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Are we still the same? How coronavirus has changed consumer behaviour and marketing


June 25, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic has affected all areas of life, the balance between consumer behaviour and marketing is shifting. Businesses have not only had to reshuffle how they do marketing but forget everything they knew about their audiences.

Most home-confined consumers had more than ample time to examine their priorities. Surprisingly, this has given businesses breathing space to reassess spending and the brands they support.

Social media: more than filling the vacuum

With more people looking on their devices for content to keep them engaged or escape the emotional weight of self-isolation, social media has become a comfort. For certain groups, such as those over 50 where social media use is not as prominent, it’s a brand-new daily routine.

Global Web Index has found a huge increase in people checking social media across all age demographics:

  • 27% among Gen Z
  • 30% among Millennials
  • 29% among Gen X
  • 15% among Boomers

As communities and countries start to emerge out of lockdown, social media ‘education’ across new demographics may potentially be here to stay. This will create prospects for businesses to use digital marketing to connect with audiences they couldn’t previously reach.

People are buying even more ethically

A new survey by Econsultancy says that more than half of UK consumers have supported local businesses during lockdown. Most respondents said that post-lockdown they are more likely to buy brands with locally sourced products, as well as those that put the health and safety of their staff first. It appears that consumers have become more mindful about the ethics of each brand or business, as well as supporting their local communities.

Brand responsibility is also an opportunity

During this time, brands have had to become more conscious of the content they publish. Consumers often turn to their trusted brands for content that keeps them optimistic and excited. But never before have they monitored, followed and scrutinised brand marketing quite so assiduously. This means brands have had to consider carefully the context of campaigns during the pandemic and adjust their focus and tone of voice accordingly.

According to Econsultancy, one in five UK consumers has actively stopped purchasing a brand due to its response to the coronavirus outbreak, such as not providing a safe working environment for employees. This figure rises to 28% in shoppers aged 16-24, underlining the importance of brand purpose for younger consumers.

This new reality of close brand monitoring, however, has created fresh openings. Consumers notice content more than they did previously. And the brands that shine through with valuable, original content, empathetic messaging and creative campaigns will be remembered. Companies that have established a presence in people’s minds (and frequently hearts), have forged enduring consumer bonds.

Influencer marketing is rising

Increased use of social media and spend across platforms during the last few years has paved the way for a new phase in influencer and celebrity marketing.

During lockdown, as companies stopped all photo shoots and video production, a number of brands have turned to influencers to create visual content.

According to The Drum, social media spending is expected to increase by 22.2% following coronavirus as more brands harness the power of social media to engage their audience. This will be accompanied by a huge jump in influencer marketing engagement.

Yes, it’s a trend

Influencers are using their established platforms and personal brand to branch out to new territories. This allows industry brands to rely on them to create content and advertising. We’re now seeing something new: the personal, holistic influencer brand.

Why is this? Unlike corporate brands, influencers cultivate personal relationships with their consumers. When COVID-19 lockdown ends in some countries, it is more likely that brands associated with influencers will be remembered and continue to have a rapport with their followers. Every brand should therefore take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that influencer marketing can bring to its comms strategy.

Audiences learn, businesses earn

But what about brands that already encourage social interaction, such as in the music industry? They’re making the most of people’s increased interest in learning.

The Drum highlights Fender, maker of some of the most iconic guitars, as one brand driven to look at different ways to maintain momentum with its audience. Fender’s online guitar tuition scheme has seen record sign-ups from people seeking to acquire guitar skills.

Fender isn’t alone. Increasingly, brands have been tapping into digital revenue from coaching and teaching during lockdown. It’s something they would label ‘influencer territory’ and therefore normally not consider.

Bottom line: brands can benefit from people’s increased thirst for learning. Only time will tell, of course, if they stick with it.

Consumer behaviour: time to be strategic

We can no longer generalise about audiences’ buying trends.** **A strategic approach to behavioural patterns can play a major part in a brand’s future success.

Coronavirus has had some unexpected advantages. Brands have had to step back, really observe consumers and collect data. While social distancing, people create more data points than ever. Today, marketers can use advanced AI technology to predict patterns and shape new profiles.

Let’s stay creative

Brands have pushed their creativity and, despite limitations, have produced many campaigns. Though we’re teetering on the edge of recession, this is a good opportunity to see what’s performed well and what audiences have been drawn to.

As Econsultancy found, 82% of organisations found new ways of working that they could use post-outbreak while 49% achieved innovations in their marketing messaging and branding during the crisis.

This unique period has impacted everyone and everything, including brands, in different ways. But it has also provided scope for discovery. Brands have been pushed to operate in short-term mode, but what they have learned about consumer profiling, content and creativity will take their longer-term marketing strategy and innovation to the next level.

How to find out more

Download details of Hoxby’s skills in marketing and audience insight from our global and diverse community of 1000+ expert freelancers.

Hoxby can deliver high quality and fast turnaround projects, as and when you need them – whatever the sector, discipline or geography. Get in touch with us and find out more.

Aggie Anthimidou is a marketing and campaign strategist. She is part of the Hoxby community.

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