By Tito Zamalloa, SDCG
COVID-19 has changed how consumers behave across every aspect of their lives.
Over the past few months since the pandemic struck the U.S., I’ve had the view of how organizations have been dealing with the new normal. Perspectives from corporate giants to small and mid-sized businesses have relayed the same major concern: How do we market in the new normal?
And yes, most of these enterprises have taken some sort of route among these three options: 1) Stay the course, 2) close down, wait it out, or reduce activity and 3) PIVOT. The most noticeable question within their marketing ask became what areas of the consumer are being affected? As a marketing expert I pondered that same question. After some research and fact finding, it was obvious that COVID-19 had changed every aspect of how consumers behave.
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on people’s health and well-being on a global scale. One of the most striking features of the pandemic is how broad its impact on consumers’ lives has been. Here we focus at what that means in eight areas to get a better understanding of how consumer habits and preferences have changed and are changing. And ideally, with these brief insights, we can develop solutions to address your challenges. In fact, we’ve addressed most of these with clients we’ve engaged just this year. So, read on.
During lockdown, the home became a multiverse. And it continues to be. It’s where we work, eat, play, and connect with our families and friends. Even as overall consumption has declined, the portion allocated for at-home categories has climbed. Over the months of social isolation, consumers’ net intent to take part in a variety of activities in the home has shifted, with an increase of 54% for cooking, 35% for at-home entertainment, and 22% for home improvement. Similar shifts have occurred and were seen across the globe. This spells opportunity to capture audiences’ attention!
For many workers, the office is now in the home. For those still able to work during the pandemic, work is largely remote and digital, with a sharp increase in the use of digital collaboration tools. Zoom’s daily user base grew from 10 to 200 million people in just three months, and Slack’s paying customers have doubled. At the same time, there has been an enormous rise in unemployment, which is expected to remain stubbornly high this year and well into next. Upside in remote project management and temp work engagements are on the rise, spelling a new version of the gig economy! Some insights here from Bain & Co. https://tinyurl.com/yb5pj3fz
Health and well-being
Public health and uncertainty about the length of the pandemic became the primary consumer concerns during the lockdown, with 68% saying they were very concerned. Self-care has climbed up as a priority for most consumers. Here, too, digital is playing a larger role as the use of e-pharmacy, tele-medicine and e-medicine accelerates. Of consumers who had to cancel medical appointments during the lockdown, 44% accessed telehealth options, and online searches for telemedicine increased more than nine-fold. Perhaps your wellness product/service offering can thrive here?
Overall, consumption will continue to decline—a 12% drop in private consumption is anticipated in the U.S. over the next two years, with recovery to pre-crisis levels by 2023. What we buy has changed across categories. Think fewer cosmetics and more flour. The explosion of small brands, underway before the pandemic, has given way to a strong preference for global A-brands. After years of growth, out-of-home consumption has almost disappeared; many of us have stopped going to stores entirely. In many markets the surge in e-commerce has compressed the equivalent of several years of growth into just a few months. This is an opening for omnichannel and DTC growth brands. Here is a snapshot of consumer sentiment courtesy of BCG https://tinyurl.com/y22bp7pw
Consumers stuck at home are spending more time but likely less money on their entertainment, as the trend toward digital options accelerates. Downloads of gaming apps increased more than 30%, while 45% of consumers report using more online streaming services at home. Netflix added 16 million subscribers in five months while Disney+ nearly doubled its subscriber base to about 50 million—a feat that took Netflix seven years! Popular out-of-home activities are trying to adjust to this new reality, with NASCAR and the NBA launching online product offerings, the J. Paul Getty Museum creating virtual tours, and the Metropolitan Opera, among other artistic institutions, streaming performances. Maybe your service and add elements of gamification to garner engagement?
By necessity, and safety, learning and studying went virtual, driving adoption of new tools. The user base for remote learning services grew by 120%. The shift of learning from outside the home to inside has blurred the lines between learning and leisure. And based on trends, this is bound to accelerate as students take advantage of the flexibility and savings in time, commutes and transportation. If you got a course, mastermind class, or knowledge to share, this could be a golden time!
Travel and mobility
Consumers are staying home in droves. Tourism has been almost entirely grounded, with airline travel declining 90% overall. At the same time, there is an emerging preference for avoiding public transport and high-density transit hubs, which has decreased demand for on-the-go consumption. It might take years for international travel to recover to pre-crisis levels of demand and supply, yet domestic travel could rise much sooner as consumers start Fall gatherings and long overdue vacations. Does your idea offer a complimentary element to foregone travel or reduced commutes? Here are some views from Accenture https://tinyurl.com/y8rzkrg9
Communication and information
Overall, media consumption has increased in almost all channels. 45% of consumers are watching more television, 40% are using more social media, and 28% are listening to more radio. Readership of online news has risen 39%. What’s not gaining? Print media, where the ongoing decline has worsened with a 33% drop in readership. Yet, your properly targeted content may have a wider audience to engage!
Yes, indeed some strong headwinds, yet I conclude this blog comforted by the fact that a good half a dozen of our clients have successfully pivoted and adjusted the business model to embrace a new normal. In fact, three of those six are small businesses that have shifted to a much more on broader but deeper online presence for their goods. One entrepreneur is expanding as a result of being able to offer mobile services. Lastly, two are at the cusp of increasing their overall business through more active marketing - the opportunity being the taking of clients from other challenged competitors.
So let’s begin reimagining marketing in the next normal as McKinsey states: https://tinyurl.com/y4qosdgy
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