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The JP Industry’s “New Normal”

Posted By Ron Sidman, Thursday, May 21, 2020
The current period of unnerving and painful disruption due to COVID-19 should hopefully begin to end after we either have an effective vaccine or somehow achieve herd immunity. Then, the world should gradually settle into a so-called “new normal” state. But, what will that look like for companies in the juvenile PRODUCT industry?

 

There could be no better reminder of how woefully poor we all are at predicting the future than the sudden surprise onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Even just 2 months ago, few of us expected that there would be hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and a near total global economic shutdown. Similarly, there’s no way to really know for sure what the world will be like in the post-pandemic era. 

 

Coping With Change

That creates a dilemma. If you don’t know what’s going to come next, how do you prepare your business for it? The answer comes from companies that have been successful over long periods of time. Instead of trying to guess the future, they quickly adapt to the present—over and over again. You can build into the DNA of your company a continuous process of monitoring the environment in which you operate coupled with rapid adaptation to changes and new opportunities as they become clear. I call this operating with an “evolutionary mindset.”

 

Of course, you need to distinguish between the short-term changes that you only need to live with for a while versus the longer-term “new normal” that may require fundamental changes to your business operating model. In this post, I will focus on two key aspects of the likely future juvenile product marketplace “new normal” and how JP companies might want to adapt to them. 

 

Changes in Parent Childcare Behavior

Concerns about Disease Transmission

The crises we experience in our lives leave an indelible imprint on our psyches. Our parents or grandparents who grew up during the Great Depression were still watching their pennies even after they were financially secure. 9/11 has implanted a sensitivity to the possibility of air travel terrorism in anyone who watched that day unfold.

 

Can there be any doubt then that young and old alike currently enduring the effects of this pandemic will be more sensitive in the future to the risk of disease transmission? This concern will be especially amplified for parents of young children because of their inherent protective instincts. In spite of the fact that children don’t become as sick from COVID-19 as adults, according to the Mayo Clinic all children are capable of being infected. Being responsible for exposing your child to this or other contagious diseases is a nightmare scenario for parents. 

 

Increase in Shared Parenting

The dramatic increase in the number of office workers working from home because of the shutdown has revealed some potential positives for both companies and employees. Many companies are seeing reduced costs with little if any loss of effectiveness. Employees are enjoying the additional family time and elimination of wasted commuting hours. As working from home becomes more of the norm, many households are experiencing an increase in the sharing of childcare responsibilities and product selection decisions. 

 

JP Business Implications

The Good News

Pandemic or no pandemic babies keep being born and parents need what they need when they need it.  The baby product business is not going to grind to a halt like the restaurant and travel businesses. And, while some difficult business model changes may need to be implemented, JP business leaders can leverage the current crisis atmosphere to get employees to rally behind the effort. With those two positives in mind, here are some components of your business model that might need to be modified to adjust to the “new normal” parenting behaviors.  

 

 Product Development

 

Ironically, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis could create a phenomenal growth opportunity for juvenile product companies. The pandemic-induced shifts in parent perceptions and patterns of behavior are generating new, unmet needs. These in turn create opportunities to improve your existing products and create new ones. To stimulate your thinking, here’s a table that lists just some of the possible new needs by childcare process: 

 

Childcare Process

New Needs

Nursing

· Desire not to have to touch pre-sterilized bottle-feeding components when assembling bottles

· Breast-feeding related virus transmission prevention

Play

· Baby toys that are easier to clean, are dishwasher-safe, or use anti-viral materials

· Parent-child interactive products geared to fathers as well as mothers or fathers, mothers, and babies together.

· Ways for babies and young children to digitally interact with relatives and friends that aren’t physically present

Oral Soothing

· Teethers and pacifiers that are sold with attached tethers to prevent falling to the ground

· Easier cleaning and sterilizing

Transporting

· Easier to deep clean surfaces and materials that babies come into contact with in strollers, car seats, etc.

· Ways to physically block virus transmission to babies in strollers, carriers, bassinets, car seats, etc.

· Added pockets for bringing along disinfectant wipes or sprays

Healthcare

· Health monitoring devices possibly linked directly to pediatricians

· Baby oximeters

· Remote reading infant thermometers with receivers parents can wear

Sleep

· Nursery air filtration and circulation devices

· Air quality sensors

Toilet Training

· Easier to clean potty chairs and training seats

· Disposable potty liners

Safety Proofing

· Larger washable floor mats with crawl barriers

· Ways to keep floors free of germs and viruses even with guests visiting

 

Marketing

Possible “new normal” marketing enhancements could include:

  • Since parents will more than ever prefer brands perceived as health oriented and reliable, emphasize the thoroughness of your unique safety sensitivity, expertise, and quality control as well as specific safety features built into products. This should permeate every point of contact with parents including advertising, PR, packaging, and product instructions. You might consider affiliating with a reputable medical institution for added credibility.
  • Radically intensify your direct interaction digitally with parents in both a supportive and promotional manner including more professional product demonstration videos on your web site.
  • Make more use of teleconferencing for “face-to-face” interactions with trade and consumer customers individually and in groups.
  • Make sure your marketing messages and product designs address both male and female needs and preferences to accommodate the increased sharing of parenting responsibilities.

Next Steps

Vigilance and quick reaction is the name of the game. If you aren’t taking a fresh look at your goals and action plans at least every quarter, you should start now. This should be informed by a routine monitoring process that serves as an ongoing “situation analysis” to keep you abreast of whether what you’re doing is working and what’s changing in the marketplace.

 

As always, if you’d like more information or assistance regarding achieving your business and life goals or you just want someone to brainstorm, vent, or commiserate with, consider taking advantage of JPMA’s Executive Mentor Program by scheduling a Zoom, Skype, or Face Time session with me. I’d enjoy meeting you and helping you any way I can. Check the JPMA web site for more information or contact Reta Adler at  radler@jpma.org.

 

Ron Sidman was the founder and CEO of The First Years, Inc. and former Vice Chairman of the JPMA Board of Directors. He is currently a business consulting resource for JPMA members and serves on the Advisory Boards of both the School of Entrepreneurship and the Dean of the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. Ron is also the President of Evolutionary Success, LLC, a life and business coaching company.

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