Consumer behavior for products and services is as complex and dynamic as per the changing socio-environmental sphere. For brands thus, it is of extreme importance to take heed to the changing environmental situations.
The whole of 2020 and half of this year i.e. 2021 the world has witnessed unprecedented changes due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Thus it has been a challenging task for brand owners to devise their marketing and sales path accordingly.
Social restrictions are now easing, but the Coronavirus crisis will leave a lasting impression. The way people think, feel and, of course, the shop has been greatly impacted, and their behaviors will be markedly different for months to come. So, what are the current trends in consumer behavior across the globe? We've put together some important trends in consumer behavior that we think global needs to know, to help you plan your marketing strategy for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
A health-conscious consumer
Perhaps unsurprisingly, consumers are far more health-conscious than before. According to Accenture, health is ranked as consumers' top priority right now. With 80% of surveyed people reporting that the health of their friends and family is at the top of their minds, followed by 78% who were most concerned with their health.
After months of increased handwashing, wearing protective masks, and isolating indoors, hygiene will remain at the forefront of everyone's minds. But it's not just about the short-term impact of contracting Covid-19. According to Forbes, the global pandemic has caused people to think about aging. In particular, how they can lead a healthy lifestyle into their old age.
Other research certainly suggests that a general health-conscious way of living is a key current consumer trend. Insights from Foresight Factory reveal that people are concerned with becoming more resilient so that they don't have to rely on the state of healthcare systems for support. Their behaviors will change as a result, including imposing distancing measures on themselves and avoiding unhealthy activity. Equally, a Covid-19 survey from McKinsey & Company revealed that ¾ of respondents in China want to want to eat more healthily after the crisis.
What does it mean for brands - So, for many brands, providing more helpful services or products which will allow customers to lead healthy lives is key. A brand using this trend to its advantage is Lululemon. The fitness clothing company just purchased Mirror, a home fitness start-up, looking to maximize the trend of safe, remote exercise. And with people unlikely to flock back to crowded gyms, focusing on homework out as part of their marketing strategy is a wise choice.
Importance of having the right mental health
With the pressure of worrying about our physical health and the health of those around us, the Coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the world's mental health. The UN has advised governments across the globe to provide mental health support for their citizens at this time.
In the US, 22% of people reported that being confined to their house caused them anxiety, 32.7% of those were Generation Z. For Gen Z, the issue of disrupted schooling is a major factor for their anxiety. According to World Bank Data, 9 out of every 10 students in the world have had their schooling negatively impacted by Covid-19. Other issues include fears about their future in an uncertain world.
For Millennials and Gen X, the causes of anxiety vary. Job security and finances are thus causing this generation a huge amount of stress. For Gen X, worrying about the health of their parents and the situation their children face is a huge burden. For Boomers, the toll of being isolated inside as the most at-risk generation has harmed their mental health.
What does it mean for brands - Brands should take into account their customers’ mental health, and aim to do what they can to support them. For example, Hyatt, the hotel company, has recently partnered with the meditation app company Headspace to offer free meditation and sleep therapy sessions as part of their ‘Get Some Headspace with World of Hyatt’ campaign. Users also get a 30 day free trial for Headspace Pro.
Snap has also taken a similar approach. During the height of global lockdown, they introduced a mental wellbeing tool on Snapchat aimed at delivering relevant content, including videos created by experts.
However, brands must be careful when approaching the topic of mental health. Vogue Portugal came under fire very recently for their 'Madness Issue'. One of the special issues covers featured a mock hospital scene with a nurse pouring water over a nude woman cowering in a bath. While Vogue intended the cover, and the magazine's contents, to spark conversation about mental health, many found the imagery incredibly problematic.
So, while now is certainly the time to open up a dialogue about mental health, brands must proceed with extreme care and sensitivity.
Being part of the community has become important
Although the Coronavirus crisis has been a time of extreme isolation, it has brought communities around the globe together. Just think back to those videos of Italians singing to their neighbors at the height of lockdown, or the weekly applause for care adopted by countries worldwide.
Nationwide lockdowns have taught people to appreciate the value of those around them, leading to a more selfless way of thinking. Across the world, online community groups have sprung up offering support to neighbors, whether it is through food and medicine delivery services or online social interaction. These groups are likely to stick around for some time, according to Forbes.
