When the coronavirus pandemic struck the world, every sector did its best to find or build ways to stay connected with its consumers. From schools to commercial and government organizations, everyone turned to technology and hence build a virtual world of connectivity and communication around them. To maintain lasting relationships with their customers, companies introduced many policies, features, and so on. During these months of lockdown and self-isolation, there was always a strong desire of returning to the 'normal'. But in fact, these new technologies and the adoption of new features have written a new rule of work engagement and a contactless virtual future for us.
These new techs have an important implication on marketers, who try building lasting relationships with their customers. Considering the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the changes it is causing, it is believed that marketing professionals will have to come up with new strategies for their consumers considering the new ‘normal’.
Below are the potential important changes being witnessed in consumer behavior! The article sheds light on some of the existing market trends which have been accelerating and others that are newly emerging.
1. Shopping: Catching up to the great digital migration to expand digital borders
Latin America reported that 13 million people made their first-ever e-commerce transaction, which was a result of consumers turning to digital ways. Also, it was the first time when many cohorts tried adopting a digital way to approach their consumers.
According to the global consumer sentiments survey, consumers are now turning to digital and reduced-contact ways to access products and services.
If we look more particularly in the US, this digital trend is magnified for Gen Z, millennials, and higher-income consumers in general.
Social commerce is on the rise as well. 34% of people reported that they have shopped on Instagram based on an influencer recommendation.
The shift towards e-commerce is more efficient, less expensive, and safer for customers, as compared to shopping in physical stores.
The consumer sentiments survey reported that consumers throughout the globe intend to increase their share of online shopping. According to Amazon, there was a 26% boom in its sales for the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
Post-COVID market trends are likely to show a strong emphasis on e-commerce and digital channels, including consideration of the role of direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce channels. For example, it generally requires an organization to spend six to seven months building and implements a complete e-com solution. But one European retailer was able to do it in just 13 weeks. This speed to market is a result of rapid revenue recovery, especially for brands navigating economic downturn.
Marketers will be required to manage their new wave of data and use it to better personalize offers and messages to ever-narrower customer segments.
Analytics will be required to not only track consumer's preferences and behaviors but also enable rapid responses to opportunities and threats. Present models may not be accurate while predicting consumer behaviors post-COVID, and hence they will need to be trained on how to best use new behavioral data.
This baseline of data is an important aspect for brands as it will expand the borders of digital into the physical world. It will create a more convenient and useful shopping experience for the consumer, irrespective of their location.
Another implication for marketers would be the need to redesign shopper journeys for consumers.
2. E-services: New ‘service platforms’ to help consumers take care of businesses
COVID-19 did not only encourage people to buy and sell products online, but it also paved a way for different services and tasks to be performed through the digitalized method. For example an increase in telemedicine visits. Teladoc Health, the multinational for-profit virtual healthcare company reported, reaching1.7 million in the US in Q1 2020, was twice as high as in Q3 2019. In the UK too, 38% of telemedicine users surveyed have started using online services during the pandemic.
For marketers, this increasing consumer confidence provides an opportunity to create new connections with people. Post-COVID market trends should primarily focus on developing partner ecosystems - both public and private. For example, food marketers can partner with e-health platforms or online fitness companies to cross-promote the benefits of each to a wider audience. In another example, a “home-buyer platform” could include real estate, mortgage, moving, and bill-forwarding services tied into a single experience.
3. Home: Finding a spot in the new ‘command central’ for all activities
The pandemic made 'homes' a multifunctional hub, a place to play, live, shop, work, and so on. This has also proved to be true, as many employees are trying to sustain some of the advantages of working remotely in post COVID times.
It is believed that the consumers' behavior post-COVID-19 will be to likely devour new-home entertainment options. According to the consumer-sentiment research, Europe reported a 10% increase in new users of online streaming. Online gaming too, witnessed an increase of 13%. The popular game “Fortnite" recently hosted a concert that saw the attendance of 12.3 million users.
For marketers, the approach will be to engage with smart devices and interfaces across the home. In addition to this, marketers will need to rethink their media mix across a larger set of channels, such as video conferencing platforms, virtual reality, and so on.
4. Community: Localizing the experiences
Global shutdown and other lockdown constraints made people rely on their local neighborhoods. Marketing professionals can adapt to this approach to expand their reach among customers, by localizing their marketing. This could include messages tailored to different neighborhoods and delivered through the newly established community networks; or using their existing retail footprint to support local businesses, sponsor community centers, and host community events.
5. Trust: Creating a space for health and affordability
As the new infection continues to emerge, the prime concern for people across countries is personal health and economic well-being.
To engage more customers in physical shopping, customers expect shop owners to increase cleaning and disinfecting as well as mandate that all customers and employees wear masks. On top of this, millennials and gen Z intend to continue with contact-less activities, like self-checkouts and so on.
Marketers will therefore need to think through a much broader range of shopping experiences, which will require greater coordination with sales and operations teams across the business. The preference for self-checkout or scan-and-go behaviors may also change traditional store boundaries and layouts.
The use of sensitive health data has created privacy concerns and has heightened issues around sharing data. For example: publicly taking temperatures as a condition of entry to wearable devices that transmit health information. Attitudes toward this use of personal data are far from uniform, and there are sharp divisions over the idea of trading privacy for freedom of movement and the opening of the economy. How marketers maintain customer trust on data and privacy concerns can become a point of differentiation and even a source of competitive advantage.
The pandemic has also generated a challenge to consumers’ brand loyalty. Trust is an important factor here. According to research, 20% of US consumers switched to a brand store and intend to stick with their new choices.
6. Purpose: Holding brands to higher standards
The current crisis has accelerated the social values among people. Research on Australian households, showed evidence of a growing culture of doing the right things, looking after society, and being in this together.
The recent surge of activism is likely to give consumers a greater sense of their power in holding larger organizations to account. It was concluded from a study that, 61% of consumers claimed that how a brand responds during the crisis will have a great impact on whether they continue buying it after the crisis is over.
This means marketers need to communicate a strong sense of their brand’s purpose, a cause that the brand stands up for, or an area where the brand aims to make a real difference.
Brands can do this through the projects they choose to be involved in, the partners they choose to work with, the way they treat their employees, and the messages they send to customers. They will be required to make clear commitments to causes they believe in or risk newly empowered consumers calling them out.
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