It is clear that the pandemic and all the various restrictive measures has had a profound impact on how people live and in turn has changed the way consumers behave, in some cases for years to come.
These rapid shifts have important implications. Because many of the longer-term changes are still being formed, companies have an opportunity, if they act now, to help shape the next normal. All the international and local research taking place is pointing towards three major takeaways in trying to form a holistic view of the new consumer after all the experiences of recent months:
- COVID-19 has changed how consumers behave across every aspect of their lives. As consumers sheltered at home, adoption of new digital services took place at a blistering pace. In addition to growing health and hygiene concerns, economic recession and the related decline in consumption, the scope of the change to people’s lives is staggering.
- Broad shifts to new behaviours hide significant variations. Consumer behaviors will likely fluctuate for quite some time. How long they stick will depend on a range of factors including satisfaction with new experiences, demographics, infrastructure and the severity of the economic recession.
- Companies must rethink how and where they connect with consumers. They should expect to encounter structural challenges and upheaval across multiple dimensions. Overall consumption is shrinking, the shopping basket is undergoing a significant change in mix, and consumers are changing the ways they get their information.
I will today focus on point no.3 as I had delved on the other points in previous articles.
It is a given that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and hence companies must prepare for a rapidly changing environment that may bounce between different periods of restrictive measures and transition. As consumers go in and out of these cycles, the new trends may increase or decrease in strength, but they will mostly persist until we move past the transition phase for good. As these new behaviours solidify, companies will need to adapt to fundamentally different consumer preferences and behaviours regarding how consumers get their information, what and where they buy, and how they experience the product or service. Many companies will need to increase their investment in insights and plan to stay on top of the changes. As consumer-facing companies look at the landscape of a changed consumer journey, they should focus on key points of engagement with their customers:
How consumers get information
With many consumers switching brands, raising awareness of one’s brand to improve its consideration is crucial for marketers. At the same time, a flight to online sources for information and entertainment has increased the importance of digital channels. Marketers hoping to reach consumers need to meet them where they are. Increasingly, that’s online.
What consumers purchase
With health concerns paramount, both shopping the aisles and going through checkout need to become as touch-free as possible. Already, consumers concerned about infection have moved decisively away from cash payment to cashless systems and credit cards. Getting customers to buy will require an omnichannel experience that includes drive-through, pickup options and other delivery options that cater to the new emphasis on health, safety and convenience. Given the likelihood of continued uncertainty, companies should focus on efforts to renew and build trust with consumers through excellent shopping experiences and in the way they engage with the community during this difficult time.
Where consumers purchase
Online shopping has surged, but a significant amount of shopping will still happen physically in shops. The new hierarchy of needs will put health and hygiene at the top of the priority list. Retailers should rethink store layouts and opening hours to make in-and-out shopping safe and quick. They also need to optimise for a different kind of shopper, most notably, one who shops less frequently and consumes less overall—but buys more per shopping trip. Store assortments will need to evolve as well, to reflect new economic realities. Value will become increasingly important along with catering to the demand for multiple price points. High-growth categories are likely to include household essentials and health, while highly discretionary categories will most likely see a drop in demand. There will be increased opportunity for both large international brands and store brands.
How consumers experience
With consumer preferences changing rapidly, retailers and other consumer-facing companies need to provide a strong feedback loop. That means improving their ability to collect data and qualitative feedback to stay ahead of the trends. Given the long list of things consumer-facing players might need to undertake in the short-to-medium term, it is crucial to plan ahead. A short diagnostic exercise will help companies to identify their biggest opportunities and risks and to prioritise actions in response.
While the details of the next normal are still unclear, its overall contours are becoming clearer. While many of the longer-term changes are still being formed, companies have an opportunity, if they act now, to shape a positive future for their business
EMCS is a leading market research company. We specialise in offering various market research solutions in very cost effective ways and with a quick turnaround, to make sure you remain ahead the various waves of consumer behaviour changes brought about by this pandemic. Feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.