In a post-pandemic world, will our customers continue to be brand discerning, or will they turn a blind eye?
We’re hardly there, yet—a post-pandemic world; however, the economy is slowly coming back as cities re-open businesses and people emerge bleary-eyed from three-or-so months of isolation.
Isolation forced us all into somewhat of a consumerism lapse—No one was leaving shopping malls with a spree of purchases, splurging on travel or indulging in personal upkeep, browsing store fronts, or even grocery aisles, for that matter. It was more of a get-in-and-get-out kind of scenario—get the necessities and sprint for home. Heck, few of us were even gassing up.
And business had to adopt a new kind of etiquette—few were doing anything more than engaging with customers, or selling products at a discount—upselling was in bad taste (and might still be).
With this “blip” in consumerism, Jeff Beer of Newscred Insights questions, will COVID-19 will make us brand blind? “The longer it goes on, the more people’s minds are going to be wiped of brand preference in many instances. That specific brand of toothpaste is going to matter to me less than just toothpaste.”
Though the usual marketing pulse has weakened, what happens when it comes back? When advertising is up and running again?
What will smart businesses be doing differently?
Find new ways to engage
Some of businesses got lucky and flourished (bike stores), and have been lucky to have a high close rate based on supply and demand (bike stores). But, has some time away from the world of consumerism, given us pause? Does the future of consumerism look different?
Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation has done branding work for major sports leagues and believes, “No matter what the Knicks’ record was before the pandemic, or how you felt about the team before the pandemic, you’re going to be as excited as ever when they hit that court again. The momentum and engagement of that excitement is an opportunity for marketers like myself.”
Whether Stoute helps the franchise find new ways to engage with customers, or increases the merchandise available to Knicks’ lovers, he is likely right—there will be a surge when everyone can get back to watching their favourite sports, live, again.
Consider new ways of executing on “face-to-face”
It’s also believed that travel for work will look a lot different—brands that sent their people for a face-to-face meeting, or traveled to location to market their products or services—some of that will go away, for the sake of profit, and because it just makes sense. Margaret Johnson, partner and Chief Creative Officer for Goodby Silverstein and represents big brands, such as Doritos, Pepsi and BMW, says of producing advertisements, “I can’t even imagine a situation now where you’d spend the money it takes to send eight people to shoot out of the country. You can just as easily see takes online. I think it’s going to have a big effect not just on production, on business in general, to be honest.”
Observe New Consumer Behaviours
Early in 2019, before our world was turned upside down by a worldwide pandemic, Forbes contributor, Michael Stone, said “Retail is actually expanding, consumers are shopping and sales are up. Where, when and how consumers buy goods is shifting …”
Stone was perhaps ahead of his time in predicting where brands will have to go—both outside and inside the retail industry. The “experience” they deliver, that is how a consumer is to discover a brand and how that brand catches on—might look different.
Stone states, “Brands will continue to look for ways to ‘pull’ consumers into brand rather than ‘pushing’ the brand at them.” The rise of Augmented Reality is also to be expected, making it easier for consumers to engage with a product and decide whether or not to buy. Stone gives examples like IKEA and Wayfair, two companies with apps “that allow consumers to see actual furniture to scale in their own homes.”
There is also market share to consider. The pandemic has been devastating for some businesses, so much that they have had to close their doors. Digital brands dipping into the market share will rise. Stone gives examples like Caspar taking a dip into Tempurpedic and Serta Simmons market share; Harry’s Shave Club taking a bite out of Gillette and Schick’s.
It could be argued that any online brand has a chance to reinvent itself and gain market share—consumers are spending more time at home, and more time than ever on their screens.
Collect the Data
For those businesses that are essential services and have remained open through the pandemic, how are consumer behaviours changed? How do those same consumers engage your business, now? R.J. Taylor, founder of Pattern89, an artificial intelligence-based software company, says “No matter where your business falls in this new age, data can help you understand your audience’s changing habits . Take this time to slow down…and really dig into what your customers are doing.”
For grocers, they certainly could look at their data and see that consumer buying habits changed during the pandemic. What of these habits might continue when all goes back to normal? What have customers discovered about the way they have bought their groceries over the past three months that they might adopt on an ongoing basis—for example, mass buying certain items, or planning their meals better so that they are minimizing trips to the grocery store.
Is there a change in the average number on your work orders and invoices? Why is that? What has driven your customer base to make different decisions? When you are in touch with your own data, “you don’t need to guess what your audience is being attracted to—you can know with certainty,” says Taylor.
And perhaps that is what brands will be expected to do down the line—work hard to create a sense of certainty when it feels like there is very little.