It’s 11pm. You’re in bed, about to fall asleep. All of a sudden, you realize you forgot to grab the side dish for tomorrow’s dinner with the in-laws—and you’re hosting. Between meetings and picking up the dog from daycare, your “tomorrow” is fully booked. Luckily, it’s 2021 and you can just open your favorite grocery app and get your forgotten item delivered, at a time of your choice. Dinner is saved.
In the long run, tomorrow’s “dinner issue” may seem insignificant compared to how the world cautiously navigated 2020, but it’s a great example of the relationship between the pre- and post-pandemic way of thinking, shopping, and trending.
While the tsunami-like pandemic of the 21st century arrived, dominated, and lingered, many changes (both good and bad) have resulted in its wake. The world was forced to adapt to a new way of life, or was it?
It’s said that it takes 6 weeks for a new habit to become a lifestyle. If that saying proves true, it implies that a majority of consumers have shifted their shopping habits—for good. And just like people, businesses needed to adapt within their respective industries. How people eat, shop, and take in advertising has forever been altered.
But, in this ever-evolving marketing landscape, are COVID-19-related shopping trends here to stay? And if so, how must a brand transform to connect to its customers’ newfound shopping styles? As marketers, we need to think about how to build a brand this year and beyond, and how marketing is being redefined in the age of COVID-19.
Let’s take a look at some relevant trends that have come to the forefront during last year’s challenging terrain:
Digital shopping: It’s bigger than ever before
If we compare pre- and post-pandemic online shopping trends, it’s not shocking to see the uptick—globally. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, everyone took their shopping online. As companies shifted their focus to providing a reliable online shopping experience, we were provided with more options than ever before to get what we want delivered directly to our doors.
Actions speak louder than words
Now more than ever, consumers expect brands to act in support of social and ethical movements—in real time. Brands have a heavy-handed influence, so it’s important that they lead by example. They need to be aware of the presence of diversity in their advertising, as well as behind the scenes. A focus on doing what’s right matters to consumers, and a commitment to making a positive difference in this world is priceless.
Brand-loyal no more
While the pandemic exposed global supply chain vulnerabilities, many companies found it difficult to keep up with the purchasing demand. And since many people have a favorite brand of toilet paper or shampoo, the “out-of-stock” signs forced them toward a different brand altogether. During the pandemic, product availability led many shoppers to try new brands, places, and methods of shopping.
The convenience factor
As consumers continue to rely on smartphones and digital services, a seamless, streamlined customer shopping experience is front and center. Anytime, 24/7, you can shop for what you want, and oftentimes, get it within 48 hours—all without getting off your couch. As consumers embrace this behavior, brands need to be ready to deliver on convenience, with reliability, punctuality, and approachable customer service.
Health & hygiene A+
The emphasis on mental and physical wellbeing has skyrocketed. Consumers are paying close attention to added benefits and nutritional value. More than just tasting good, consumers want products that are made well and make a difference. At the same time, cleanliness is also a front runner. Highlighting the importance of customer and employee safety is a pivotal facet to gaining—and keeping—loyal customers.
A subscription just for you
Whether you’re a food fanatic, a hygiene addict, or something in between, there’s a subscription for you. The convenience of retailers selling commodities like cleaning, grocery, and personal care products is immeasurable. Businesses that provide an easy-to-use platform can steadily increase relationships with long-term customers who opt into an auto-replenishment plan. This is also a great way to increase the demographic and/or customer reach.
A renewed focus on brand experience
At the end of the day, whether or not a customer comes back as a repeat buyer is what matters most as far as retention and conversion. And the customer experience is a large part of why (or why not) they’d come back for a second purchase—or even give a positive word-of-mouth review. The experience is an increasingly important aspect of long-term brand building and retention.
Personal concerns & financial security
It’s no surprise that with last year’s extreme uptick in health and safety across the board, it has definitely left a lasting impact on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors. Along with this increase, the fears of financial security have also grown. Consumers like to know that their hard-earned dollar stretches as far as possible—allowing them to get more for their money.
During the height of the pandemic, many local businesses had to close their doors. As they reopen, there’s a heightened consideration to support small businesses and domestically-made products. Plus, an added benefit to shopping locally is that you invest directly into your community, allowing for more businesses to open, create jobs, and generate an economic boost.
Virtual + Physical = Inseparable
It’s safe to say that digital platforms have made most things in life easier than ever before—especially when physical restrictions were in place. What used to be a practice for more tech-savvy people has slowly been adapted by demographics of all ages. Many classes or events will now have a hybrid approach to consumers or attendees, blending the virtual and in-person experience into one, inclusive entity.
All in all, it’s safe to say that how marketers and consumers interact has irrevocably changed. Reverting back to the old “normal” isn’t an option as many industries have propelled full-steam ahead into new territory during the last year. What consumers are buying and how they’re doing it has created an ever-evolving industry of new ideas, faster implementation, and access to just about anything your heart desires. And this is just the beginning.