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How Has Your Customer Changed?

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

Customer behavior has, in many cases, changed radically since the arrival of the COVID-19 virus. How have your customers’ habits changed – if at all? Understanding how their behaviors have changed, down to the most granular level, will give you a better chance to survive and grow when the pandemic begins to fade.

Here are a few observations on what has happened almost overnight because of the pandemic, which is now starting to increase its spread even more widely, and what it might mean for your business:

  • You need to meet your customers where they are, which is increasingly online. Will you be there to meet them?

  • Where do your customers want to “pick up/pick out” your product? Drive-through? Curbside pickup? Delivery? Do you make it as easy as possible so that your customers can avoid potentially picking up an infection? The easier and safer you can make it, the more likely the customer might be to buy it from you.

  • Consumption in the US is anticipated to decline by approximately 12% over the next two years. In some cases, consumers are tending more toward well-known national brands. In others, they are looking for the best price regardless of the brand. Either way, if they have less to spend, are they going to spend it with you?

  • Consumer loyalty has become severely disrupted. Whereas in the past and in many cases, customers generally patronized particular businesses or brands, now they are often looking elsewhere or trying new places or different brands of products. Are you giving your customers enough reasons to stay loyal to your product – either through service, price, safety, ease of acquiring, or finding? How good is your customer experience? Could it be better?

These are just a very few of the issues facing businesses today, which may not have been deal-killers before the pandemic but suddenly may be today. The term “new normal” seems to get overused (including by myself), but now we are likely beginning to create a new normal that will become permanent once we are eventually back to most people having jobs and working again. And whatever that may be is not going to become apparent until a vaccine or vaccines become widely-available and proven effective, and that is a long way off. Although Pfizer received dramatic results in the first test of its vaccine, it was based on just 94 volunteers in the trial group and has not received final FDA approval yet. There are many questions left unanswered but the fact that such a positive result was achieved is potentially spectacular. It will still take a considerable amount of time for enough people to get the vaccine to have any significant effect on the economy. And then there is the small matter of how to distribute the drug. I will discuss more on that next week.

So the message is to continue to run your business in this evolving “new normal” and make sure you keep up with how your customers may have or continue to change. It could keep you in business, but it could also be an opportunity to pick up new customers from other businesses that have not understood or realized that their customers may have changed.


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug was a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at


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