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How COVID-19 Has Changed Consumer Expectations And What This Means For Your Business

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted everyday life at an unprecedented scale, at least for most Australians. While there’s broad agreement that lockdowns have been vital for slowing the progress of coronavirus, the impact of these disruptions on the economy and individual businesses remains to be seen.

What is clear is that brands that adapt to the situation and respond to their customer’s changing needs have a better chance of succeeding than those that pretend it’s business as usual. Responding to these changing demands and expectations isn’t only important for weathering the current crisis, but also for the uncertain road ahead.

Google’s new report Navigating your retail business through COVID-19, published in May 2020, identified some of the key changes in consumer behaviour that APAC businesses across the industries should be aware of. Following are some of the key findings of the report and how brands can use these insights to make sure your customers stay informed, engaged and satisfied.

All brands and businesses have had to adapt to the pandemic.

Update your business information

Unless it is business as usual, you need to keep your customers updated on how the current situation is impacting on your services. This means updating your website as well as your business profiles on other platforms your customers check, such as social media and Google My Business.

You don’t have to modify your website’s evergreen content, but a prominent link to a COVID-19 post will tell visitors what they need to know about changes to your service schedule or inventory and the precautions you’re taking to keep your staff and customers safe.

Google searches for “home delivery” increased by 100% and “curbside pickup” by 70% in the last week of March, while 59% of people searched for businesses open near them. Make sure you inform your customers about your opening status and the contactless delivery options you offer during the pandemic.

Going forward, 51% and 42% of consumers say free delivery and a free returns policy will be more important than before. Many people used online and delivery services for the first time during the pandemic and demand for these conveniences is here to stay.

Update your website and social listings to provide customers with important information.

Adjust your marketing strategy

COVID-19 has required brands to rethink their marketing campaigns. While this has been disruptive to campaigns already in progress, there are also opportunities to reach a larger and more engaged audience using the right messaging on the right platforms.

With more than 20% of consumers making purchases from a brand they don’t normally buy, according to Google, many companies have made effective use of marketing during the pandemic. Any promotions should also focus on value – with one third of consumers say they’re waiting for products to go on sale and 80% delaying expensive purchases, due to financial uncertainty.

Since your audience is spending most of their time at home, marketers need to focus on the most relevant channels. According to Google, web browsing has increased by 70%, TV viewing by 63% and social media use by 61% above normal levels. Research by The Drum forecasts e-Commerce advertising to grow by 17.7% and social media spend by 22.2% as a result of the crisis.

Keeping on top of coronavirus updates and trending search terms will keep your marketing relevant and avoid it being out of touch and unhelpful. It’s also important that your marketing messaging is appropriate and sensitive to your audience’s feelings during this difficult time, so it can be worth checking over older content for flippant use of terms such as ‘viral’ that now have different connotations.

Focus on providing value and explore the most relevant channels.

Prioritise customer support and let their needs guide your response

In desperate times, brands that show compassion and pay attention to their customers’ needs will stand out above the rest. We saw this happen with the rise of online retailers in China during the 2003 SARS outbreak and it’s happening right now with brands that are offering discounts, helpful advice and donations to worthy causes – such as Qantas giving all their frequent flyers an extra 12 months free.

While these altruistic acts all help a brand’s image, 80% of global consumers say they approve. More than 1 in 3 say they’ve started using a brand because of its innovative or compassionate response to the pandemic, while 2 in 3 consumers say these actions will inform what brands they buy from in the future. Being flexible with cancellations, refunds, and customer service can go a long way toward building customer trust.

As the situation evolves, continue to reassess the context and tone of your marketing messages. Consider a creative review of your ads and landing pages to gauge whether the language and imagery are still appropriate. Consider the words and language you use and how they make your audience feel, especially those with double meanings like “gatherings,” “protection,” “prevention,” and “virus.” For those who are running international campaigns, understand what local terms are being used to reference COVID-19 and refrain from using those. 

In these difficult times, Australian businesses in all industries need to adapt to the changing rules day by day. If you could use some help updating your marketing for COVID-19 and beyond, contact our marketing experts for a free strategy session and proposal.

Our clients benefited from instant communications that provided reassurance to their consumers.
Get in touch with us if you need assistance.