Before February 2020, none of us has ever thought of a pandemic, which can disturb the entire lifecycle. The lockdown which came into effect across India and most parts of the Globe made us experience that the world has become a cage and we its prisoners. (The only good that this Pandemic has done is to Nature and to our animal friends, which needed a breather from mankind). No one has experienced something like this before, where everyone we are forced to stay indoors and customer spending has been plummeted and is not expected to return to normal growth anytime soon.
Before COVID – 19, industries, geographies, businesses, and customers had never thought of masks, sanitizers, social distancing. The customer has always had freedom of choice and switching of brands was always persistent. Businesses achieved loyalty through rationalization like promotions, discounts, rewards, etc.
During COVID - 19 everything has turned upside down, including Maslow's hierarchy. Brands had to come up with new strategies and tactics for consumers focusing more on physiological & safety needs. As customers had become conscious about their health and safety needs, which was the need of the hour.
During this period everything had changed from life to work of both individuals and businesses who were to be evolved. As consumer priorities had been shifted and organizations have to redefine the rules of brand engagement.
New emerging Faces
As lockdown continued it created social unrest, health crisis, the economic crisis which largely impacted society. Today, working from home is not an employee-friendly policy but has become a way of life and a casual meal with friends at a restaurant seemed to be a lifetime away.
Most of the household incomes had been declined and also the consumer sentiment index declined sharply showing all-time low figures. The demand for essential and value products has increased & Consumer' demand for small packaged goods increased too instead of larger ones.
Health and hygiene
Most of the consumers had to shift their focus towards health and safety needs, opting for traditional home remedies like Haldi (Turmeric), Ginger,Tulsi, Ashwagandha, etc.At the same time,they have COVID related products like a mask, sanitizers, disinfectants will take a permanent place in their shopping list.
As lockdown continued making the neighboring brick & mortar stores and other traditional channels to shut down, it also revalidated the acceleration of digital, e-commerce, direct to consumers models, and creating of delivery in a safe contactless environment. This made the customer shift from offline to the online mode which is convenient and safe.
How consumer behavior has changed in the next normal?
As markets open gradually, both brands and consumers became desperate to boost their lives which was dramatically changed during the lockdown. The pandemic has disrupted everyone's day to day life and people had to give up their most deeply ingrained habits like spending a long hour in the gym, going to a coffee shop during the midday break, and enjoying movies. As most of the college, school and organization were closed and people were working from home and it changed the spending behavior of customers.These crisesforced many consumers to change their behavior, attitude, and living styles.
The earlier consumer had an opportunity to experience the touch & feel of a product, but today their perception has changedso are their buying behaviors and patterns.Customers now seek trusted brands and their products making them indulge more on online channels.
What’s next in marketing?
Everything has changed after a lockdown from life to work, both individual and business have evolved during this time. Marketing has changed and the organization has to redefine the rules of brand engagement and win consumer trust and loyalty.
In this time, Brands should strive to boost the digital channels for customer engagement as digital emerges as the backbone of the organization to continue their business. Most of the customer transact digitally from banking to retail. Most of the retail outlets too are shifting their channel from offline to online or creating an omnichannel approach to attract their customers.
Matured brands have to re-assess their digital strategy and have to strengthen their strategy and rebuild the right team, set effective processes, and implement the best technology and gradually move towards the customer experience management (CXM) model.
These crises have caused a long-term psychological shift in consumers' minds and it forces a marketer to adapt to change & win back customer's trust. The brand should communicate with the customer for their purpose and values. Big brands should connect with customers by having empathetic communication and understand the intrinsic needs. Smaller brands have to focus on the bottom of the funnel to push their product.
Newbie brands should focus on positioning their products & service in the minds of new customers. Engage customers more as users rather than as buyers. They have to shift their investment from pre-purchase promotion and sales to post-purchase renewal and advocacy.
The customer relies on emotions to make decisions and today customers become hyper-perceptive to a brand's image, tone, message, and purpose. It becomes necessary for Brands to establish an emotional connection with the customer and increase emotional loyalty.
Brands can drive an emotional connection with their customer by Empathizing, Engaging, Evolving, and Integrating emotions with transactions to track true loyalty.
Author : Ishtiyaque
Co-Author : Uday Kanth