3 Ways Customer Behavior Has Shifted, and How Brands Can Shift With Them
Six months is a long time in marketing. In fact, in the world of experience delivery, it feels like a lifetime ago. From COVID-19 to the election, protests to unemployment, the world has been bouncing from one crisis to the next, seemingly without end.
As a marketer, it's impossible to control these external influences and elements. However, it is possible to make lemonade from lemons by analyzing how these challenges are affecting consumer behavior and then adjusting brand marketing strategies to capitalize on those behavioral changes.
However, before I continue, I need to set the record straight. Adjusting a brand strategy shouldn't be about taking advantage of global chaos and trying to profit from it. Rather, it's about seeing how people have changed in relation to our new pandemic-affected reality and delivering experiences in order to help consumers cope, create and be catered to in an easier and more engaged manner. It’s about learning from change, adapting and growing.
So, what are the lessons we've learned since the U.S. shutdown began?
Everything is Digital
Today’s consumer is spending a lot of time in front of their monitor. For a brand to engage with a customer, it will need to break through Zoom fatigue and go beyond just thinking about whether people are buying stuff from its company. Marketers need to consider ways to engage consumers and augment their experience with the brand.
Let’s take sports events as an example. With live attendance impossible at present, sports teams are trying to deliver experiences that continue to delight or entertain. Some have attempted experimenting with cardboard cutouts or digital displays of audience members to fill stands. However, I don’t think this is the right direction. Instead of taking digital ways to mimic what happens in physical channels, brands need to figure out ways in which digital can augment — and not replace — that experience. Perhaps there's a mashup of what happens in sports pools and connecting that more closely with the real-life games.
Peloton is a good example of how this is done correctly. By taking the gym experience and augmenting it with live and on-demand cycling sessions, callouts when individuals reach goals or unlock achievements, and encouraging chats on Facebook and other social channels, Peloton isn't trying to replace a gym. Instead, it's trying to improve upon it and deliver an experience that's obtainable despite COVID-related limitations. Peloton has reimagined the workout experience using technology to react to the new digital-first world.
Temporal vs. Timeless
According to The New York Times, Clorox and Lysol disinfectant wipes are now some of the most sought-after items by American consumers. But is this demand a permanent or temporary shift in consumer purchasing behavior? And how should Clorox react to this mass consumer demand?
In my opinion, change is constant and ever more volatile in these chaotic times. What's timeless is the ability to get insights in real time on customer behavior to determine whether shifts are temporary or permanent; and this is only possible because the cloud has connected everything. For brands such as Clorox to understand whether to increase production of products, where to deliver those products to, and if they should continue heightened production over the short or long term, they need access to comprehensive, real-time insights that help them adjust and decide.
Data delivered by the cloud is what enables marketers to separate temporary from permanent behavioral change and adjust accordingly.
Convenience is Key
When brands think about how they will deliver experiences, they need to focus on what's most convenient for the consumer. Personally, I thought usage of my iPhone would drop after I began working from home. Yet, I continue to use my iPhone at high levels because it’s convenient. My phone has apps for controlling the lights in our home and other time-saving tools that benefit me. It draws me in to spend more time engaging with it and, because of this, I want more conveniences on this device.
Omnichannel doesn't go away just because everybody's stuck at home. Demand for engaging experiences are actually surfacing on more screens and devices in the home as people still want to be entertained, engage, and do all the things that they need to do in their activity-adjusted day.
The writer CS Lewis once said, "there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” It’s time for brands to embrace this mentality, leave the customer behavior of six months ago behind, and move towards the far better things we can hope and strive for in the future.
Loni Stark is vice president of strategy and product at Adobe.