What are consumers asking of brands?
The Covid disruption has led consumers to re-think some basic fundamentals about their consumption behaviour and what they want from brands. Consumers are now living with less, doing less, wanting to spend less… and yet they want more from the brands they buy. More information, more responsibility, more value, more options and more authenticity.
Consumers now have FIVE key asks of themselves – with brands needing to respond to these to increase relevance:
- Rationale of necessity: Do I need it?
- Foregrounding value: Is it worth it?
- Finding new audiences: Should I switch?
- Virtual customer experiences: Can I do it remotely?
- Reinforcing heritage & DNA: Do I trust it?
What are consumers asking of brands?
Isolation has taught us to reconsider what we really need, distinguishing real needs from pleasure-seeking wants. While consumers won’t turn away from consumption, they will be more mindful and rationally examine the ‘necessity’ of a purchase. Brands need to satisfy the reasons for their existence and benefit beyond self-gratification. Equally, this gives rise to brands needing to behave responsibly, to meet the ethics and sustainability demands of consumers.
In times of uncertainty, consumers are less willing to pay a premium for brands. They’re more likely to switch between products and will trade down if they don’t perceive a major difference. To deliver a relevant ‘value’ message, a brand’s value proposition may need to be overhauled or fine-tuned, ensuring the benefits are brought to the fore with value-adds, promotions and services all positioned to enhance the needs and perceptions of value consumers are looking for.
When your usual choice is no longer available, or a disruptive climate creates new needs or puts different emphasis on existing needs, this opens up consumers to try new brands. This creates an opportunity to shape the category by better understanding what is influencing consumers in this new context. In tough times, consumers are often only loyal to brands that align with their own sentiments. Are there new potential audiences? What are the right mental associations and feelings to meet these reframed consumer mindsets?
“More than one-third (34%) of U.S. shoppers are adding new brands to their consideration set during the coronavirus pandemic, with 24% adding new brands to the usual mix on their shopping lists and 13% using the opportunity to discover new brands” Retail Touchpoints.
From work and healthcare, to entertainment, shopping and socialising – consumers are living and consuming virtually, often in categories or situations they’d reserved for F2F. Brands are now revolutionising their offers to meet these accelerated trends and new demands, such as virtual fashion styling, retail showrooms, theatre performances, real estate viewings and yoga classes. Yelp has even added a new information category called ‘virtual service offerings’ to allow brands to showcase their broader offer.
Now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands they can rely on and trust, helping them feel more in control of their world. Knowing the history and provenance of a brand can reassure both in terms of reliability, but also for reasons of hygiene, health, etc. Additionally, consumers want brands to show support for communities, stepping up as they have done. This involvement reinforces the brand’s customer-centricity. Making the brand a good citizen, by also holding up everyday consumers as the authentic hero.
“Launched in support of frontline healthcare workers fighting Covid-19, the initiative recognises healthcare professionals as athletes. In particular, 30,000 pairs of Nike’s Air Zoom Pulse shoe… are being donated because of its suitability for extensive shift work. “…our first shoe designed for the healthcare athlete, an everyday hero” LS: Global
In summary, brands can respond to these questions by:
1. Helping consumers understand the rationale or purpose of your brand. Why it is needed at a time of uneasy affluence? What specific needs does it meet, rather than seeking to validate a want?
2. Drawing out and foregrounding the levers of ‘value’. Better understand where your current customers get the most value (and benefit). Build this into your messaging to play this back to them, as well as attracting and convincing others.
3. Communicating to your non-customers, as this time of ‘switching mindsets’ can lead to increased acquisition. Understand what is driving switching and what are consumers seeking to achieve by moving to another brand?
4. Creating a 360 virtual experience. What are the all the ways your brand can deliver virtually, in every moment and touch point of the customer journey? This could range from trial, to value adds, or education post-purchase.
5. Building trust through reinforcing the heritage and DNA of your brand. As this reassures through a sense of history and authenticity. It can make your brand feel more human and part of everyday culture. Providing a point of stability, further strengthened when linked with support of local communities and consumers.