As we enter day 681 of our fifteen days to flatten the curve, more and more of the general public is realizing that, at some point, the pandemic has to end. History says it must, even if it doesn’t end how or when we’d like it to. This will have major implications for marketing leaders. Everyone enjoyed throwing around “the new normal” to justify whatever position someone was taking in the moment, especially if that position would have been closer to crazy than clever just twenty-five months ago. But now, the actual new normal is closer than ever. So what does it mean for marketing leaders?

Customers will not compromise on convenience. If a shopper became accustomed to receiving a good or service directly from a website during the pandemic, they’re not going to suddenly break that habit, cancel their subscription, and rush back out to the big box store and hoist their own groceries and pet food into their trunks again. Likewise, there will be no backtracking when it comes to delivery windows. If a brand could do two days with free shipping during the pandemic, that will be the expectation after the pandemic as well, supply chain issues be damned. Just because people can do more for themselves doesn’t mean that they actually will.

That doesn’t mean that retail is dead, though it does have to be reinvented. You’ll hear a lot of talk about the Customer Experience in 2022- including from yours truly- and the brick-and-mortar brands that drive the most innovative and incredible Customer Experiences will win after the pandemic ends. While shoppers won’t want to sacrifice convenience, they’ll be more than willing to head into stores and back into society at large if the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) Factor is strong enough. That means creating unique opportunities to try before you buy, receive expert advice (imagine a mixologist at your beverage retailer of choice), or to feel a sense of belonging to an in-real-life community- such as doing yoga with friends, instead of in your bedroom.

The lines between retail and eCommerce will become more blurred than ever after the pandemic’s over. But one thing is certain- brands have to continue to optimize for the customer experience, both online and in person. If a brand isn’t a brand, but a mere commodity, they’ll end up losing to their savvier competitors.

Do you have an exit-strategy in place for the pandemic? If not, now’s a good time to get started on one.

Stay tuned next week for a look at how B2B marketing will be impacted by the end of the pandemic- which can’t come soon enough.