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The secret to connecting with the ‘new’ post-pandemic consumer in 2020.
28 July 2020 12:20pm
Keep up or get f**ked
Has COVID-19 forever reprogrammed the consumer? There’s no doubt that 2020 has ushered in a new economic landscape that poses a threat to all those who do not adjust. Equally, it may just ignite a vital spark for those who do. 2020 takes no prisoners, that much we know already. But opportunities are surely there for those who quickly unlock the secrets to the ‘new’ customer.
The pandemic has been a truly collective experience for people across the globe – an event unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. As the world eased into lockdown, many compared this ‘collective spirit’ to that of a World War. But, there’s one key difference that defines the COVID-19 era: ease of global, online access. Naturally then, when the world moved online, business followed suit. The biggest question is: who survived and who was left in the dust? Now that lockdown restrictions have eased significantly since the initial March 23rd announcement, it’s vital to look at the real winners and losers of the pandemic in order to also unlock the secrets of the new breed of consumers it has created.
Creativity and ready-made online platforms
Few could have predicted the worldwide implications of COVID-19 at its earliest detection. But there’s no doubt that the existence of a fully functioning, thriving online sector and community created a simple transition for brands such as Amazon, esports, Netflix and, of course, all social media platforms. Quickly, these brands created an intrinsic link between their product and a way of life during the lockdown period. Not just that, brands facilitated a sense of creativity that fed into the needs of a public that grew increasingly bored of their lack of freedom. Increased free time meant further opportunity for people to interact with the services available to them. All brands must realise this potential for creativity therefore and not dismiss their service as one that cannot be interacted with in a social media sphere.
Generally speaking, sport media thrived in this new era of creative expression. Is there anybody who doesn’t love a good debate? Podcasts, live streams, Q&A’s, watch-alongs, esports and highlight shows, all combined to create a level of consumer interaction that had never previously existed during the social media era. Online communication facilitated these interactions. Consequently, this interface is paramount in all business processes in this world where the consumer can’t necessarily come to you. Zoom and House Party were two means of video conversation that exploded over lockdown. All people, whether it was for business or leisure purposes, utilised these mediums of live video conversation. Young or old, it didn’t matter. Consumers quickly adapted to these new ways because there was nothing else. The professional world must too.
The death of the High Street?
For a variety of reasons, the traditional High Street as we know it has been at risk for a number of years in the UK. COVID-19 may unfortunately be the straw that breaks that camel’s back – simply because those who previously resisted the various temptations of online commerce have had their hands played by the pandemic. The real question is: will these loyal High Street shoppers ever return? This week alone has seen Boots, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer’s cut more than 6000 jobs between them. Natalie Berg, retail analyst at NBK Retail, offered harsh words for all the big brand High Street names, saying that, while they may be “iconic, they’re not immune.” Could COVID-19 see a host of High Street retail brands rush to further embrace an e-commerce model? While a complete revolution of retail is probably unlikely, brands now more than ever must utilise the online sphere – in combination with maintaining a desirable and, crucially, safe, physical shopping experience.
Era of Community?
Has 2020 been the year consumer culture evolves from the personal to the community? Lockdown has certainly seen many brands and companies become more community orientated, which in turn could have an impact that extends beyond the end of lockdown and even the end of the pandemic itself. Within the media, the proof of this is especially evident within the advertising sector. Simply turning on the television will demonstrate this considerable change. The focus is now on support, the public and national unity. EE for example allowed free data for NHS workers, while Virgin Media’s advertisement concentrated on what children were up to during lockdown via their slogan that said “stay singing, stay dancing, stay connected”.
Ultimately then, consumers may move away from purchases related to persona and success and shift towards brands that represent community instead. Of course, as the virus recedes, elements of this advertisement revolution may end, and the celebrity-faced adverts we all knew before lockdown may well return. The longer the virus stays though, and that is still unknown, the more likely brand perception will be measured in terms of how they serve the people and interact with the community, not in how it represents their personal persona.
In summary, 2020 has changed the relationship between industries and the consumer significantly due to COVID-19. Whether these changes are permanent or not, remain to be seen. The unique nature of the pandemic is sure to create further changes that we haven’t yet anticipated, as the public continues to find ways to live in a state of constant uncertainty. What is certain however, is that those who embrace the online community and do it successfully, will be better off for it.