QUICK READ: History shows that when employees are laid off in large numbers, they come back in stages, rather than all at once. That will be doubly true for this recession. Customers will be slow to return, which will mean companies will be slow to bring back workers.
As some states loosen restrictions to get back to business as usual consumers aren’t buying it. Even when restrictions are lifted 70% of people intend to practice social distancing and stay away from crowds. But, perhaps the biggest changes are going to be the way consumers buy products.
Some brands are stepping up to the challenge of helping others during this trying time but there is a very fine line between helping people and trying to leverage help into selling.
What are consumers learning during this pandemic?
The harshest lesson for consumers is that the only person they can rely on is themselves. Sure some people are going to be getting a $1200 check but that money can be diverted if they owe creditors.
Before this pandemic consumer borrowing, via credit cards, was at an all-time high. Now that the money has stopped rolling in those high-interest rates are reminding consumers that the economy before all this may have been an exception. I expect consumers, when they go back to work, to start paying down that debt.
As for shopping and brands, everything has changed. As one woman on Twitter said, “is it me or have prices ate the grocery store gone way up?”. Prices are increasing and consumers are feeling it. As a result, lower-cost alternatives like private labels may provide some relief.
Online consumers are starting to use PC’s again instead of smartphones. They now seek out trusted news sources and have the time to research news headlines. Online entertainment sites are becoming more popular but at the same time they’re annoyed by intrusive ads.
Can brands buy loyalty?
The answer to that is yes and no. Subaru, for example, is giving away 50 million meals but is that really going to make someone buy a Subaru? Consumers aren’t stupid. They know which brands practice social responsibility and which ones do it as a marketing ploy.
Brands, companies, need to make social responsibility part of their culture. People want it because they feel the government has let them down.
When stores start to reopen there is going to be a fight for employees. Minimum wage isn’t going to cut it anymore which means that costs are going to be passed onto consumers. Inflation could rear its ugly head making it harder to stay on budget.
Perhaps the biggest change will be in advertising. Brands that were quick to adapt to the changing environment with delayed payments or notice of donations are going to win a share of mind. Brands that advertise as nothing has changed are either too big to react quickly or don’t care.
My advice? Stop thinking of mass marketing and start using more empathy in your marketing. Understand what your target audience is going through and address micro-segments with targeted messaging.
Brands also need to be more customer responsive. If someone wants an answer about a product they purchased or has a problem you need to respond in real-time, not days or weeks.
We’re not going to come out of this and return to the “good old days”. Marketers need to learn, change, and adapt their marketing playbook. The consumer is changing in real-time and they are becoming more distrustful. Brands need to earn their trust each and every day with each and every customer.