So many things have changed as a result of the COVID-19 global health crisis. This is especially true of consumer behavior and spending, which have taken sharp turns and unexpected leaps. We’ve experienced shortages in things we may have previously taken for granted such as toilet paper, paper towels, antibacterial wipes and even food items such as eggs and bread. We’ve swapped dining out with family and friends for video chats and an increase in screen time. It’s imperative that business owners are able to navigate changing consumer behavior to increase sales. Market research can help you understand where your audience is in the moment, and where they might be in the future.
Changes in consumer behavior we’ve already seen
Both, anecdotally, and in the data, we can identify some significant swings in consumer behavior:
- Telehealth has skyrocketed with an increase of 1,986 percent in telehealth claims for the western region alone from March 2019 to March 2020
- Online grocery sales are poised to grow 40 percent this year
- Online shopping has boomed, with online mega-retailer Amazon reporting a 43.4 percent increase in sales
- While regular clothing sales have declined, athletic and loungewear are seeing a surge
Revealing some important consumer opinions
In July 2020, as part of a survey, 1,000 U.S. adults aged 21 and older revealed some interesting insights:
- 25 percent intended to continue cutting spending
- 40 percent expected to continue saving on costs but also to stockpile foods and essentials
- 24 percent planned to stay calm and continue as normal within the context of the pandemic
- 11 percent planned to go back to pre-COVID-19 spending and habits
- Travel, socializing, health, shopping and entertainment were regarded as most likely to remain changed after the pandemic
- Education, news, finance and technology devices were anticipated to be the least affected long-term
It’s important to understand what’s going on in your industry
These numbers paint an especially telling picture, and one that business owners can use to help guide their sales efforts. However, this isn’t the whole story, particularly for businesses with narrow target markets or specialized services. It’s vital that organizations continue to gather market research on consumer spending habits so they can properly serve and market to their clientele. Even billion dollar companies have pivoted their services to better serve their clients.
Take Uber, for example. As social activities and travel came to a halt, fewer people needed the service of being transported from place to place. The ridesharing company had already offered grocery delivery, but in response to the pandemic announced two new, no-contact services.
Uber Direct which delivers retail items and Uber Connect which delivers care packages from one party to another.
Both were announced in April, just about a month after stay-at-home mandates were in effect. This quick pivot provided Uber the ability to serve their clients by studying their behavior and matching their needs with Uber’s service.
Another clever example is the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) which is bringing back the famous “Got milk?” campaign. As commercial and restaurant businesses are struggling and reducing their milk usage, at-home consumption is on the rise. MilkPEP recognizes this and is bringing back the popular advertising favorite with a twist. They are asking for young people to share their “Got milk?” moments and experiences on social media. A prime example of transitioning to a new audience during the pandemic, while also engaging in a user-generated content (UGC) marketing tactic which is a good fit for their target audience.
How can you adjust to increase sales?
So, how can your business navigate these consumer behavior changes to increase sales? The first step is knowing more about your customer. You’ll only want to make changes to your business structure or marketing patterns if you have strong data and insights to show that those changes will increase your bottom line. Start with market research to answer some important questions:
- How are your target consumers reprioritizing their spending?
- How are they changing their path to purchase?
- Will these changes be short-term, long-term or permanent?
- Is a shift in tone or messaging needed?
- How can your brand build a relationship remotely?
- How is your target audiences’ media consumption changing?
- Do you need to pivot your offerings to reach customers where they are now?
By gaining these insights and more, you’ll have a solid understanding of your audience and their spending, and will therefore increase the likelihood that you’ll make impactful changes and authentically connect with them as they maneuver through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Navigate with knowledge to increase sales
The best way to increase sales is to understand the changes in your consumers’ behavior. Gaining market research insights will help determine: if your audience is willing to spend at this time; if your product or service is something they would consider purchasing; what related services they might need instead; and how their media habits have changed so you can market to them in the right places. Learning this information and other important points will help you devise a plan to best serve your customer and ultimately increase sales.Learning this information and other important points will help you devise a plan to best serve your customer and ultimately increase sales.