History shows us that pandemics don’t change business models but accelerate shifts already underway.

As we grapple with a speedy transition to digital, it’s evident that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our daily lives.

With countries around the world facing a second wave of the virus and economic downturn, we must take stock of where we are and what’s coming next for businesses.

I sat down with Laurenti Arnault, Founder and CEO of LARA Media Group. This consortium owns THE VOU, WTVOX Magazine, and Wardrobe of Tomorrow, a marketplace dedicated exclusively to sustainable designers from all over the world.

We discussed fashion, media, sustainable development, and economic reconstruction through the lens of COVID-19 and beyond.
Ideal Business Response to COVID-19

LA: We’ve told our clients to think about the pandemic playing out in three phases.

First, react. Do customers get your messages and understand your direction? Do you tell consumers what you’re doing to keep them safe and to help?

Second, recovery. We’re in that phase now. How do you get out of this? What do you tell your consumers, and how do you get that information to them?

Finally, renew. This is the most exciting phase. Relearn the rules of marketing. As a business, you’re going to change your marketing, the way you engage with consumers.

It’s a period of innovation as brands try to figure out what’s next.

COVID-19 Impact on Digital

LA: Before COVID-19, many businesses were email-free, conducted with pen and paper. Now it’s online or die.

We’ve had ten years of digital acceleration in as many months. Take the U.K., for example, in the deepest recession ever and yet; e-commerce is thriving.

The digital world has been a lifeline for many businesses and people during the lockdown.

Statistics show that 75% of consumers have tried new brands, sites or shops, and from those, over 60% are expected to return, post-COVID-19.

And if you look to Asia, online education doubled in China while online shopping by the elderly grew 4X in Singapore.

Marketers after COVID-19

LA: Digital is the key accelerator to economic recovery.

However, more time spent online has made audiences more digitally sophisticated.

We see increasingly sophisticated searches in many different product categories, such as “best bikes for urban commuting,” or “best yoga mat for travel”.

The average online shopper journey now has 140 touchpoints.

We call the stage between a person deciding that ‘I want to buy’ and making the purchase the ‘messy middle’ – and that has become further complex.

Mobile searches, including “popular” and “brands”, have grown by 80%

in the last two years.

Achieving Economic Recovery

LA: Post COVID-19, businesses need to identify pockets of demand and communicate about that to customers in a relevant way.

I keep telling our clients: “Embrace the opportunity, embrace technology.”

Rebuilding will take place online, in the recovery and renewal stages. With WFH, you can reach most people online.

As business leaders, we have to bridge the digital divide. When the pandemic hit, digital skills became even more critical.

I remember one story in particular — Latifa, an ethno-couture designer from France who wasn’t online much before the pandemic.

We put her label on Wardrobe of Tomorrow; two weeks later she was stormed by customers from all over the world and saw a 300% sales increase.

Doing Good is GOOD for Business

LA: In many ways, COVID-19 has brought us closer to circular models. Sustainable, ethical, better for people, animals and the planet.

Not only sustainable trends are rising, but also social-related problems that require fixing, to move forward.

The results make me optimistic as it reinforces the value of the work that we do as an industry. Businesses should search for how to help, just as consumers do.

For example, people around the world searched for “what is racial justice”, “how to be anti-racist”, and “what can white people do for racial justice.”

In the U.K., searches for “Black-owned business” reached an all-time high in June.

If we keep focusing on how we can help people, how we can create a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery and how we can work to dismantle racism, I know we can end up in a better place than we were before

And, that gives me hope.