What do consumers really want and how can brands satisfy their needs?
This question has concerned marketers and behavioural scientists for decades. Now, the pandemic has shaken up old findings by disrupting people’s day-to-day lives, old-established attitudes, habits and behavioural patterns. We are eyewitnesses of an unprecedented mass adoption of the transformative effect on social structures. Billions of people all around the word have simultaneously changed the way they think, behave and consume. During the pandemic consumers started buy different products through different channels they may not have pursued before e.g. groceries, fitness services and electric vehicles online.
What has changed?
Due to uncertainty and nervousness, consumers are increasingly valuing services and products that reduce their anxiety, reduce risks, provide convenience and some sense of safety and belonging. Consumers’ affinity to the rise of digital technologies lead to changing consumer expectations, greater demand for convenience, better brand relationships and an omnichannel experience. A survey by the Capgemini Research Institute identified three main criteria for how consumers now choose their brands:
- Convenience: Consumers have significantly shifted their shopping ambition from offline to online and developed a greater sense for personalised and convenient shopping experiences across all stages of their engagement process. E-commerce penetration has in just a few months reached levels that had been expected to take years.
- Health and safety: With consumers becoming more concerned about health and wellness, they expect safer in-store and last-mile practices to protect their health and that of their families.
- Focus on purpose: Consumers are increasingly interested in brands and organisations that embody a sense of purpose, take over social responsibility and put sustainability on their agendas.
Consumers’ journey expectations have evolved in terms of:
- how they gain information
- what products and services they buy
- which channels they buy through
- the experience expectations they have
New forms of engagement – for example via social media, messaging services and apps – have brought producers and consumers closer together.
Will the change stay?
A global pandemic “can reorder society in dramatic ways, for better or worse” and has the power to sustainably establish new social conditions and human behaviours. On average, it takes between two and eight months for a person to develop a new habit and build a new behaviour – dependent on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances. As the pandemic has now been underway for more than a year, the chances are high that developed behavioural patterns will remain in the future. According to psychology professor, Roxane Cohen Silver at the University of California, it is very unlikely that people will completely go back to their pre-pandemic behaviours and habits. She states that as people move further away from the pre-Covid life, fewer people may remember what it was like before .
Nevertheless, everything must be considered in perspective. The explosion of e-commerce will not mean the death of the physical store. When the lockdowns have ended, shoppers have come back to the high streets and shopping centres. The future will be both online and offline where “the merchants, food stalls, crafts, salespeople and shoppers will all continue to exist – albeit in new forms”. The persistence and future relevance of the changed behaviour may largely depend on consumer product brands and retailers’ ability to live up to consumers’ expectations and engagement satisfaction.
How can brands capitalise on pandemic-related changes in consumer behaviour and gain momentum over their competitors?
Consumer behavioural change is multi-dimensional and affects a companies’ entire organisational structure. Internalising consumers’ new beliefs, habits and “peak moments” is essential to maximise benefits from the “new normal” Brands and retailers are best advised to:
- capture emerging behaviours
- sustain established behaviours
- disregard obsolete behaviours
to stay relevant and shift resources to where they are needed.
In today’s digital age, consumers are powerful and fully in charge. As a result, it is essential for brands to use data-driven engagement to create “consumers’ pull system rather than a producers’ push one” with a frictionless omnichannel shopping experience.
But how can this be achieved?
Applying the right physical-digital blend: combine technology with an understanding of societal sentiments in terms of purpose and meaning. By considering the following opportunities consumer products brands and retailers can gain momentum over their competitors.
- Develop internal capabilities for external change: Meeting customer expectations starts inside. Build the right mindset and capabilities towards a data-driven organisation with customer centricity throughout the entire value chain. Develop the right capabilities to improve the organisations exchange, experience, and engagement process with their customers.
- Leverage data and build a one-to-one relationship: Because of the increased amount of data, consumer products brands and retailers better know their customers. Shoppers’ use of digital technology has enabled consumer products brands and retailers to develop a one-to-one relationship and connect to customers with a personalised offer tailored to their customers individual needs. It allows organisations to sell products more effectively and forecast future behaviour.
- Embrace the omni-channel experience: The future is both digital and physical. Create a convenient, frictionless, and enjoyable omnichannel experience based on unique customer IDs. Rethink convenience and enjoyment across all relevant touchpoints. Create an environment where customers have fun associating themselves with the brand.
- Rethink the in-store experience: Take advantage of people’s digital footprint and provide a unique and personalised in-store experience. Brands and retailers need to understand how digital innovation can enable new ways of customer engagement, improve in-store operations and enable consumers to rediscover the joy of in-person retail through exciting new options to engage and shop.
- Build trust through purpose: Consumer products organisations and retailers that “embody a sense of purpose and strong sustainability credentials will see greater consumer engagement”. Trying to minimise impact on environment and buying brands that reflect their belief. Working together for the greater good, buying from organisations they find to be honest and transparent.
Seize the opportunity
Covid-19 has accelerated consumers’ digital affinity and established three core criteria for shopping for products and services: convenience, health and safety, focus on purpose. The emergence of e-commerce will not mean the death of physical stores. Quite the opposite, successful consumer products brands and retailers will be those who build purposeful one-to-one relationships and create a frictionless omnichannel experience across physical and digital touchpoints. Go shape the future and be bold to satisfy your customers!
CornerShop – a live retail test and learn space
The world of retailing is facing fundamental transformation, and in order to help our consumer products and retail and clients survive & thrive, we have put our experience and capabilities together to design & launch a new hybrid retail experience, to test new ways to shop, engage, and build loyalty with customers.
Brought to you by Capgemini in partnership with SharpEnd, the connected experience platform, alongside global media platform, The Drum, CornerShop is a retail innovation store. It is a live retail space, in which retailers & brands can explore, develop and test tomorrow’s shopping innovations, in a feasible way that can be implemented and scaled today. We are getting feedback from real customers in the heart of London.
Christian Bohm, Senior Management Consultant
Christian is an expert in customer engagement, omnichannel marketing and organisational transformation with a proven track record in the consumer goods, retail and automotive industry.