The DSF recently had the opportunity to speak with a member, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix Design (SLD) about his company’s experience in supporting clients responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jean-Pierre, who is both an avid reader and an author, has guided SLD from its founding to support clients on branding, packaging, digital, wayfinding, and corporate branding. SLD, which has offices in Toronto, New York and Shanghai, also provides clients with service called Strategic Foresight, which has substantial tie-ins to their approach to the current pandemic.
When asked if he has ever seen anything change consumer and public behavior more rapidly than this current crisis, Jean-Pierre Lacroix quickly responded “No. Maybe the oil shortage (of the 1970s) came close and led to vandalism.” He added “In Canada we lived through SARS, but it didn’t come to this level of quarantine on a global scale”. But what is interesting is that this current crisis does not seem to have taken SLD by surprise. Jean-Pierre wrote an article in late 2019 called “Using Strategic Foresight to Look Ahead to 2030”, about trends to look for in the world economy this decade. In this article he identified 4 trends, three of which have manifested themselves within months, not years. “I think I was right about the trends to look for, just not about when we would see them impact us” Jean-Pierre told us. He wrote about a growing fortress mentality, potential impact of a global pandemic, and the technological ability for people to conduct their affairs without leaving their homes. The article is worth a read.
What COVID is doing to us?
“This is accelerating things we predicted will happen, eventually” said Mr. Lacroix as he described how the pandemic and society’s response has accelerated behaviors, technology adaption, and future-looking projects some companies have put off for a while. And while SLD certainly is a leader in understanding consumer behavior and how to rapidly respond with needed changes, one new theme came out of our discussion with Jean-Pierre. “We are going to see a lot of social unrest and companies play a role in helping with the level of anxiety”. So, what are the ways businesses can help?
What do consumers want?
According to Lacroix, consumers want clear communication about the environments they enter. They “want protocols for distancing; they want information,” he said. “They are not interested in the coupons; they are interested in safety”.
He pointed out how companies that are seen caring for their employees eclipses everything else. How employee safety is managed and communicated “is a key criterion for people deciding if they are going to do business with a company,” Lacroix said. People want to know the cleaning protocols, opening and closing times, distancing and protective gear requirements and they want to see that companies take this seriously.
Mr. Lacroix identified three key elements of digital that make it such an important tool during this time. SLD works in every medium imaginable but sees a unique place for digital signage. “The beauty of digital is that you can localize it to the store” responded Mr. Lacroix when asked about the advantage of digital. He pointed to examples: clear guidelines being shown on a highly visible entry display, touchless platforms, mobile integration, and human recognition as playing a key role in helping customers stay and feel safer as spaces open.
Not only has SLD been a thought leader in their foresight, they have been actively helping businesses understand how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through their design work and their COVID-19 Toolkit resource. The toolkit has practical and strategic information for banks, foodservice, retail, and consumer brands. The toolkit will be accompanied by a comprehensive retail industry study which will be presented during an online event on June 11, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT.