A Hard Habit to Break
by Angie Ash, EVP
As someone with a side hustle teaching a few classes at a local gym, I often get asked how to keep weight off successfully and long-term. It’s not easy, especially for women as they age and face the realities of a slower metabolism and the effects of hormones. As if the rest of what comes with aging isn’t enough to bear, right? Weight loss and keeping it off comes down to eating more protein, fruits, and vegetables, and eating less fat, empty calories, sugar, and alcohol, plus moving your body more. However, the true key to keeping weight off means relearning how to eat and ditching a lot of your not-so-healthy habits. And that, my friends, is the hardest part of the equation when you’re not only used to a nightly glass of wine, eating lots of bread and cheese, and parking your butt on the couch, but you also happen to like it. A lot. Habit becomes lifestyle. You won’t have true success until your new habits become your new lifestyle. One you end up preferring to the old one.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room, new consumer habits brought on by COVID, and how they may impact your business. Right now, you may not truly be feeling it yet, but you likely will. Let’s start with the fact that research indicates it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Unfortunately, when COVID hit, we weren’t really given much of a choice. In fact, we were all forced to put life as we knew it to a screeching halt. Like it or not, (with most of us in the not camp), our concerns became finding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Clorox. This, while simultaneously speed-learning Zoom and embracing our kitchen tables as our desks. We waited it out in the hopes that the nightmare would be over soon.
And then March passed, followed by May, June, July, August, September, and now here we are. It’s been way more than 66 days. And the reality is that while you may run into someone who says they miss working in an office, there are also many who now see quite a few perks to working at home. They can live with all the Zoom meetings and sometimes bad internet connections if it means they don’t need to commute and can have an extra hour to sleep in. These are likely the same people who never thought they would like working at home until they had to. Now, not only is it not so bad, but they really don’t want to go back to the office every day. If you gave them a choice, they probably wouldn’t volunteer to go back. And the thought of going back next year may actually make them feel less than enthusiastic. They’ve developed a new habit turned lifestyle. They prefer it to the old one.
Then there are the die-hard brick and mortar shoppers who never bought online and always liked to try everything on. Until their favorite stores closed and their grocery store experience left them without bread, pasta, or a great feeling of safety. So they bought a sweater online. Then they did the same with pasta and face masks. Everything came straight to their door with free shipping and easy returns. They didn’t have to use gas, risk germs, or come home empty-handed and frustrated. They didn’t think they would like shopping online. It’s not so bad now, though. Come to think of it, they actually like it. A lot. After all, it’s nice not waiting in a checkout line. They’ve developed a new habit turned lifestyle. They prefer it to the old one.
Now let’s talk about all those companies who closed down their offices partially or entirely, and now have all of their people working remotely. It doesn’t look like things will be “back to how they were” anytime soon. And those business owners are wondering if they really need those buildings and office spaces anyway. Turns out, it’s not so bad. They can save substantial money if they get rid of their buildings and rent meeting spaces if need be. They won’t need to pay for the copy machines, window washers, and utilities. Their employees are happier too. The business “structure” has changed to the point where many no longer have “structures” at all. It’s a new way to run a business. They prefer it to the old one.
The stores that had all those people coming in before to buy sweaters and pasta and face masks are staring down emptier aisles. It doesn’t look like brick and mortar shopping will be “back to how it was” anytime soon. Will it ever? So our retailers are quickly learning to try out new things. For some, it’s finally deciding to turn on shopping carts for online sales and promoting them. For others, it’s trying virtual events since traditional trunk shows aren’t going as well as they used to. There are bumps in the road in learning this, but they’re still trying. Others still are calling down their customers and scheduling personal appointments. They’re taking the time to forge that connection. Doing these things can’t be more important to put into practice now. Habits only stop being habits when you avoid practicing them. And let’s face it. We’re out of practice with the old way and so are our customers, even though it was never our intention or desire to get where we are now. Creating new ways to keep your business going provides opportunities. It won’t be easy, there will be bumps in the road, but new ways can happen if you’re open to learning. In time, who knows? You could prefer them to the old ones.