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We’re going out a lot less these days. Pandemics do that don’t they? They mean we have to stay in. They slow us down. Both in our physical movement and in our thinking. Just popping to the supermarket requires a little more thought. It’s not just, ‘phone, keys, bank card’. But, ‘phone, keys, bank card, mask, hand sanitiser…’. And maybe you’ll write a more considered shopping list too, so you can make just one journey to the supermarket instead of two or three. It’s safer that way right now.
So yes – we do stay in more at the moment. And many people are buying less things too. It’s not great for the economy, but it is focusing many of us on asking ourselves whether what we have right now, in some areas of our life at least, is enough. It is making us wonder why we ever bought so much of this, that or the other. When in actual fact we can be more inventive with what we have already. Repairing things. Remembering things. Do we really need a new window blind from Ikea when we can mend the one we have with that little ball of string in the drawer over there? Do we really need a new jumper when, if we take half a day to pull everything out of our wardrobe, we are reminded that we do in fact already own 80% more clothing than we wear with any regularity?
This pandemic, as horrible as it is, is making many, many people realise that the ‘enough’ they already have – really is enough.
Business should not really be in the business of getting people to buy what they don’t need, with money that they don’t have. But then again, if everybody only ever bought what they needed – the world would be a lot less fun. I don’t need chocolate. I like and want chocolate. So business will always tell stories, look to catch our attention and persuade us to buy things that we both like and want as well as need. And I think all of that is OK. It was ever so.
But the pandemic’s slowing effect, especially as consumers approach the actual point of purchase for many things that we humans buy, may have changed us ever-so-slightly, for good. Questions like this may become more commonplace
Just how long will this thing I am considering buying actually last me? Should I now be exploring paying 30% more for something that will clearly last 100% longer?
I wonder, how was this thing actually made? And by whom? And I wonder if the people that made it were paid properly and treated well. I wonder if – in this new world where we have all just experienced something that has brought us that little bit closer together – I wonder if this brand cares about people inside its own business’s supply chain, as well as it seems to care for those outside.
Consumer brains may now be starting to address the tension between ‘lay down price’ – what this is going to cost me right now – and ‘life time cost’ – the impact that this single purchase will have on my spend now and in the future, more than ever. And maybe other types of cost are becoming more influential too. Business cost to the environment, for example.
And maybe people will start to answer the new questions being raised in quite different ways, too. Now that we are all slowing down a bit. Now that we are all thinking about things a little bit more. Now that we are starting to realise that if we look closely at ourselves, we have been living a life where we almost always have had much more than we actually need. We all live in a world where carrots‘go off’. Where tee-shirts remain unworn. Where ceramic mugs tucked away in kitchen cupboards remain unused for years. We have, we are perhaps starting to realise, been living a life where we already have much, much more than enough – right now.
The Role of Business in a World Where Most of Us Already Have ‘Enough’.
These are all just thoughts, notions and ideas. But they are real. For some, at least.
Businesses can address the slowing, thought-inducing effect of the pandemic in their own behaviours – right now. They may even be
asking themselves whether they should have been doing this decades ago.
If consumers really are asking how things are made. Or how long they can expect things to last. Or how impactful – positively or negatively – buying from (and into) a brand actually is – then business should be telling them, up front. Businesses should already know and be communicating these things clearly and consistently.
There isn’t much in life to thank Coronavirus for. But in business? Maybe there is.