A few months ago we wrote an article exploring the changing consumer behaviour in light of Covid 19, a new study from Brandwatch, has reinforced many of the issues we discussed, and demonstrated how we can all leverage survey technology to better understand changing market perceptions and plan for the future.
Brandwatch’s recent study demonstrated how surveying consumers across the world can help organisations gain a better idea about their future plans, spending habits and what they are doing differently, as a result of the pandemic. The results highlight how valuable survey data can be in giving businesses a heads-up indicator of current consumer perceptions.
Using surveys to better understand the changes going on in your own customer base
From how we work and travel, to how we shop, eat and spend our leisure time, the pandemic has affected and changed the behaviours of everyone across all walks of life. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether it’s B2B or B2C, the bottom line is to survive you need to adapt. Surveys offer a fast and cost-effective way of gathering feedback to inform your business decision making. Engage with your existing customer base or use a consumer panel to gather feedback from a target demographic. Whatever audience you choose to engage with the data gathered will enable you to get a clearer picture of how the pandemic has changed consumer perception in your niche. Armed with this information you can plan far more effectively to ensure your services and product offerings are in line with consumer expectations.
Online sales look set to only grow further
In our earlier ‘Using Surveys to Better Understand Consumer Behaviour and Trends’ article, we reported on how many of the big retailers were moving their operations online during the early stages of the pandemic. We also highlighted how brands such as Marks & Spencer, were already ahead of the game with an £88.9m investment in their digital operations by the end of September 2019 - suggesting they believed growth in online shopping would be permanent.
What’s interesting is that the figures from Brandwatch’s survey of nearly 7,000 people across Australia, France, Germany, Spain, UK, Singapore and the US back this up.
More than 20% of respondents said they had bought clothes, groceries, toiletries and beauty products online, which they wouldn’t have previously bought digitally. Over 50% of those new online consumers said they would continue to make purchases online moving forward, with the figure for online clothes shopping even higher at 73%.
The only downside uncovered with this increased adoption of digital shopping was that some consumers were experiencing delivery problems. Through their own research Brandwatch, found that the issue of people telling businesses they’d lost a customer because of delivery issues was up 51% during March and April compared to January and February.
Such survey data is extremely valuable for businesses, and demonstrates the great opportunities that can be gained through embracing e-commerce and digital first model, it also highlights the importance of ensuring all supporting operations including their deliveries are working effectively, if they are to succeed and not lose out to competitors.
Evaluating consumers overall propensity to spend
In the same Consumer Behaviour article, we touched on the issue of personal finances, stating that there appeared to be a general unwillingness to spend, despite easing of the lockdown restrictions.
Again, the findings of Brandwatch’s study back this up, with their research suggesting that more of us are trying to save, while any spending that we do make, is a lot more selective.
On the saving front, Brandwatch found more people are talking about and asking for advice about saving money online, while 68% of those who’ve tried to save more during the pandemic, say they will continue to do so once the outbreak is contained - suggesting a longer term nervousness among consumers. Covid has also had an impact on what we are spending on, with more purchases of essentials items and a decline in luxury goods.
While we all witnessed the panic buying of household items like toilet rolls and cleaning products during the early part of the pandemic, what’s interesting is that the trend towards increased buying of necessity goods like this looks set to continue, even though these products are now more widely available again. Of all those surveyed, 41% who bought more household goods than usual during the outbreak, plan to continue doing so, even once it’s been contained. Other essential items, although more expensive seem to be holding up reasonably well too, with 73% of people who had originally planned to buy new clothes and shoes during 2020, still planning to do so.
*Bar chart courtesy of brandwatch.com
In contrast spending on luxury or non-essential higher spend items has fallen. When surveyed in May 2020, as many as 44% of consumers thought they would be spending less on holiday gifts and celebrations during the coming year compared to 2019. The news is no less positive for higher spend items such as cars. While 13% of Brandwatch’s surveyed respondents had planned to buy a car in 2020, since the outbreak, just 58% of that figure still intend to make that purchase.
What about our priorities and values?
While we’ve discussed how a major life change such as a pandemic can have a significant impact on long-term behaviour and spending habits, could the same be said about our priorities and values?
Certainly, a sudden and chaotic shock can make many people think more deeply about their lives and their impact on and place in the wider world. While buying based on values can still be influenced by other factors such as the money consumers have available to spend, according to Brandwatch’s survey data, those that can still afford to be choosy about how they buy are doing so.
33% of respondents think it’s now more important to buy ‘locally sourced ‘compared to before the outbreak, which is also backed up by social media data. For example, the use of the hashtag #ShopLocal has jumped in recent months with more mentions of it in March and April 2020 than in the months leading up to Christmas 2019. Maybe less surprising given that we are in the midst of a health pandemic, is that 36% of consumers feel that it’s more important for a product to be healthy now compared to before the outbreak. It could be argued from this data, that the pandemic has made us more environmentally and health consciously aware.
*Bar chart courtesy of brandwatch.com
However, irrespective of how much we now have available to spend, it also seems that the vast majority of us want greater value for money, with the durability and quality of a product now key considerations before we part with our money. Of all those consumers surveyed, 30% said that these factors were more important to them than now compared to before the outbreak – around three times more than those who thought they were less important.
What lessons can be learnt from all of this?
The key takeaway is organisations need to be able to take the pulse of their customers and how those changing perceptions will influence behaviour and shape the future market. While bigger shifts such as more people buying online are easier to spot, others such as the types of goods people are buying and how they are prioritising them based on their values are more subtle and complex. The only way you will know this is by asking them and understanding the what and why that influenced their buying behaviour.
Lockdowns have eased in many parts of the world as cases have fallen, however the virus continues to rage and re-emerge in others. Yet, despite this ongoing uncertainty and with no real prospect that the virus is going to disappear anytime soon, organisations cannot afford to wait any longer and must now seize on the insight that consumers are willing to give them as they work to rebuild and create fresh strategies to meet the new normal .
We are all sailing in uncharted waters, but using surveys can help to plot the best course as we navigate the new normal that we find ourselves in. Connect with your customers, learn from them, seek to understand their changing behaviours, spending habits and personal preferences and you’ll be much placed to adapt to their needs.
For full details of Brandwatch’s ‘Will Covid-19 Change Consumer Behaviour in the Long Terms? report - please visit: https://www.brandwatch.com/reports/covid-19-changed-consumer-behavior-longterm/view/