It’s impossible to downplay the impact that COVID-19 has had on the whole world. Entire industries have been uprooted in just a few months, and the business and social landscapes are much different than they were at the beginning of 2020.
Although the impact of the pandemic has been felt differentially across the globe, various themes have emerged in consumer trends and behaviour. The US consulting firm, Mckinsey and company, when looking at consumer behaviour across 45 countries noticed that the current economic climate has brought the following consumer trends to the forefront:
- Shift to value and essentials
- Flight to digital and omnichannel
- Shock to brand/business loyalty
- Health and “caring” economy
- Homebody economy
These trends point to the importance of brands showing empathy to their customers and providing a message of hope during uncertain times. Consumer buying decisions are being impacted more and more by a brand’s message, actions and transparency.
All of this has seen many companies and businesses needing to make shifts to their marketing plans in order to keep up with the changes. In this article, we’ll take a further look into these trends and give you tips on how you can implement each trend into both your traditional and digital strategy.
Let’s get started.
Shift to Value and Essentials
It makes sense that in times of economic downturn and uncertainty, consumers are more cautious in their spending and will look to make essential purchase a priority. Between the 20th and 30th March 2020, 49.6% of people in the UK reported a rise in anxiety level due to uncertainty over their well-being and uncertainty over their finances.
While the long-term economic picture is a little clearer now than it was in March, there’s still uncertainty over what will happen in the weeks and months ahead.
How has this affected consumer behaviour?
Quite simply, people have reduced their spending on non-essential products and services and increased purchases of ‘essentials’ such as groceries and household products. Consumers as a whole are more cautious over where their money goes and want to make sure that any purchases made are the right ones.
How Does This Affect Your Marketing Strategy?
Depending on what business you’re in, your product or service may have changed in some way during the last few months. If your products have changed then focus on showing your customers why your products/services are still essential to their lives at this time and how your products can help them in the future.
If you’re advertising for new customers, focus on the benefits that your products/services bring and the value they provide.
Showing the benefits of your product should be intertwined with a sense of empathy for your customers and the broader situation. Displaying empathy can translate to practical steps such as reducing your prices, negotiating payment plans with customers if they’ve run into financial difficulties or helping them with educational resources such as courses or guides.
Brands and companies that show understanding and care for their customers in difficult times are poised to do well once the pandemic is over.
Use this time as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with customers and help them out in any way you can.
Flight to Digital and Omnichannel
While it’s true that consumers are more mindful with regards to what they buy, this isn’t to say that no purchasing is going on at all. With the closure of many brick and mortar businesses during the lockdowns, online sales are booming.
Stats from June show that the total of U.S online sales reached $73.2 billion in June, up 76.2% from a year earlier. Lockdowns have eased in many places; the transition of offline businesses to online is likely to continue in the future. Although this trend was predicted for a long time, it’s clear that the time frame has been accelerated.
Effects on Your Marketing Strategy
Depending on what industry you are in, you may already conduct the majority of your business online. If not, then it may be time to consider transferring at least a portion of your trading online. This could mean making your products available for sale on your website, promoting your products/services through online advertising and changing the way you service your customer base.
For example, provide price consultations over video calls or virtually. Run house tours or concept meetings online etc. It is possible – though harder – to take your service based business online, too.
The way you market your business online will depend on your industry and what you’re trying to achieve. There’s a lot to think about when you’re transitioning your business online, for a beginners guide to getting your business online check out this eight-step guide from Oberlo and these 21 tips on marketing your business online from Entrepreneur.com.
Shock to Brand/Business Loyalty
Mckinsey’s consumer research highlights that when consumers couldn’t find their preferred product at their preferred retailer, they would usually try a different brand. This has become particularly prevalent recently with the disruption of supply chains and stocks of supplies running low in certain shops and supermarkets.
It’s also a time when consumers are sceptical of brands making too many grandiose claims and false promises in their marketing.
What Does This Do to Your Marketing?
In uncertain times it’s natural for consumers to look for certainty and a sense of normality. While there are plenty of issues outside of your control as a business owner, you still have the opportunity to use these times as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with customers.
If your business has been negatively affected and you’re running into issues such as having specific products not being available, give your customers as much notice as possible and provide refunds accordingly.
Keeping your customers as informed and in the know as possible will strengthen your customers’ trust in you, and make them more likely to stick with your brand/company even in testing times.
Health and Caring Economy
With the gradual and phased reopening of economies, more and more businesses are taking measures to make sure they are complying with health recommendations and guidelines to keep their businesses open.
These measures can include having capacity limits, social distancing protocols in place, offering hand sanitizer for customers and asking visitors to wear masks. If you run a business that has several physical locations, your employees and customers’ safety should be your top priority.
What Are the Results for Your Business?
Mckinsey’s research notes that customers are looking for retailers with visible safety measures in place, such as enhanced cleaning protocols and physical barriers. If you run a physical business, you can let your customers know the measures you’re taking to ensure their safety.
This could include putting notices on your website, having posters/notices up at physical locations and keeping your employees informed of the latest health and safety guidelines that they need to abide by.
With travel limitations in place across many countries, many people don’t yet feel comfortable or are unable to resume their ‘’normal’’ out of home activities. While outdoor and out-of-home activities should gradually increase as time goes on, there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to when life will return to normal.
One positive to come out of this whole situation is the growing support for small, local and independent businesses, with 2020 being dubbed the year of the ‘locally conscious customer’.
With many businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic, a real sense of community has been noticed across numerous business sectors, and it will be interesting to see if this trend keeps up in the times ahead.
What Does It Mean for Your Marketing Approach?
The changes in support for local, independent businesses should be reflected in your marketing approach. The current situation gives businesses and brands the perfect opportunity to increase their community participation and get involved with local initiatives.
Some practical ideas to do this include encouraging employees to volunteer for local causes; this could involve giving employers a certain amount of time off to take part in any volunteering activities.
As a business, you could host or sponsor particular community events to help out those in need. If your business/brand has enough disposable income, you could even take a look at investing into the local community.
If you do get involved with your community, focus your marketing efforts locally. This could involve advertising events on your website and social media accounts, having a ‘news’ section on your website or a newsletter that you send to your customers informing them of your businesses efforts in the local community.
Not only does getting involved in the local community benefit the local area, it also gets your business in front of more people and enhances local reputation.
For more ways to get involved in your community check out this guide from Inc.com.
Keep Your Marketing Flexible
If there’s one marketing lesson to be taken from the uncertainty of the past few months, it’s to be flexible. There’s no doubt that most businesses marketing plans for 2020 will have undergone some amount of change.
None of us can completely predict what will happen over a 12 month period, but by keeping your eye out for the ongoing consumer trends, your business can be well placed to make any marketing adjustments and changes to it’s digital strategy when it needs to.