This pandemic has altered our reality and probably we can’t even see the deepest changes that are taking place. As entrepreneurs we feel a certain responsibility towards our customers, towards their needs and expectations. We made efforts to get to know them better so that the brands we create bring them value. We learned where we should talk to them and how. We also knew what we needed to do to better understand them.
But all this was based on predictable things, on unwritten rules and long time established consumption patterns. Of course, there has always been a certain dynamic of change that was part of the game, but what’s happening now is completely unexpected and different. The speed to which brands need to react and adapt make it even more difficult.
But brands are still about people, so they need to keep making efforts to understand their consumers.
I’ve created a list of the main things that are changing or becoming more important for consumers in this perpetuating state of uncertainty.
Consumers are reluctant to spend
Clearly consumption has dropped significantly in the majority of commercial sectors, but this was predictable. Consumers are reluctant to spend money on nonessential products like clothes or footwear, but are more open to spend on entertainment.
Overall drops in spendings and the prognosis consumers have on their own income will create long term changes. Statistics have shown that 35-50% of europeans believe that their incomes will significantly be affected by the pandemic, and that means they will reevaluate their spending habits. If this exacerbated precaution might be explained by the current situation, the real questions is how much time are these changes going to be here. Are people going to change the way they consume forever? How will this impact the relationships consumers have with brands?
In a world where consumers have limited access to some resources and the way they evaluate need has gone haywire accessibility is what matters. Brands have little control over this and it is mostly dependent on external factors. The solution for brands is to try to remain an option, maybe even the first option. This is the moment to do your best and provide value beyond the product.
The idea of “home” is transforming.
Actually, we spend so much time at home that wildlife thinks we’re gone.
The travel restrictions have changed the way we buy. A huge part of our buying activity has gone online and and it’s going to stay there for a while. We remain avid consumers, but the way we do that is different. It’s different for brands, but it’s also different for us. For example a chinese study has shown that, although there are no more restrictions, 86% of consumers eat at home instead of going out. You can’t help but wonder if going back to the life we had before is even possible.
Consumers are going to discover the benefits of the new “stay at home” life and that will make these new habits stick. This “life at home” has all the features of being the new disruptor in the global economy. It’s already called the new economy, the stay-at-home economy.
This will also generate a new set of needs that brands will have to satisfy in order to remain relevant. Brands need to understand where they fit in this new economy and to bring their products closer to these new and transformed expectations. Accessibility, communication, community and, of course, distribution, all adapted to a new reality.
Communities are tighter
Going online has changed the environment in which communities are forming, but their importance has remained the same. We see that reactions to what the community does has hilarious outcomes like the toilet paper crisis, bulk buying of disinfectants or yeast, or other ridiculous behaviours. What we need to read through this is that the individual has a heightened attention to what the community is doing. This is due to a state of generalised transferable panic and is the creator of an artificial feeling of fighting for survival.
A small triggering factor started a domino effect of ridiculous proportions, and as a result generated more panic and uncertainty. We can easily come to the conclusion that individuals pay more attention to the community than before. Without going deeper into psycho-analytics it’s easily understandable why consumers will be reacting in groups to stimuli. They will also gather in communities driven by a common interest, and this is right now safety. People are social beings and they fall back to group mentality in the face of imminent danger. It’s just the way we are built.
So the power of communities will continue to grow and they will be moving, as a group, towards certain consumption patterns. Brands that can activate their communities will have new ways of interacting with consumers. They should focus on opening communication, starting a dialogue and nurturing that feeling of belonging.
Brand integrity will be essential
This is, without a doubt, an important moment for brands. This is mainly due to the difficult times lying before us, but also because of the huge pressure to do the right thing. This is the time when brands need to be ethical and responsible in all areas of their activity.
Nobody should try to speculate this situation, no matter how entitled they feel. No brand should put its reputation on the line by taking actions that might be seen as speculative or opportunistic. Being taken advantage of is something that consumers won’t forget or tolerate. They will probably get as far away from those brands as they can. Even if your products are relevant for the current situation, an aggressive sales action will probably be seen as speculating a tragedy. That is not a good place for a brand.
Communication is everything
The way a brand communicates has always been very important, but the current situation can make or break a brand. When consumers change behaviour brands need to be there and understand how. There’s no expert that can tell you what to do but your customers can. You just need to be there and have an open dialogue with your audience.
Sales can’t be a purpose right now, no matter how counterintuitive it sounds, because this delicate moment hides the thin line between making it big or completely compromising your brand. These times are also full of amazing opportunities and building a strong relationship with your customers is one of them. It requires some tact and a lot of patience, but most importantly the willingness to do it.