Post lockdown what sort of world awaits? For sure it is never going to be the same again. We will all carry the scar of this extraordinary time in our lives and we will have to learn to live a new ‘normal’. Critically, crisis-buying patterns during the outbreak will inevitably speed adoption of new, permanent behaviour change.
Where once the likelihood of swapping a favourite brand for another (especially, own label) would be highly unlikely for most consumers in the key demographics of ABC1, 25-34 age group, it will not necessarily be so in the future. As we have witnessed in recent times, need for a product in a challenging retail landscape where choice has been replaced by what’s left on the shelf, has meant most shoppers have been prepared to settle for alternatives to their favourite brands.
Going forward the focus for brand owners is to recognise that an automatic return to old shopping habits should not be assumed and that patterns of consumerism may have permanently changed. Therefore brands, more than ever, need to reinforce their key messages and communicate them in a way that reflects the new world order.
The UK in parallel with the rest of Europe is reporting a doubling up of purchase on essential items during the crisis. This means brands are under further pressure as the likelihood of winning back customers will take longer as pantries remain overstocked. And the longer different, unfamiliar products remain in household circulation, the greater the potential for them to become shopping list staples.
As people start to return to work and resume their daily routines, new and different priorities may have widespread effect on their purchasing habits. Such changes will inevitably impact on their buying patterns, rates of consumption and expectation of brands. It is the latter that should be the primary business objective for companies looking to enjoy projected and familiar patterns of growth.
What should brand owners be thinking about and planning for in the run-up to the new normal? It is accepted that these unusual times have given people space to re-evaluate whole swathes of their lives. Immediately prior to the crisis there was a growing focus for businesses to demonstrate purpose and good behaviour. This is highly likely to accelerate in the aftermath.
Brands will be expected to live their purpose and help society and the economy get back on track. This can be achieved by leveraging resources to make a difference with products, services made available or more accessible to affected people and by engaging with staff, customers and eco-systems in order to maximise tangible positive impact.
The brand winners for the future will undoubtedly be those who have listened, learned and actioned behaviours that match new values and expectations from their customers.