As painful and terrifying as this crisis is, Covid-19 might be a blessing in a very good disguise for many New Zealand businesses.
Lockdown is forcing businesses all over the country to evolve and give consumers the experience they always wanted. And this is preparing New Zealand businesses for the ultimate crisis that's coming their way – Amazon.
Amazon is thriving during Covid-19 because its real focus isn't products. It's humans. Its mission is to "obsess about consumers". So it understands we never actually want to leave home if we can avoid it.
Personally, I've always avoided contact with strangers whenever possible. I'm happy to forgo all the benefits of physical shopping so I can avoid speaking to anyone or going anywhere. And I'm not unique. I've heard there are more Amazon Prime members in America than pet owners or church-goers. Let that sink in.
But now suddenly, businesses across New Zealand are stepping up to give customers the Amazon experience, and more. Restaurants are delivering at-home picnics and night markets are going click-and-collect. Car retailers are offering virtual vehicle demonstrations. The Warehouse Group is trialling drive-thru collection. It's like every business evolved overnight.
This is a really good thing. Because the truth is this disruption was always going to come. For many, it would have taken the shape of Amazon. Or Ikea. Or Costco. They're all eyeing up New Zealand and threatening to decimate local businesses here as they've done in major Western markets.
And no industry is safe. Amazon isn't just dominating in books or technology, it's number one in footwear and apparel. Number five in groceries. This is coming to our shores – it always was. It's a crazy though, but we might be lucky this crisis came first.
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The fact is, if you're not giving your customer the best experience at the lowest inconvenience, then someone else will. Right now might be the best chance you'll ever have to evolve your business. It's like we're in a Government-sponsored hackathon.
It's not just the "Jacinda grants" that are giving businesses the opportunity to innovate. You also have a captive audience. With so many of us literally trapped at home, your customers have all had to become digital experts – and they're eager to try something new. Plus, the playing field has also never been so level. Now it really doesn't matter if your competitor has a better location or a shinier store. We're all equal in the eyes of Google.
So now is the time to obsess about your consumers: how easy can you make their lives? How can you get your product into their hands without making them use their hands quite so much? And do they have any other wishes you can fulfil along the way?
While your immediate focus may be keeping your head above water, the new tricks you learn today will make you resilient, and ready to face the crises of the future. When Amazon does make a serious play here, I'm picking it will wish it came earlier. Kiwi businesses will be vaccinated and ready for the challenge.
• Haydn Kerr is creative partner at Tribal Worldwide NZ, and digital creative director at DDB NZ.