social distancing

The world has changed. As many try to predict what lasting affects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on consumer behaviour, we can be sure of one thing: now is the time for businesses to adapt to remain successful.

While the effect on long term behaviour is unclear at this point, we can be clear on the behavioural change that will exist for the more immediate future. With a vaccine reported to be as much as 12-18 months away, COVID-19 will continue to strongly affect how consumers view and interact with your brand. While we’ll get back to business before then, alleviating customer concerns while the threat still exists will be a key barrier to overcome.

Some of the key changes in consumer behaviour due to the pandemic that business will need to adjust to include:

A Heightened Awareness of Corporate Responsibility

In a time where we all need to work together, consumers care more about what you stand for than ever before. Is your brand active in helping others, or is it only focused on its bottom line? Telling your story of what your brand has done for the greater good is now more important – and in some cases, essential – to developing and maintaining consumer relationships.

Think about the story you want to tell. It should be relevant to your company’s product and values, and it should also address the corporate responsibility desired by your audience.

A Desire for Non-Personal Interaction

The comfort of being with others has quickly been replaced with a demand for non-personal interaction. Our heightened awareness of the risks of personal contact may never vanish completely. If a consumer can buy it online, they will. Or, if they can’t buy your product or service online, they will seek the avenue with the least personal contact. Consider growing the online experience of your brand with things like virtual showrooms, online chat, and video demonstrations.

According to data from ACI Worldwide, online retail sales have seen a dramatic 74% growth in average transaction volumes in March 2020 compared with the same period last year. Not only are consumers doing more of their purchasing online, but they are also likely buying things they hadn’t bought online before. For example, in China, despite overall car sales crashing, online car sales have increased.

How far a consumer can go through their purchase journey online depends on your product or service, but all businesses must seek to grow their online experience.

A Greater Aversion to Risk

Removing or altering practices that pose a risk to our health has driven the massive change in our society. This enhanced aversion to risk also influences how consumers make decisions in other areas of their life. Combined with the financial strain many are facing you can be sure that “playing it safe” will be their mantra for now and the foreseeable future. If you don’t offer payment plans, now is the time to start.

Offering solutions that don’t increase the financial burden your customers will face in the short run may be the difference in making a sale.

A Renewed Community Focus

We are quickly becoming more aware of what is happening in the world immediately around us. Working together to help each other in a fight against a common enemy has renewed community bonds and is changing behaviours deeply ingrained in our society of individualism. This renewed community-thinking also drives consumers to be more loyal to their local businesses, especially businesses that are visually active in the community.

Being active in the communities you are part of through sponsorships, donations, and other initiatives will go further in creating and maintaining customer loyalty.

A Thirst for Authoritative Content

Thanks to the technological age we live in, the coronavirus pandemic has generated the highest volume of news and opinion content in history. The serious and complex nature of this topic has led us to seek out leaders who can provide authoritative and reliable information. It has forced people back to accepting that expertise matters. This reliance on authoritative information is a natural behaviour used in making many decisions and will be heightened by our pandemic experience.

Generating regular, quality content that educates consumers on your product or service and assists in their purchase decision will position your brand as an industry authority.

Reduced Attention Span

The bombardment of information regarding the coronavirus has only added to the increasing consumer behaviour of skimming through content as there’s simply too much to absorb. Generally, if a person can’t find what they’re searching for easily, they’ll move quickly to the next option. Quality, eye-catching content is important to attract and keep visitors on your website.

Consider how your content appears within the context of mass information. Consider using video to deliver eye-catching, positive content.

Investment in our Living Spaces

Many businesses have been forced to break through the barriers of allowing and empowering their staff to work from home. New habits and processes have been formed that will allow many more people to work from home even after restrictions are lifted. More time spent at home, combined with reduced spend on travel and entertainment, will lead to more investment in our living spaces.

Consider how your product or service can enhance the changed workspaces and routines of your consumer audience.

To remain relevant, a brand must be able to continually adjust according to changes in environmental and consumer behaviour. Adjusting to a changing marketplace may never be more critical than now.

If you are a business leader, now is the time to adjust your business to the new realities. Use this time to your advantage to update your brand and lead your business through this pandemic and beyond.