What does it mean for brands - Brands should aim to support small, local businesses and make themselves part of the community. For example, in April, Instagram launched stickers for small businesses to be shared on Stories, including fundraiser stickers, gift cards, and food orders. Similarly, Whatsapp has now made it possible to send payments via the platform, meaning it will be easier for consumers to pay local businesses. While this feature is currently only available in Brazil, it's likely to roll out worldwide very soon.
As well as making it easier for customers to shop local, brands can also make themselves part of the community by acknowledging and celebrating community spirit. WhatsApp is also excelling at this in their new campaign 'It's Between Us'. This campaign tells real stories about how people in India regularly interact with their closest friends and family on the social platform, highlighting how WhatsApp allows for intimate and important conversations.
Coca-Cola's new global campaign, 'The Great Meal' also speaks to the current heightened sense of togetherness felt worldwide. The ad depicts families and communities coming together to share in the simple joy of cooking. Creating campaigns that celebrate community is a sure-fire way to resonate with consumers right now.
Remote working and learning
The coronavirus crisis has made people appreciate the ease of digital, with many finding that they no longer feel the need to be physically present for all things. In fact, according to research by Accenture, a new sentiment among consumers is “If I can do it online, I will”.
This is especially true for modern working and learning, where virtual will become the new normal in many parts of the world. In China alone, Microsoft Teams saw a 500+% increase in calls and conferences between January to mid-March (source: Accenture). According to Gartner, increased time working online is very likely as 74% of companies plan to permanently move towards remote working after the crisis.
And it does not just work. Schooling too has become an online phenomenon as 1.2B children across 186 countries saw their schools close (source: Unesco). However, it's not just about students brushing up on their times' tables. As more and more people across all generations became tired of Netflix repeats, they turned to learn during the lockdown. For example, language learning app downloads surged during the height of Covid-19. Over March, new users on the global language learning app Duolingo increased by 101% (source: Duolingo).
What does it mean for brands - For many B2B and tech brands, it’ll be about helping companies and their workforce get the most from remote working? Brands can take inspiration from Microsoft's new global skills initiative aimed at helping workers learn new digital skills vital for a post-Covid-19 world. Or they can look to Byju, a Bangalore-based ed-tech company. Byju released free live classes on their app, Think and Learn, leading to a 200% increase in uptake from students (source: The Print).
The prominence of online shopping
While online shopping is certainly not a new trend, the demographic of online shoppers, and what people are shopping for online, is shifting significantly across the globe.
In China, there's been a notable change in online shopping behaviors, especially when it comes to groceries. According to We Forum, on the first day of the 618 Grand Promotions in June, JD Super (the supermarket linked to China’s e-commerce company JD) achieved 140% more online sales, compared with the same promotional day last year.
Equally, in the US 61% of Boomers revealed they were using delivery services more than before the pandemic (source: National Retail Federation). And it’s not just American Boomers – a survey from Global Web Index revealed that 46% of internet users worldwide intend to shop more online after this virus outbreak.
What does it mean for brands - Online retail will become a saturated market, with more and more people using it who might not be as technologically savvy. So, the brands that can create quick and easy e-commerce experiences are set to win. There are many ways that brands can do this.
Embracing shoppable features on social media – such as Instagram shoppable posts and Pinterest Shop the Look Pins makes it easy for customers to shop for products via the platforms they love.
Visual search is also an exciting e-commerce feature not to be overlooked. 27% of online consumers worldwide intend to research more items before shopping physically in a store, especially in Latin America where 36% of consumers said they would now browse online more before heading to physical stores (source: Global Web Index). By adopting visual search, brands can make their products more visible and more easily comparable on platforms like Google Lens.
When shopping online, consumers want speed. 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load (source: Think with Google). So, brands should look at developing Progressive Web Apps (PWAS), a website that acts and feels like a regular native app. PWAs improve user experience with fast load times and easy navigation. Lancôme claims its PWA led to a 36% increase in mobile revenue last year.
Flexibility in the payment mechanisms
Of course, while online shopping is set to boom, there’s still the issue of consumers feeling confident in their purchases. After months of living through an ever-changing and, dare we say it, ‘uncertain’ situation, the way consumers make purchasing decisions has changed.
