that most companies are not doing enough, or indeed anything much at all.
Yes, we all want to go back to business as usual. However, Sven explains the consumer is now carrying new and painful luggage: isolation, fear, anger, uncertainty, loneliness, family friction, impoverishment. We are very far from ‘business as usual’.
In these circumstances, companies need to show the consumer that they are aware that things have changed radically for many people. Enticing them back to the shops is a huge challenge. Will putting up signs asking for masks and a few bottles of hand spray help? Or should companies be expressing genuine warmth, compassion and empathy?
In fact, we all know that Japan can be excellent at showing it ‘cares’. Sven mentions how one shop provides 2 bottles of disinfectant, one at child height, the other at adult height – thereby conveying the message that it is aware that children played a much bigger and sometimes more burdensome part in our lives during lockdown. We probably all have anecdotes about some brilliant piece of personal attention we have received in Japan. These touches are not expensive or time consuming, but they do show the human face of the business.
The shopper is changing, and for good. Any B2C CEO not wanting to be left behind should attend this event.