As a result of the global pandemic, many consumers have been shifting their behaviors and spending habits to place a stronger value on digital experiences, and purchases motivated by availability, essential items and convenience. Data from major research firms has illuminated how COVID-19 has reshaped behaviors across many consumer segments and demographics. In response to these evolving consumer trends, brands are altering their marketing strategies to effectively adapt to rapidly changing consumer needs and values amidst a new normal.
Consumers’ Previous Brand Loyalty Changes During Pandemic
While many brands rely on consumer allegiances and strive to gain and maintain loyalty among new customers, the pandemic has caused previously established brand loyalty to change course. Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have more actively reconsidered the brands from which they purchase goods and services. According to a Shopkick survey from March 2020, 85% of U.S. consumers stated that in a time of crisis and uncertainty, selecting certain brand names no longer matters.
As we enter into the seventh month of COVID-19, a McKinsey study revealed that 75% of consumers have “tried a new shopping behavior in response to economic pressures, store closings and changing priorities, with 36% of consumers trying a new product brand and 25% incorporating a new private-label brand.” Following those new brand purchases, 73% of consumers shared their plans to continue purchasing from said brand moving forward.
Amidst the supply-chain obstructions caused by the pandemic, there was a major shift in consumer shopping habits. When customers couldn’t purchase their favorite products from their favorite brands, they began trying out different options from brands they may not have selected otherwise. As a result, brands will need to continue adjusting their marketing tactics as customers deprioritize former brand allegiances and prioritize availability.
Online & Digital Are Here To Stay
The combination of social distancing and stay-at-home orders placed a heavy demand on online and digital offerings, with this trend showing strong signs of remaining long after the pandemic. A recent CMO Survey from Deloitte revealed online sales grew 43% between February and May. Essential items – including groceries, personal-care products, over-the-counter-medicine and household items – are expected to see continued demand in regards to online purchases, exceeding 35% growth, according to McKinsey. Millennials, in particular, are showing the largest gravitation to online shopping, with Gen X following closely behind.
Overall, consumers across nearly all generations have become significantly more comfortable shopping online for products and services they typically preferred to purchase in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, pre-pandemic.
Consumers Place Higher Value On Essential Items
Despite the gradual reopening of many businesses and activities, many consumers are still reeling from the pandemic-inflicted financial strains. Because of these ongoing financial concerns, consumers are limiting luxury or non-essential purchases, and focusing more on necessary purchases, like groceries and basic household items. Roughly 40% of consumers admitted they have decreased their overall spending, with plans to continue these saving efforts by limiting any non-essential purchases.
“COVID-19 has wiped the slate clean — your priority products will have changed based on what is relevant to shoppers now, as will the keywords shoppers are using to find them,” said Andrew Pearl, Vice President of Insights at Profitero.
Availability & Convenience Are Key Motivators For Consumers That Remain Wary About Leaving Home
Many consumers are still hesitant to attend large gatherings, or even take a trip to the grocery store or hair salon, making product availability and convenience two key elements for shoppers. Even as some businesses and industries reopen, a reported 73% of consumers shared they still feel wary of resuming “regular activities outside the home.”
As a result of consumers’ increased time spent inside, brands have seen a massive spike in online entertainment as a digital alternative for in-person interactions and experiences. Fan-favorite video game, Fortnite, for example, recently held a virtual concert, which was viewed by 12.3 million people.
While marketers can’t unequivocally determine the timeline or long-term impacts of COVID-19, many brands have begun re-strategizing their marketing efforts in order to prepare for future changes among consumers. According to Deloitte’s CMO survey, the majority of marketers “considered themselves and their organizations unprepared for the events that transpired, and expect to invest more in training to develop improvisational (pivoting) skills, creative thinking, innovation and managing uncertainty within their workforce.”
“The economic and social disruptions caused by the virus will continue for many months and a ‘new normal’ for business seems likely in the long run,” said Christine Moorman, Founder and Director of the Deloitte CMO Survey. “As a profession, business function, and organizational activity, marketing sits at the center of corporate responses to these challenges as companies shift their go-to market activities.”
It is likely we will see marketers responding to these shifting consumer needs and market conditions by investing heavily in digital experiences, added convenience and a clear understanding of what consumers deem “essential” during this time. Marketers who can pivot their strategies and adjust their messaging have an opportunity to reach, engage and convert new audiences. Additionally, the shift towards digital and online experiences empowers brands to learn more about their target audiences and harvest first-party data to create detailed profiles for lookalike audiences.
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