With talk of global recession and further lockdowns, consumers feel nervous about the future and their finances. As a result, they’re struggling to commit to their purchases, especially if there’s an element of risk involved. Research by Global Web Index reveals that 1 in 5 internet users across 20 markets will be looking for more flexible payments options in the coming months.
What does it mean for brands - Consumers want flexibility with their purchases to take away the pressure of losing money in a time of recession. In the travel industry especially, policies that allow for fully refundable cancellations at the last minute, or which allow people to shift bookings, will help customers feel comfortable when parting with their money.
Many companies are already offering this flexibility to their customers. For example, Cathay Pacific is urging people to fly worry-free with them, allowing them to change flights an unlimited number of times.
But it's not just the travel sector paying attention to this trend in consumer behavior. Klarna, the payment provider brand, played on the idea of easy and flexible purchasing in its recent launch campaign in the US, featuring the tagline ‘Klarna: Swedish for smoother shopping’. See the ad below.
So, brands should think flexibly first when approaching customers in this post-Covid-19 world.
Local vacations are the order of the day
Continuing with the theme of travel, for those still unwilling to risk losing their money on canceled hotels or flights, local staycations or travel within their own country is the answer.
Indeed, research from Global Web Index shows that 49% of respondents are planning to enjoy domestic vacations in the coming year. 30% say they'll travel locally and 28% aren't planning a getaway at all. Only 9% of people are planning on traveling long-haul. Countries that are particularly keen on the idea of domestic vacations include Australia, China, New Zealand, Poland, and Spain.
What does it mean for brands - Take inspiration from Stella Artois's new campaign: 'Daydreaming in the Life Artois'. The alcohol brand has gone beyond its traditional offering, partnering with 6 famous writers to produce audio stories inspired by summers before the pandemic. Each episode is released on YouTube on a Friday evening and is followed with a live Q&A following each new episode. The stories allow customers on a staycation to escape through audio, all while keeping Stella Artois front of mind.
Airbnb is another brand on top of the staycation trend. They’ve added a local getaway section, making it easy for travelers to discover local AirBnBs. Plus, they’ve added a range of online experiences from all around the world. Users can learn how to cook street tacos in Mexico, master the art of origami in Japan, spend an evening with a Flamenco musician in Spain… all from the comfort and safety of their own home.
Brands can also use VR to allow customers to explore new places and discover new cultures. Museums around the world, including the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Guggenheim, have opened up their galleries with virtual reality tours. Similarly, the Faroe Islands tourist board has developed a VR app, allowing people to control a video game-style tour guide as they move through the island.
Today’s consumers are environment friendly
Is it surprising that so many people want to stay local this summer? In the last few months, consumers have spent their days at home, relishing in the nature that thrived around them. In May 2020, as a huge number of countries continued to follow lockdown measures, the worldwide search for ‘garden’ reached an all-time high on Google.
This closeness to nature and how the natural world has thrived (did you see those dolphins in the canals of Venice?!) has caused people to become increasingly concerned with the environment. As a result, they're reassessing their relationship with consumerism. McKinsey & Company found that 70% of people in their COVID-19 consumer survey are going to keep spending more time and money on purchasing safe, eco-friendly products.
Similarly, a worldwide survey from Global Web Index discovered that 7 in 10 people believed that the need to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact will be of greater importance than before. 3 in 4 respondents are looking to companies, expecting them to do more in terms of sustainability.
Research shows that it is Gen Z who is leading the charge when it comes to environmental action.
What does it mean for brands - Brands need to show they care for the planet, but, more importantly, they need to act as they care too. For social media channels and shoppable platforms, it means helping users to find sustainable products. For example, to celebrate Earth Day, Pinterest added products from small to medium-sized sustainable brands onto Pinterest Shop so that customers could locate them easily.
Timberland also got active on this year’s Earth Day, releasing their ‘Caring is no longer enough’ ad, as part of their ‘Nature Needs Heroes’ campaigns. The communication is based around an open letter to Mother Nature, urged nature to breathe and bloom while humanity remained in lockdown. The video closed with a promise from humanity to make a difference to the environment once for all. The ad linked to Timberland’s responsibility page, detailing the brands' progress towards sustainability, their 2020 targets, and their actions.
But, with posts about green-washing circulating on social media, brands must be sincere in their promises.
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