Covid Changes Everything
As the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is felt nationwide, brands are having to deal with the reality that it’s not business as usual anymore. Everything, from in-market execution to advertising content and subject matter needs to be re-thought.
Many brands have recognizing that their existing strategies might strike the wrong tone with consumers and have had to adapt to take into account health fears as well as distress about personal deteriorating economic situation. Now, more than ever, brands need to be agile; they need to quickly and constantly re-adapt and implement strategies and messaging that tap into this rapidly evolving zeitgeist.
The Changing Scenario
Brands’ actions now, more than ever, will have an impact on future purchasing behavior for consumers. Consumers are demanding that brands act and communicate differently during the COVID-19 crisis and this shift, may mark the beginning of renewed expectations for brands by consumers.
Brand behavior directly impacts brand trust, and brand trust is a very important purchasing consideration.
Presently, most customers are realizing the “critical role” of brands in their country’s fight against COVID-19. Among other things, they demand that brands protect the well-being and financial security of their employees above everything, even if it means suffering big financial losses. This has become a key factor to earn or keep consumers’ trust.
Brands should consider a shift toward producing products that help meet the new challenges presented by the virus, both in the short term to meet immediate needs, but also for the longer term to help to protect and mitigate any unnecessary exposure, transfer or risk. This may require product or packaging re-design, updated handing guidelines, or adopting new anti-bacterial materials.
Above all, customers expect the brands they trust, to keep the public fully informed about changes and be transparent. Brands need to focus their marketing on how products and services can help people cope with pandemic related life challenges because there’s no denying the fact that the consequences will be felt far and wide.
The Pandemic’s Influence on Consumer Behavior:
Some Emerging Trends
1. The Home Experience
Many consumers are now looking to replicate moments of enjoyment within their homes thanks to social distancing measures. Irrespective of any concerns they have about their financial well-being amidst a time of uncertainty, they will still be unwilling to compromise on moments of indulgence.
Food consumption occasions continue to be relevant and common, and this is something that consumers say they will be reluctant to compromise on. Not to say that these occasions are not be impacted, they are, but celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and even Fridays are all still moments that can be build upon as consumers will more frequently look to enhance the home experience be it culinary, artistic, or even with entertainment.
2. Technology Is Bridging The Gap
One of the effects of the pandemic is that consumers are more acutely aware of online services that they may have not embraced in the past. As health becomes a primary concern, consumers seek products and services that help them reduce the threats of disease and help their overall well-being during this time.
Online fitness classes, tele-medicine and food delivery services are all helping to bridge the gap and demand for these type of technical innovations will continue to increase.
In the absence of physical interactions, digital content provides brand context that consumers seek to make informed decisions. Having a digital presence or offering is a must have...if you don't already have one.
Understanding that consumers will become increasingly more comfortable with engaging digitally provides brands with an opportunity to personalize and enhance the experience. This is also something that will have profound implications for brands and retailers who do not have a robust online offering.
3. The Appreciation of Sensibilities
The implications of the pandemic and restrictions on movement are things that have not been witnessed ever, for generations. For long, we have taken for granted practices like buying food or drinks, anytime and anywhere. Now, it seems like a luxury, or at least, something that consumers are grateful for being able to access.
Moreover, many consumers are looking to step back from the daily negativity on TV and re-prioritize what is important to them, exacerbated by issues like not being able to see family and friends. Hence, they are now more appreciative of things that received less consideration previously - and seeking out brands to reflect this new sensibility and outlook on life.
4. Sensitivity of Pricing
In times of financial stability, consumers can easily have favorable perceptions of new and innovative products in part because they feel these new offerings will meet their exact needs better. In uncertain times, consumers tend to stick to products they know and trust.
However, with incomes dropping due to unemployment and recessionary pressures, price sensitivity may increase consumer's willingness to shop around for alternative products.
Irrespective of whether a brand is well established or relatively new, through messaging and positioning, it needs to convey authenticity, context, price-sensitivity and reassurance around safety, quality, and value.
5. Defining Value
Spending habits are now being monitored more closely with a greater willingness to adjust shopping habits to make money go further. This means that consumers will want reassurance that products offer maximum value for money.
It is important not to associate value consciousness/price sensitivity with consumers wanting the cheapest prices possible. Instead, justification of price is something that is far more important for consumers who can make an informed decision while purchasing. Brands need to regularly remind consumers of the value that they provide.
In these times of uncertainty, all consumers seek reassurance and comfort. As such, brands need to constantly look for ways to offer reassurance; be it through leveraging perceptions of transparency and value, to offering consumers a convenient way to boost health. The golden rule here is to "do no harm" in the eyes of the consumer. Kindness and caring matter.
Demonstrating an acute understanding of the sensitivity of the situation, brands should look to provide comfort, reassurance and an overall enhanced experience within the confines of what is safe and responsible. Through purposeful and well considered actions (and messaging) brands will be able to stay aligned with consumer expectations.