As restrictions around the world ease and consumer spending begins to reappear, the buyer’s journey needs to adapt to the next new normal. Even as the COVID-19 crisis continues, consumer behavior has changed with lasting implications. The ripple effect caused by these changes can force any business to think and operate differently in order to sustain business continuity.
In a recent article, McKinsey & Company describes how there are already some common purchasing trends globally:
- Consumer optimism remains low since most consumers expect a long-lasting impact due to COVID-19
- Consumers are spending on essentials and not on discretionary categories
- Consumers are shifting to online and digital solutions, as well as reduced-contact channels, to get goods and services
- Consumers want extra reassurance to resume day-to-day activities outside their homes
Understanding that the world has been turned upside down is an opportunity for business owners and leaders to operate outside-the-box by becoming trusted partners to customers and prospects. I’ve observed some B2C companies offering special billing and payment terms. I’ve spotted several B2B organizations providing special training to customers who now need to work remotely. Being adaptable to aligning products and services to changing consumer behavior is how businesses remain relevant during any crisis.
In a recent Forbes article, Kian Bakhtiari describes how there’s been a “revival of community” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bakhtiari clarifies that the cultural shift from “I” to “we” could have a permanent effect on consumer behavior. The very act of consumption will no longer be synonymous with social status, but rather social harmony.
Two months ago, companies such as Moët Hennessy, Louis Vuitton and LVMH were enjoying a decade of economic growth. Today, those businesses are sewing face masks and producing hand sanitizer. Ernst & Young’s Future Consumer Index study illustrates that 62 percent of consumers are more likely to buy products from companies they feel are doing good for society – and 29 percent are prepared to pay a premium for brands that contribute to the community.
The pandemic is causing a reassessment of values, habits and consumption patterns that won’t reverse. Businesses must place more emphasis on awareness-based indicators rather than short-term sales to ensure that their brands build lasting relationships with their consumers.
Furthermore, if the buyer’s journey is shifting from retail stores to virtual operations, business leaders need to quickly rethink their digital transformation strategies. The customer experience (CX) online will become the most important differentiator in developing a competitive advantage.
It’s now more important than ever to listen to the customer’s needs and present solutions that will respond to lagging consumer optimism.