Keeping in touch with customers is more important and more challenging than ever as physical distancing shrinks our individual worlds.
Last Friday, The Customer Closeness Co. hosted a live Consumer Pulse session in which a cross-section of consumers discussed their priorities, hopes and fears about life as we start to emerge from lockdown. The moderated discussion took place in front of a live Zoom audience of over 40 curious clients, providing everyone an opportunity to hone their consumer instinct.
Here are our 5 key takeouts.
Our cross-section of consumers brought to life the reality - we’ve all felt lockdown in different ways:
some are better off; some stretched; some struggling. Some of us are manically busy; others seeking structure. Some feel alone; some trapped with others, others enjoying better family time. However in between the differences, when we discussed the future some common views emerged; most reflected a retreat to the core of Maslow’s hierarchy: Safety, Love and Belonging. This gives us something as businesses, we can work with….
1. Many people are focused on making their finances more resilient, so they feel greater control
We’ll see this via increased saving and more discerning spending decisions. Discounts are unlikely to be as effective as under austerity; Covid has made us realise we don’t really need ‘more stuff’. Being crystal clear about how your product or service adds value is more likely to win share – it may even command a premium
For young adults and entrepreneurial types, control will come from progress: getting on the housing ladder; adding more income streams; launching that business idea. They could be the worst hit financially, so how do brands help them accelerate through and beyond the Covid aftermath?
2. Want consumers back through the door? They’re ready – if you show them Visible Safety
There is no one consumer risk profile: Views range from ‘I just want to get out there’ to ‘nobody leaves the house till vaccine’. However, we heard clearly that the majority in the middle see it as the Government and business’ responsibility to make it safe for them to re-engage. If visibly safe, they’re willing to go to the doctors and the dentists, have a boiler engineer come into their house and even sit in a pub. For clarity, the focus is less on safe; it’s about safe: PPE; masks; screens. Brewdog was nominated as a standout brand by three of the consumers during the crisis. It’s been quick off the mark to talk about ten signs of safety in its bars too: https://blog.brewdog.com/blog/looking-ahead-for-brewdog-bars
3. The online shopping experience is missing opportunities to transform behaviours
Online retail has been the beneficiary of bricks and mortar closure but hasn’t done enough to force reappraisal. Previous barriers to online – lack of inspiration; reassurance on fit and colour – all still exist. We’re still in lockdown; there’s still time, but the clock is ticking for online to introduce its captive audience to innovations that add value and change behaviour for the long haul. Once Government and brands reassure people it’s safe to step onto the physical shopfloor, the moment will have passed.
4. Risk-removing insurances and guarantees could return consumer demand
When it comes to leisure, behavioural economics comes into play - offering deals is unlikely to drive demand, consumers fear losing money more than gaining a cheap holiday. Those offering entertainments, experiences, travel or leisure will need to focus more on promising that their money will be returned if individual health or rules change. Previously accepted drivers of NPS may be superseded in the short term by the need for trust. Martin Lewis is already identifying those travel companies who seem reluctant to protect their customers.
5. Technology has been great, but life feels distinctly colder
Tech is doing a great job of keeping us entertained, in touch and supplied. However, life is not the same – it feels distinctly colder. The things that make us feel warm, excited and put fire in our belly are missing:
The pleasure and warmth that comes from a hug
The buzz of being together around a table or in a group exercise class
A sense of purpose for those unable to work
We heard about the rise in spontaneous gifting which feels like a response to this need for warmth. How else can brands help to fill the warmth gap?