There’s a new challenge, Coronavirus, that brings the height of emotion into the consumer lens and will cause companies to reexamine strategies and tactics.  While we all may not agree with the reaction, the numbers tell us that consumers are concerned.

Consumer Data

  • A March 2020 First Insights survey found that 66% worry about the spread of the disease; 44% stated those fears had impacted their shopping.
  • A February 2020 Coresight Research survey revealed that shopping centers and malls are the first place consumers will avoid, followed by public transportation and postponing international travel. And with the largest shopping center in the U.S., the Mall of America, closing on March 17, retailers are sure to feel the impact.

How Long Will the Coronavirus Effects Last?

Whether it’s from fear, anxiety, or other reasons, we can see that consumers are changing their habits. The question is, will the Coronavirus cause a temporary habit change, or will it be a disruptor?  Nobody knows the answer yet, but typically, something with this much emotion behind it becomes a disruptor—accelerating trends and creating lasting habits. Think back to the 2008 recession:

  • Luxury brands struggled, and consumers turned discounts and deals into today’s everyday shopping experience.
  • Millennials fought to get jobs that covered their school loans, some had to move home with their parents, and many postponed “adulting,” including marriage, having kids, and buying a home.

Thus, in an environment fueled with emotion, what can we “predict” about the consumer’s reaction to the Coronavirus, and how can you navigate your way through the minefield? I’ve outlined five key accelerating trends your company should examine.

Five Tips For Your Business to Navigate the Effects of Coronavirus

  1. Invest in Online Content:

    Time spent online and watching TV has increased in China as consumers fight boredom. This has resulted in creative live streams featuring cooking tutorials, workout classes, farmers streaming produce to sell to buyers, and home improvement/DIY content. The possibilities are endless, and interesting content is key! This is where you think about your target market and can really have fun brainstorming the possibilities.

  2. Showcase Health and Sustainability: 

    The trend toward healthy, environmentally conscious choices will accelerate (as the media tells us healthy individuals are less vulnerable to the virus). How can businesses incorporate this messaging? By eliminating the use of plastic bags, working on a sustainability plan and publishing them, etc.

  3. Offer Comforting Messages, Products, and Experiences:

    Surprise, consumers aren’t always rational! During this uncertain time, they will seek out comforting experiences and messages that make them feel good and in control. For example, the consumer that purchases six bottles of hand sanitizer likely knows that they won’t use it all, but at least they are doing something! In the same sense, a “treat yourself” message will resonate with consumers, as they feel they deserve a break from the worry.

  4. Deliver, Deliver, Deliver: 

    Online grocery and food delivery services increased by 600% YOY in China. Also, companies are working to limit human contact to eliminate concerns about contamination. How can your company make life easier for your customers?  What and how can you/do you deliver?

  5. Keep Your Digital Presence Going and Your Strategies in Flux: 

    Consumers are going to be online at home looking for things to do, things to buy, and making future vacation plans because more than 65% of people canceled their spring trips this year. If you are worried about your Google advertising spend, bear in mind that there is a “self-correct” tied to paid searches. If people aren’t searching for wedding venues, you are not likely paying for ads in this category, and if you are, they are going to solid prospects. Build out your marketing “bench,” so you are ready to launch when this pandemic is under control.

Applying the Trends To Your Business

Every business can assess their strengths as it pertains to these five key trends. We can’t control the Coronavirus, but we can try and find a silver lining in the potential increase of online “free time” consumers will have if they find themselves suddenly stuck at home, bored, and at the same time, worried and stressed. It’s an odd combination, but it’s what we are faced with.  Now, let’s see what we can do with it!

Sources cited for this article include eMarketer, First Insights, Forbes, Coresight Research, and Pew Research.

About the Author:

Noel Roos is a Diedrich RPM fan and contributor.  She has spent her professional life working to understand consumer behavior and rolling that knowledge into strategies that lead to success for companies. Noel enjoys surrounding herself in nature and can be found hiking near her home on Lake Superior.

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