3 companies that adapted to meet customer needs during COVID-19

Disney had big plans for the live-action adaptation of “Mulan.” COVID-19 changed that. So, Disney did the only thing it could do in the face of a global pandemic: pivot.

On Sept. 4, Disney released the motion picture exclusively on Disney Plus in the U.S. and other countries where the streaming app is available. The film cost an additional $30, but subscribers own it.

Does this offer the viewer the same experience they’d have watching it in a movie theater? Of course not. But is it a worthwhile alternative at a time when social distancing limits options? Absolutely.

The pandemic enhanced consumers’ voracious appetite for streaming, and Disney adapted. And it’s not the only company to do so.

Here are three examples of companies shifting to meet customer needs during COVID-19.

1. Papa John’s is going the ‘fortressing’ route

The pandemic hasn’t slowed down Papa John’s.

With sales surging in the Northeast – same-store sales up 30.3% in July – Papa John’s is increasing its footprint in the region. The company will open 48 new locations in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey by 2028 thanks to a deal with franchisee HB Restaurant Group.

Taking a page out of the Domino’s playbook, Papa John’s is going the ‘fortressing’ route by building more locations near one another. The goal is to shorten delivery time and make carry out orders more accessible.

Customer satisfaction with fast food restaurants’ speed of checkout and delivery was down 1.2% to a score of 81, according to our most recent Restaurant Report. Building more clustered locations could help swing things in the other direction.

2. Walmart launches Walmart Plus

Companies that expand digital options may see greater success. Walmart is the latest to take the plunge.

On Sept. 15, the retailer launched Walmart Plus, a new membership program that has its sights set on Amazon Prime. At just $98 per year – compared to $119 for Prime – Walmart envisions this subscription service as a more affordable alternative. Walmart Plus offers customers unlimited same-day delivery of over 160,000 in-store items, including groceries, everyday essentials, and various electronics.

Walmart customers can also use the Walmart app to scan and pay for items in the store using the Walmart Pay feature. According to the retailer, this automated scan and go checkout service gives customers “a quick, easy, and touch-free payment experience.”

While Walmart Plus was planned before the pandemic, it directly addresses consumer needs right now. Still, this is a classic case of David taking on Goliath, as Walmart sits near the bottom of the internet retail sector and Amazon sits alone at the top. Time will tell if Walmart Plus moves the needle.

3. Burger King is taking the ‘touchless’ approach

Burger King is below average from a customer satisfaction standpoint, and it struggles in three key customer experience benchmarks: store layout, accuracy of the food order, and speed of checkout and delivery. The fast food joint plans to rectify this.

To adapt to current customer behavior, Burger King unveiled two restaurant designs that will offer a completely touchless experience. The “Next Level” design has up to three drive-thru lanes, with one specifically for delivery drivers. A conveyer belt also delivers food to drive-thru customers.

With the “Your Way” setup, customers can park and have food delivered to their car by scanning a QR code and using the Burger King app. This concept will also feature two drive-thru lanes and a walk-up window for takeout orders. Both restaurant designs have curbside and mobile pickup.

Fast. Contactless. Convenient. Efficient. Burger King sees what customers want – as well as the shifting landscape – and is adapting accordingly.

The message remains the same

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, the message remains the same for businesses: Customer satisfaction is paramount to your success.

As the landscape changes, so does the mindset of the consumer. If companies want to stay afloat, they must pay attention to what their customers want and adjust to fit these needs. It’s either that or get lost in the shuffle.