The far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have fundamentally changed consumer behavior. While some changes are temporary, others can be expected for a long time to come and include multiple facets of consumers’ lives—from shopping habits to entertainment choices and even preferences for how they receive medical care. These changes are important for companies who intend to rise to the challenge of the resulting economic downturn and adapt to the new normal, both now and in the immediate future.
Source: McKinsey & Company, ‘How COVID-19 is changing consumer behavior–Now and forever‘, Jun 2020
Changing consumer habits
According to research published by McKinsey & Company, with a decline in discretionary spending and trading, there has been a marked reduction in the frequency of store visits. When they do make purchases, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store, consumers tend to spend more per visit, have more in their shopping carts, and show a preference for trusted brands.
E-commerce, in particular, has benefited from Coronavirus-related trends. For example, there has been a 17-percentage-point increase in shopping for groceries online, and telemedicine achieved 10x growth in only 15 days. For a better understanding of how massive the growth has been, consider that the surges in online shopping and e-commerce deliveries have brought the cybercommerce industry forward ten years in only eight weeks.
A turn to digital
With focus on social distancing and minimizing the spread of COVID-19, a rise in virtual learning, information sharing, communication, and entertainment has created dependence on technology to facilitate the process. Platforms like Netflix have seen increased subscriptions—not only for stay-at-home entertainment, but also for educational content, as 35% of its subscribers now use it for that purpose.
With a shift in entertainment channels, consumers have shown a marked preference for digital and streaming entertainment. While this was a trend pre-pandemic, it has accelerated at an astonishing pace. As an example, Disney Plus achieved a subscription volume within two months that took Netflix seven years to build.
The role of social media
According to Social Media Today, in the present and future realities of the pandemic, social media jobs and creativity skills will be valued more than ever and video content will continue to rise in production and demand. With consumers socially distancing and spending more time at home, the need for human connection will continue to lean toward digital means, particularly social media.
Thought leaders are predicting that social media content from businesses will become more creative and the digital strategy will be better than ever, especially if marketers place emphasis on honesty, empathy, and social consciousness with authentic, engaging content. This intense push toward a digital and social media-focused marketing strategy during a major crisis is projected to place businesses ahead of the competition—both in the present reality and after concerns over COVID-19 fade.
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To continue to meet the needs of consumers and survive the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and marketers should rethink their marketing and sales strategy based on the new consumption paradigm that has surfaced. Obviously, statistics are showing a trend toward increased digital consumption and information-sharing. Considering the projected outlook, for both now and in the future, smart marketing strategy should incorporate the following recommendations:
◆ Increase digital capabilities for a seamless shopping experience, both online and offline. For many, this might include rebuilding websites to integrate more fully with e-commerce solutions or invest in mobile add.
◆ Place social media at the forefront of your marketing strategy and publish engaging content that is honest, empathetic, and socially conscious. Let your social media audience know that you are part of their community and want to build their trust. The more authentic the content, the better, and user-generated content will help increase community engagement.
◆ Allocate marketing resources in line with shifts in consumer behaviors by increasing digital engagement, building a network of social media followers and influencers, and significantly reducing out-of-home advertising.
◆ Consider allocating the necessary resources toward technology and talent to write video scripts, shoot the video, and edit it professionally. Video content will continue to rise in production and demand. Consumers are turning to it for their main source of information and entertainment.
◆ As loyalty has shifted, ensure a first-class customer relationship-management system and foster trust through communication, while providing incentives for first-time shoppers. This focus on building brand loyalty will continue to be beneficial after the pandemic is no longer a market changer.
If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that effective, intelligent marketing will only happen by constantly adapting to new technology and changing consumer needs. With the right strategic focus, retailers can continue to build customer loyalty, and shift the products and services toward a more fully-digital, immersive shopping experience. Since there was a rising trend toward digital shopping and information sharing even before Coronavirus became a household name, this focus will certainly benefit companies beyond the pandemic and in the future.
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