What's next for design businesses

Caring, analysing and preparing a COVID-19 antidote

This has been a tumultuous few weeks and we are looking at another 4-5 months of it. We have spoken to more than 100 designers over the last few weeks and we are starting to get a picture of how the industry is faring. We are collecting information on how clients are managing. And also reading widely to get a global understanding of design in the new world.

We want to share a few thoughts based on all our observations.

Clients are doing it tough

Most design agencies deal with a business owner or an employing. The important thing to remember is that they are as fearful as we are. The business owner is not sure how to keep the business going and the employee is worried about their job.

Now is not the time to start marketing to them.

Clients want a business relationship they can trust, they want that relationship to make them feel safe when their world has been turned on its head. They want support when so much seems to moving and shifting around them.

Designers are human centred by nature. They have empathy at their core. Now is the time to clearly articulate this and define your values and purpose and then stick to them. The 2019 EDELMAN TRUST BAROMETER research shows that 64 percent of customers choose to buy from socially responsible brands, a figure that has grown significantly in the past two years.

Demonstrate your human centred approach by reaching out—not by marketing or overt moves to gain competitive edge, but to offer genuine support.

Looking after your biggest asset

Employees are your biggest expense no matter what size your business is. That liability is balanced by them being your best asset. Well, they WERE your best asset. With predictions all our businesses will be severely disrupted by C19 there is a risk the abilities that made them an asset may no longer be needed.

Agency owners should plan to provide new tools, training and support to help designers deliver better results for clients through enhanced customer experience.

Understanding customers

Our clients customers’ normal pattern of life been severely disrupted. Simple activities like a trip to the grocery store or dining out with friends are now difficult or banned. Within the last few months demand patterns have shifted. We can see this by looking at those countries where C19 had an early impact.

For example:

Overall online penetration in China increased by 15–20 percent according to a 2020 McKinsey survey in 46 Chinese cities.

In Italy, according to Chiara Bertoletti writing in GDOWEEK, e-commerce sales for consumer products rose by 81 percent in a single week, creating significant supply-chain bottlenecks.

We can expect changes in consumer preferences and business models will outlast the immediate crisis. The McKinsey survey in China showed “there has been a 55 percent increase in consumers intending to permanently shift to online grocery shopping, and an increase of three to six percentage points in overall e-commerce penetration in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

It’s worth noting that some consumers will be trying digital and remote experiences for the first time. According to Chinese market-research firm QuestMobile the share of Chinese consumers over the age of 45 using e-commerce increased by 27 percent from January to February 2020.

The takeaway

The change in customer behaviour will carry over once the crisis is over.

With Job Keeper funding and limited work from clients there is an opportunity to develop in-house skills in digital experiences. Beef up UI and UX skills, practice empathy mapping and customer journey mapping, develop motion graphics skills, develop deeper expertise in WordPress. Be prepared.

If you want to learn more about how the DBC is helping the Australian design community contact Greg Branson.

Greg Branson

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about the many programs the DBC offers.

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Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.