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How has Jane Doe changed in the last few months?

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What you should know about your customer and how to create digital CX in the post-pandemic world.

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a transformational year. While Covid-19’s impact at the macro level (across global politics, economics and culture) is palpable, there are billions of human stories that constitute the trends that we are now seeing.

The pandemic has intervened in, and encouraged the rewriting of, almost every human story. Now is the time to recognise the transformations that consumers are experiencing.

Five key consumer behaviour trends marketers should be thinking about

Some of these transformations will be self-directed, others dictated by circumstance. Some will be success stories, others characterised by significant struggle. Some will be immediate to effect, others a long term metamorphosis. 

Emotional content will play a significant role in consumer behaviour. Right now, consumers are looking for brands who demonstrate integrity and are authentic in their actions in order for a connection to be formed. In a saturated digital space, this is what will provide an advantage over competitors. As consumers, ‘how’ we go about doing things has changed which means there is an opportunity for new habits to be formed and sustained.

Consumers are thriving at home

More and more of us are investing our time, but also our money, in our homes. For many of us home represents a safehaven, a centre we can control in the otherwise wide expanse of enduring uncertainty. 

This highlights an obvious advantage for some brands with the increasing significance of comfort, security and control as customer emotional needs. Furniture, gardening and video games are thriving, but there are still opportunities for other brands to pivot or reposition their offer. At the most basic level, all brands have an opportunity to review their marketing communications (both the message and the medium) to acknowledge, or support, these emotional needs.

Consumers are suffering economic losses

Marketers need to turn away from traditional demographic segmentation models in a time of recession. Quelch's recession psychologies identified four psychological segments which range from the ‘slam-on-the-brakes’ group - who have greater levels of anxiety around their financial security - to the ‘live-for-today’ customers who continue to spend ‘as normal’. 

One thing that was common for each of the four psychological segments identified above was their prioritisation of purchase types:

  • Essentials – products that are necessary for survival;
  • Treats – indulgences that can be justified;
  • Postponables – purchases that are required or desired, but not immediately;
  • Expendables – purchases that are not deemed to be necessary or justifiable.

Avoid the simple assumption that there will be a universally shared perception of economic recession. With knowledge of psychological segmentation, you can reposition your brand’s offer for relevant segments or choose to only target those which are more optimistic about their financial futures.

Consumers are moving online

According to a recent McKinsey report, most categories have seen a minimum 10% growth in their online customer base during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many consumers planning to continue to shop online even when traditional bricks-and-mortar stores reopen.

In order to find success, brands not only need to meet their customers online, they also have to connect with them - online. Marketers need to step up to the challenge of data, seek methods to track consumer preference and behaviour, and hunt down the subsequent insights that will help them personalise messages and offers.

To create meaningful digital experiences, focus first on assessing your audiences fears, hopes and desires, and how these translate to digital behaviours - marketers can effectively cut losses and gain an advantage by focusing on segments where demand is active or has the potential for growth. Using existing frameworks will enable you to take targeted action across the identifiable quick wins while investing in further research initiatives. 

Consumers are experimenting 

One of the biggest marketing challenges is to position a product that can effectively disrupt existing habitual behaviour and win its place in the consumers routine. We know that consumers are more open to experiment at times of disruption, when habits are being revised or built anew. The majority of consumers have experimented with their purchasing behaviour during the crisis - 50% in the UK (PwC 2020) and over 75% in the US (McKinsey) - with availability, convenience and value as the key drivers for these changes. Habits are formed around internal triggers - emotional cues such as fear, loneliness, excitement or frustration. With an understanding of these emotional cues, it’s possible to leverage triggers and position your product or service in alignment with habit formation.

Linking internal and external triggers - a call to action, notification, or email - is timing dependent to ensure successful execution. If the external trigger is not close enough in time to the internal emotional trigger, the message can easily be perceived as irrelevant or at worst, spam. Receiving a prompt to try meal prep subscription is likely to be quickly dismissed by someone who is primarily concerned about managing a tight budget. But the same message would be an exciting prospect for those who are curious to expand their culinary skills or feel scared to take first steps towards a lifestyle change without support. 

Consumers care

Most of us will have felt the shift towards greater brand purpose and accountability this year, but this trend has been on the rise for a number of years. Recent research from BrandZ revealed that the importance of brand responsibility has tripled in the last decade. This metric highlights the importance of building brands that consumers can trust, and to do this we must prioritise the following values: 

  • Honesty and transparency 
  • Respect and inclusivity 
  • Identifying with and genuinely caring for customers

Now is the time to take stock and consider where your business can do more to build trust and confidence. Are you communicating your values? And more importantly, are you taking action with empathy for your customer and integrity to your purpose? 

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, phrases like ‘we’re here for you’ were banded around but this type of messaging can be misleading and disingenuous. The importance of brand responsibility is growing and consumers want their brands to not only do more but to do better. And most importantly, prove it!

Customers are not who they were yesterday, neither who they will become tomorrow 

Today, customer experience comes down to not only meeting consumer needs but also how you make them feel on their customer journey. Whilst our psychological blueprint is the same, individual consumer needs are all different and constantly evolving. How you feel now will differ in one, six, twelve months time. Brands need to be tracking and measuring their customers’ emotions, preferences and behaviours to ensure that they are continuously transitioning to meet their needs for both their current and future state of minds.

Marketers have a responsibility to appreciate the myriad of human stories that lie under our consumer data. Without empathy for the psychological implications, marketing efforts will fall short in targeting an audience’s motivations, expectations and ultimately their needs.

Top tips summary

  • Be empathetic to your consumers values, needs, motivations and behaviours.
  • Use existing psychological segmentation frameworks to gain immediate insights, but ensure continued investment in your own customer research where possible.
  • Prioritise segments where there are clear opportunities, but test your activity and be prepared to change direction.
  • Stay agile to respond quickly to the changes and transitions that your audience are experiencing.
  • Communicate your values and act with integrity to build the brand trust that consumers are holding to a higher standard.

Sophia Charters, client management at Freestyle, Header image: HearHear.

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