2020 has wreaked havoc on in-store shopping, sending most retailers into a spiral of uncertainty. The pandemic has, in many ways, redefined consumer behavior. The new normal of social distance has shifted consumers to prefer a no-touch shopping experience. Companies like Amazon, Carvana, and Instacart cater to the needs of this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that all other brands are left behind in the dust. There are things that can be done, new trends to follow, it’s all about reading the needs of the target demographic and pivoting to accommodate them.
Ok so where do we go from here? Some consumers may go back to what it was pre-pandemic but, for some shoppers, their buying habits have changed for the foreseeable future. These new habits won’t just disappear overnight once things improve, there will be long-term consumer behaviors that brands cannot and should not ignore. Many brands won’t be able to return to their previous business models and marketing approaches. The best option will be to continue reinforcing and rewarding these new consumer behaviors.
Brands should keep two broad categories of consumer rewards in mind when considering their post-pandemic business plans: tangible rewards and emotional rewards.
Tangible rewards are the extrinsic, physical, quantifiable benefits customers reap from doing business with a company. Online grocery shopping, for instance, provides the tangible reward of letting consumers accomplish their grocery shopping much more quickly than if they took the time to go to the store and browse the aisles.
As you might guess, emotional rewards focus on feelings — either a sense of accomplishment or a feeling of security that motivates consumers to continue a certain behavior. These feelings are also the foundation for strong, lasting bonds between consumers and brands.
Maintain the Momentum
This pandemic is a highly emotional time for everyone, and brands are going above and beyond to ease consumer anxiety and stress. In order to maintain this emotional connection, brands must continue to communicate the long-term emotional benefits.
Shoppers might currently be happy to avoid germs and save time by buying groceries online, but the biggest ongoing benefit for most people will be the emotional relief of avoiding crowded grocery stores altogether. That is what brands must harness and cultivate to maintain momentum in the months and years ahead. Here are three ways to do that:
Habits for the future
Certain businesses, such as at-home meal delivery services, have become more popular because of the pandemic. However, this success doesn’t have to end just because stay-at-home orders are lifting and consumers are going back out into the world. Consumers are using products and services in these categories in a way that goes beyond necessity — they’ve come to value their convenience and the tailored needs they meet.
For instance, Hello Fresh has the opportunity to use the recent push for at-home cooking kits long into the future, positioning its product and service as a way to save people time once they return to their normal lives. The brand has an opportunity to continue sharing how it can keep people safe and away from contact with the virus at grocery stores, but it can also become a beloved part of users’ lives.
The New Consumer Experience
Isolation has created an intense craving for connection. An entire society quickly forced into quarantine has left many people ready to be back out in the world with others, more than ever.
They miss dining out at restaurants or visiting with friends in bars. Takeout just isn’t the same. With businesses reopening and gathering places allowing people to come together (albeit in limited numbers), brands have the opportunity to offer experiences to consumers while still finding ways to keep them safe. Before planning an event, note that the majority of American consumers are still anxious about public gatherings and activity. When you have a firm understanding of those fears and that mindset, you can better plan experiences that will fill the desire for connection while actively working to prioritize safety.
Knowledge is Power
While this is a moment of great opportunity for brands to continue building on the success they’ve found during the pandemic, it’s not a time to stop being strategic. Understanding consumers — who they are, what they feel, and what they need at this moment — should be at the heart of everything you do. Most importantly, harness the power of knowledge.
Take the time to analyze and use research to answer these questions before creating your brand message. Different brands will need to take different approaches to connect with customers at this moment, and it’s key to know how people want to use your products or services as well as the messaging they most want to hear.
Moving forward, it will be essential for companies to make sure their offerings and marketing messages align with — and reward — consumers’ new buying habits and expectations. Brands that provide a healthy combination of tangible and emotional rewards will be best positioned to thrive after COVID-19 subsides.
Retail has changed, and many of these changes are here to stay. Companies should prepare for a “new normal” instead of a “return to normal,” making it clear to consumers how their brands and products are essential today — and will remain essential well into the future.