COVID-19 has changed consumer habits.

In March 2020, the world changed. We will never go back to normal; there will be a new normal. The pandemic has permanently changed the landscape of our lives, and that includes everyday tasks like how we shop for products and services.

Early on, there was a momentous change in consumer behaviour as people began buying high volumes of essential supplies like toilet paper, food, and medicine. There was also an emergence of new and innovative ways of delivering products and services like curbside pickup, contactless delivery, as well as an increased reliance on virtual communication. While hoarding-like shopping behaviour has lessened significantly, other changes will likely become permanent.

"Thank you for shopping local" sign
“Thank you for shopping local” sign

According to a recent report, specific consumer behaviours have emerged during this pandemic that will carry on into the future.

  • Supporting the local economy

Many people realize that large, established businesses will likely be able to weather this storm. Smaller local businesses will have more struggles. Consumers want to inject cash and support into local businesses to help them survive and thrive throughout the coming months.

  • A focus on conscious consumption

According to the latest research conducted by Accenture, consumers are paying more attention to conscious consumption. Limiting food waste and minimizing costs while buying sustainable options has become more important.

  • Health and wellness

Coronavirus has increased people’s focus on their health and how to protect it. In addition to increased interest in developing better personal health habits, consumers are now interested in the health and safety strategies of the brands they support. There is an increased awareness of the importance of community health.

  • An increase in e-commerce

Consumers had previously been hesitant to shop online for things like eyewear, furniture, and big-ticket items such as cars, and now demand for more robust online options is expected to increase. The desire for online options isn’t limited to products. People want to access more services online for things like dating, professional services, and exercise.  

  • Contactless services

Curbside pick-up and prepaid front door drop off are options that helped many small businesses serve customers throughout the past few months. The safety and convenience inherent in this new delivery option has been wholeheartedly embraced and enthusiasm for it will continue.

  • Cashless payment options

Handling cash is perceived by many as a higher risk payment option when compared with paying online, using an app, or tapping a debit card. Businesses have a myriad of easy and secure options they can use to accept payment without relying on cash.

Cashless payment
Cashless payment

By understanding new trends and incorporating the insights into business practices, brands can increase opportunities to connect with customers in a very meaningful way. For purpose-driven brands, this will strengthen the existing foundation upon which customer relationships have been built. Here is how to effectively connect with customers today and moving forward.

Focus on conscious consumerism

This shared global threat has caused many consumers to open up to a broader perspective about the world and their role in it. Along with that, there has been an increase in conscious consumerism. Consumers are craving the opportunity to spend their money in a way that gets them what they need and has a positive impact. One report found that “there is renewed momentum for consumers to more consistently support organizations that are mission-driven and committed to positive social impact.”

Brands can take this key insight and use it to help create and maintain connections with consumers. This can be done by incorporating the brand’s vision, mission, and impact report into physical packaging and online content. Many businesses do a great job with their website and social media content but overlook physical packaging and printed materials. Packaging can be a highly effective medium for educating consumers about brand purpose since consumers see and interact with it regularly.  

Leverage the power in the buy local movement

The movement encouraging consumers to support local businesses has been around for a few years and gained a significant amount of traction in recent months. The reason for this is two-fold. As previously mentioned, consumers yearn for socially conscious options and local products and services are more likely to fall into that category. The environmental footprint is typically smaller. It is also important to people that their money supports the local economy, especially since many businesses have been forced to shut their doors and lay off employees. During a time when our options for connecting with others is significantly reduced, building a local network, even virtually, can help people feel like part of the community. This is true for consumers and business owners alike.

If they haven’t already, brands should begin building connections within their local community. This can include things like reaching out to businesses that align with your purpose and messaging for networking, partnerships, peer support, and cross-promotion. Brands should also review their physical touchpoints, like products and packaging, to ensure it highlights where the product is made and if aspects of the products are locally sourced. 

Connect online

Online shopping, meetings, and service delivery are here to stay. Online messaging for brands needs to focus on empathy, hearing customer concerns, and responding with genuine care. Showing up authentically allows brands to tell their story and share how their purpose aligns with solving customer pain points.

Brands can use a variety of approaches to connect and build relationships with customers. Empathetic online messaging is a great place to start. Customers are more likely to buy from a company that actively seeks to understand and address people’s needs. Expand the opportunity to develop relationships by using newsletters, Facebook groups, or social media live streams where you can interact with, listen to, and learn from customers, both new and existing. Incorporating your brand messaging into these virtual touchpoints further deepens the relationship with people who resonate with your purpose and want to support it.

Consumer habits changed as coronavirus began its global spread. By understanding the changes and adjusting brand messaging accordingly, businesses can continue to build strong communities of loyal supporters. Well-crafted messages aligned with product packaging and an online presence is a highly effective way to do this. What approaches has your brand taken to successfully deepen connections with customers during the pandemic?

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