The impact of COVID-19: Understanding new consumer behaviour and what it means to brands

We recently joined an incredibly insightful Kantar webinar on the impact that COVID-19 is having on consumer behaviour and the implications for brands.

So, what did we learn and how could it help shape your comms…?

Lessons from China

Firstly, it’s useful to take a look at China which is in a different phase of the pandemic than we are and learn from their experiences over the last few weeks and the impact on specific sectors during the pandemic.

The tourism, catering and entertainment industries in China saw a huge decrease in spending, with 75% of consumers halting their spend in these categories completely. On the flip side, the online entertainment and food & beverage industries saw a massive spending increase.

When Chinese consumers were asked what they will spend their money on when the pandemic is over, travel and out-of-home dining came out on top. And, whilst many consumers enjoyed trying new things while in isolation (26% paid for online entertainment and 21% watched live broadcasts through their mobile phone), the general consensus was that everyone is very much looking forward to returning to the ‘new normal’.

So, what has China taught us? Brands need to accelerate their digital transformation, strengthen their digital platforms and show flexibility to adapt consumers’ changing mindsets… Welcome to the ‘new normal’.

How are people acting online?

Unsurprisingly, here in the UK the pandemic has had an impact on what people are sharing on social media with 6 core themes emerging representing new needs & approaches:

Memes & selfies

  • People are continuing to share memes but are balancing humour with messages of solidarity and encouraging people to stay at home

Longing for nature 

  • People are sharing images of flowers / nature / travel throwbacks
  • Shows a longing to be outside and a reminder that staying inside is only temporary

People are resourceful

  • Switching their social and work lives to a digital format

Sofa & snuggles 

  • People are focusing on their mental wellbeing

Creativity & craft 

  • People are using this time to learn new skills such as painting and baking

New essentials 

  • People are sharing images of things that are helping them through this period such as books and yoga mats

What does this mean for brands?

Well, let consumers be your guide. Listen to them and take their cue for what the brand tone of voice should be. Identify essentials that matter to consumers and be seen as an enabler of resourcefulness and future planning. Help create moments of calm and joy and facilitate their journey to learning new skills and being creative.

Consumers are also consuming more media than ever so brand communication really needs to ‘cut through the clutter’. Whilst not being exploitative, it should:

  • Be practical and realistic
  • Explain and inform
  • Reduce anxiety and understand concerns
  • Have a reassuring tone
  • Use humor
  • Be relevant

The main takeaway…

In a nutshell don’t lose sight of the long term. Deliver communications content with salient messaging to create a meaningful difference and make an impression on consumers that will last way beyond the pandemic.

Brands should not be shying away from communicating on owned social channels – just amending tonally – as this keeps consumers reassured that things are okay and they don’t need to panic.