Consumers Are Changing Faster Than Ever – And Why Your Marketing Must Keep Up

Aug 6, 2020 | John Makowski Consumers Are Changing Faster Than Ever

One of the first things you learn in marketing is to expect the unexpected.

Whether it’s the emergence of a new platform, a copycat competitor, or a product that threatens to make yours obsolete, as marketers we’re trained not to fear change but to anticipate...dare we say even, welcome it.

But not all change is created equal.

When COVID-19 hit, its effects most definitely weren’t welcome (unless you’d been selling surgical masks, perhaps), and the result has been a changing playing field for industries everywhere.

In the space of 6 short months, about a third of the world’s population had experienced some form of lockdown, entire industries were upended and unemployment rates in the US rose to historic levels.

The world as we knew it completely changed and, needless to say, in this new world the stakes for failure to adapt have become infinitely higher.

How COVID-19 has affected consumer behavior

As CPG marketers, you don’t need us to tell you just how much COVID-19 has altered consumer behavior. From shopping habits, to product preferences, to disposable income: consumers’ needs, desires and necessities are wildly different now than they were at the beginning of the year.

We’ve pinpointed these changes to 3 major areas that we believe have been the most affected:

  1. What consumers now choose to buy
  2. How consumers prefer to buy. And,
  3. What fuels consumers’ buying decisions

Let’s explain.

First, the economic effects of COVID-19 have made many people much less financially stable. In fact, 33% of people now consider themselves ‘financially-squeezed’ and with less disposable income compared to before the crisis.

This means that what many consumers decide to purchase moving forward will be heavily influenced by factors like cost and utility.

But, that’s not the full picture.

COVID-19 has also introduced an entirely new “social system” of limited interactions and outdoor time – with many consumers now spending more time indoors in social isolation than ever before.

As a result, buying decisions have also recently become more emotionally charged.

Data on worldwide buying trends have shown an increase in demand for products with very little utilitarian value like comfort foods (hello Doritos and Cheez-Its) and musical instruments – a surprising fact considering the current economic situation.

And finally, for another set of consumers, buying decisions are now primarily influenced by health and safety concerns.

A large number of buyers are now opting for low to no contact services like home deliveries and curbside pickups – with only 29% of consumers even willing to go to any non-essential retailer or shopping center.

For these consumers, how they buy is the primary influencer of their purchasing decisions.

So, what do these changes mean for your marketing?

What does this mean for marketing during COVID-19?

Simply put – the time for “business as usual” is long gone and many traditional marketing strategies no longer work.

For one, getting found in the COVID-19 era requires a completely different approach.

When buyers walk into stores today (if they walk into one at all), they no longer have the luxury of “browsing through the aisles” – instead, they’re there to grab what they came for as quickly, and as safely, as possible. The trip is now mission-based.

What this means is that traditional strategies like offering “in-store” samples to attract new buyers have been effectively rendered obsolete (or in many cases discontinued by retailers all together).

But getting found is just one of the new challenges CPG businesses face.

With more and more buyers opting to reduce exposure to the virus, businesses that only service their customers in-person stand the risk of losing many of them. Particularly considering the rise of alternatives that are either closer, cheaper, or completely contact-free.

So, what’s the solution for CPG businesses?

It’s simple. Go digital.

The numbers support this move. E-commerce sales have grown more in the past 6 months than in the last 10 years combined!

How do you do this?

In this new era, going digital just went from “nice to have” to “necessary for survival” and how you choose to market and deliver your products could be THE determining factor in whether your business flourishes or fails.

For businesses that refuse to adapt in response to these changes, the consequences will be critical.

But for businesses that do decide to evolve, going digital presents a host of new opportunities to not just retain your existing customers but also reach previously inaccessible markets.

The hidden opportunity in going digital during this period

As Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, says, “The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest opportunities”

A great example of this is the growth surge the e-commerce sector is currently experiencing.

Many “traditional” shoppers in the US are now hopping on the “online shopping bandwagon” with around 10% who had never bought groceries online before COVID-19, now starting to do so.

And the numbers don’t stop there.

Almost 20% of consumers have switched from their preferred brands or retailers to other options that are either more convenient, easily available, or affordable.

Now, it’s easy to look at these figures and see a potential problem. But instead, we’d like you to see the opportunity.

What exactly do these numbers mean?

They show that today’s buyers are more flexible with their buying decisions.

And that by going digital you not only have the opportunity to maintain your existing customer base but also capture a new of the market share from competitors less willing to adapt.

You now have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convert even the most die-hard brand loyalists — a market segment that without the peculiarities of today’s economy would have been almost impossible to convert.

So, the choice is yours to make. How will your business adapt?

Option 1: Evolve with the times and grow. Or,

Option 2: Stand by and watch a more agile and forward-thinking business take away your hard-won customers.

If you’ve chosen option 1 and would like some help creating and implementing a well-rounded digital strategy, drop us a line. At Harvey, we have more than 35+ years of experience helping brands not just adapt but flourish using tested and tried digital marketing strategies.


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