The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly altered consumers’ behaviors and attitudes, upending brands’ marketing strategies and plans. Now, roughly four months into the pandemic in the U.S., we are just beginning to gain a better understanding of the impact of these changes in the short and long terms, and how brands must adapt to the ‘new normal.’
A recent survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Acxiom, the data and technology foundation for the world’s best marketers, shines a light on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors amid the pandemic, revealing three key shifts:
CONSUMERS ARE RELYING ON, AND OVERWHELMINGLY EMBRACING, DATA AND TECHNOLOGY TO COPE WITH AND RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC.
‒ Despite privacy concerns, three-quarters (75 percent) strongly or slightly agree data can be used to greatly benefit people if properly managed, and approve of the use of data during the pandemic, including for COVID-19 contact tracing (62 percent) and identifying at-risk populations (71 percent).
‒ More than half are happy to share their personal health and location data to help stop the current pandemic and prevent future pandemics.
‒ E-commerce grew more in two months during the pandemic than during the last two years. Nearly half the population bought something online so far during the pandemic, and many intend to shop online more often and from more product categories.
‒ As many consumers work remotely, video calls have become more common, with weekly use expected to be around 42 percent post-pandemic.
‒ Seventy percent of consumers are using contactless payments cards; just 3 percent of credit cards had the capability in 2018.
CONSUMER’ PRIORITIES HAVE CHANGED.
‒ People are feeling the uncertainty, cutting back on spending and putting more towards saving. Fifty-nine percent plan to save more.
‒ Consumers are rethinking travel. Eighty-five percent of U.S. respondents have cancelled or are considering cancelling travel abroad this year.
‒ Nearly a third (30 percent) have decided they aren’t comfortable traveling at all this year because of health risks. Even looking ahead to next year, many are waiting to see how the pandemic evolves.
‒ More than half (51 percent) have delayed, or are considering delaying, a vehicle purchase.
CONSUMERS ARE STICKING CLOSER TO HOME, IN THEIR PERSONAL AND WORK LIVES.
‒ More than half (55 percent) would stay in government-ordered lockdown indefinitely to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
‒ More than three-quarters (78 percent) are ready to return to stores, but after the virus is contained.
‒ Among those still planning or considering travel this year, it’s more likely to be domestic than international.
CONCLUSION: NO GOING BACK
Amid these shifts, consumer behavior may never return to the old “normal,” even after COVID-19. For instance, as many plan to continue to work from home at least part of the time after the pandemic, people may reconsider where they live, resulting in the reversal of the urbanization trend. And the tools and producers they use may change in the long run. While people will no longer need video calling as a lifeline post-pandemic, use of this technology is not expected to drop back down to pre-coronavirus levels. Similarly, a number of consumers say they are more likely to buy an electric vehicle in the future, citing the improved air quality and positive environmental effects from fewer cars on the road.
These transformative changes require marketers to reconsider what they know about their customers and how they reach and engage them. Now and moving forward, an omnichannel marketing strategy is essential to survival. And as telecommuting and the “homebody economy” become more prevalent and prominent, reshaping where and how people live, work, and shop, the cascading impact will necessitate new approaches to reaching consumers. Brands must be agile, innovative, and ready to experiment in this still-evolving marketing landscape.