In the last couple of weeks every brand you’ve ever purchased from sent you a similar version of the same email: “We’re here for you, we’re all in this together”.
Here at Yala we’ve refrained from sending such emails because in our opinion, their true sentiment is rather transparent. If the intention of those emails was honestly conveyed, they would say something like “We know you’re concerned about your family and job prospects right now, but we still want your money”.
Many people around the world don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month’s time, let alone disposable income for luxuries like fashion and jewellery. The business graduates among us know that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pictured below) indicates that food, shelter and security are our priorities in the current climate and everything else can wait.
We’ve discovered in the last few months that the world is more interconnected than we’ve had to think about previously. The closure of borders and lock-down procedures have myriad repercussions that affect us all however…the need for businesses to continue generating sales across various industries is what will ultimately keep the economy going.
Image: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Source - Neel Burton)
So let’s be honest and up-front about it; every business sells either a product or a service and if you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business. Clearly, there are some sectors that can take a backseat for the time being while we adjust to the new normal. Food providers, transport companies and healthcare are the essentials we need right now in order to feel safe and secure; the basic survival requirements right at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid.
Once this adjustment is complete, companies and small businesses in particular must find tactful and sensitive ways to remind their customers that they exist and need support (in the form of sales) in order to survive.
Small companies lack the cash reserves of large corporations, but still have people who depend on them for their own livelihoods. The artisans that Yala works with in Kenya all operate in the informal sector and so are particularly vulnerable to any disruption to their income, with family dependencies that will be impacted too. For the immediate future, our concerns are with the safety of our artisans and their families. We’re helping them during this period by sharing information and guidelines as well as financial support.
Independent brands are the most likely to vanish following this crisis and the economic carnage that comes with it, and yet if only the biggest brands survive, consumers will be left with just a few homogenous behemoths to choose from once they feel comfortable purchasing luxuries rather than essentials. It goes without saying that this crisis will fundamentally change the way we live and spend money.
We understand that buying new, shiny things is the last thing on anyone’s mind right now. In fact we believe that the most valuable asset that individuals and businesses can deploy in the short term is genuine empathy, not empty platitudes claiming half-hearted solidarity. Customers don't want to hear hollow claims about brands being "there for them", they want practical advice for working from home, protecting their loved ones and how to stay positive when the world is on fire.
To our customers: we’re not going to pretend that everything is normal, it’s clearly not. We’re doing what we can to make it through to the other side of this crisis, and when we do, of course we want you to continue to support our business and buy our products. But only when you’re able to and when you’re ready.
In other words, we will be here for you.