Consumers are increasingly shunning non-essential purchases to spend their income on food and safety products, with Covid-19 ripping a giant hole in their finances and three in four consumers reporting less work, leading to reduced hours, reduced pay and lay-offs.
That is according to the third annual Selligent Global Connected Consumer Index, a global study of 5,000 consumers focused on brand interactions and expectations, which this year reveals “seismic” shifts in consumer behaviour and changing expectations from brands amid the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
As a result, a majority (60%) have modified purchases to focus on essential items and three-quarters (76%) appreciate swifter interactions with brands, through realtime email or mobile updates, while four-fifths (81%) value flexibility in returns or cancellations.
But the study also shows opportunities for brands to cater to the “new normal” of consumerism. Staying at home is a long-term expectation for most, with nearly three-fifths (58%) of people prepared for a future of remote work, and 56% expecting to make new purchases to reflect the shift. They are buying more frequently as well, with over a third (36%) shopping online weekly, up from 28% before Covid-19.
However, consumers have also recognised the pressures that businesses are facing; nearly two-fifths (38%) of those surveyed agree brands have made a considerable effort to improve their overall customer experiences in the last year.
And they are more understanding of the pandemic’s impact on customer service response times: 93% expect a response from a brand within 24 hours – down 3% from 2019.
Privacy demands are also falling, while the majority (64%) still agree that privacy is more important than online experience, that figure dropped ten percentage points compared to the 2019 study.
Brands do have the opportunity to engage with customers in new ways to instill continued confidence through relevant offerings and ensuring flexibility to cater for the current situation.
So things have not changed, however, with relevant, omnichannel communications remaining a critical component of marketing; some 75% of consumers report they prefer to receive messages via email (59%) or mobile (33%).
Even so, 40% of respondents reported that they had unsubscribed from at least three email lists during the past six months, with 55% citing “too many emails” as the reason.
Tangible benefits and perks have become a must-have for brand interactions, with 54% of those surveyed reporting that sales and deals are the most valuable communications to receive – linked to consumers being more cost-conscious and value-focused.
Reliance on phone customer support as a first point of contact has also dropped ten points to 33% this year, underscoring the importance of customer service availability across channels, including email, website chat, social, and SMS/text.
The report also shows the value of real-time, customer-first service for marketers, as consumers clearly state what factors urge them to buy. Some 71% want the ability to know product availability before purchasing online or in store, 76% desire clearly communicated safety protocols, and 64% want mobile and contactless pick-up or check-in options.
Meanwhile, there has also been a shift in loyalty and advocacy, with a growing preference for free products and buyer perks over specific brands. Fewer than one in ten (8%) note that “brand name” matters when it comes to their buying loyalty, while over half (51%) believe that free products and buyer perks (secret sales, free shipping, promotional codes) are the best ways for brands to show they care.
Selligent chief executive Karthik Kripapuri said: “Understanding how drastically consumers have changed since the start of the pandemic will position marketers to better anticipate and serve the individual needs of their customers moving forward.
“It’s clear that listening to customers more closely, frequently looking for opportunities to deliver customer-first experiences, and developing programmes that reward buyers for their loyalty and advocacy will support an organisation’s ability to, not only survive today’s challenging environment, but thrive in it.”
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