Fit to navigate the economic downturn

This article focuses on what companies can do internally to maintain their competitive advantage in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.

While comparisons are being made to past recessions and credit crunches, we are seemingly in uncharted territory. A new set of dynamics are at play; interest rate rises, high employment and a marked shift in the distribution of household expenditure since 2008. And this has by no means reached a crescendo; the coming months and years are hard to predict.

Many businesses have embraced ‘Agile’ to varying degrees. The Agile Manifesto was originally designed as a set of principles to deliver faster, more meaningful outcomes in software development, but the concept has recently become synonymous with competitive advantage across all sectors. Our recent work in helping businesses to streamline innovation processes has highlighted how relevant this approach is in today’s environment.

We have adapted the key principles for application in a consumer context:

1 / ‘Always on’ customer intel to keep the finger on the pulse

Against this economic backdrop, behaviour is shifting in unexpected ways, and quickly. For consumer businesses this calls for a new approach to staying on point. If we don’t know how our customer is changing, then we can’t be confident in our existing plans.

Where cyclical, primary sources of tracking and measurement come with a lag, more dynamic ‘always on’ methods trade control in return for frequency and fidelity. Some tools that may help with this include third party industry trackers (such as Brandview in the Foodservice sector) or social sentiment and trend monitoring. Crowd Signal, a tool by Crowd DNA, a Strat7 partner, interrogates online sources to provide foresight into where culture and consumers are moving next.

With a readily available stream of data from these sources, businesses can gain advantage by keeping up to speed with trends and changing consumer behaviours and attitudes.

2 / Set up to respond at the right pace and scale

Identifying market and consumer shifts is one thing but responding quickly to them is another. To realise the competitive advantage created by more dynamic insights, businesses will need to respond quickly through the marketing mix. Key to this will be nifty speed-to-market for new initiatives and rapid response to market volatility.

In designing and executing new initiatives and adaptations, the best output tends to come from teams that can think and act autonomously, unconstrained by legacy processes. Innovation-focused teams should be empowered to act on consumer and market intel and come up with solutions in a creative and agile way.

With any customer initiative, ‘test and learn’ approaches of early delivery of these initiatives provides invaluable feedback. This gives businesses the opportunity to learn, adapt and pivot before scaling up investment.

3 / An open mind to adaptation

At Incite we are all about consumer-centric Strategy and Planning, but in these circumstances, we advocate nimble and appropriate response to change, over and above strict adherence to a 5-year plan. This is not the time to be rigid about how things are done! The more we think of long-term strategy as set in stone, the harder it becomes to pivot when circumstances change.

To learn more about how Incite can support your business in navigating this rapidly changing consumer environment, please get in touch.

Read more on how to successfully navigate the different facets of the current cost-of-living crisis: