In a year characterised by uncertainty, it’s no wonder that marketers have found themselves second-guessing even the most carefully laid plans. But with the hope of vaccines now becoming a reality and the boost of a good month’s online trading in November, retailers can look to 2021 and expect a slow recovery as customers gradually make their way back to the high street.
But while marketers have struggled with uncertainty and doubt, so too have their customers. Although more than 45% of customer report that they are going to purchase during the January sales and more than 15% intend to spend more this year than last year, the consumer mindset has changed for good.
While the vaccine roll-out will reassure many and offers the prospect of a somewhat normal summer (we hope), consumers remain cautious and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Brands will have to adapt their messaging, their mission, and their service to attract and retain these customers.
The 2021 shopper has different priorities and expectations when it comes to their shopping experience and brands will need to move quickly to meet their new needs.
Rising unemployment and increasing economic uncertainty are the natural bedfellows of the cautious consumer. Lockdown spenders largely fall into two camps: those who become overly fond of the ‘add to cart’ button and those who go to ground and buy only the absolute necessities (loungewear, food & drink and the occasional loaf tin for their banana bread). In short, many consumers have adopted new buying patterns and are less likely to buy on impulse. 31% of consumers polled by Hargreaves Lansdown say that they will do less impulse buying after the pandemic, meaning that purchases will be more considered and less frequent.
Although customers recruited during lockdown tend to be sticker than those recruited at other times, many customers are becoming more conscious of the brand purpose behind their favourite products.
One of the most positive effects of the pandemic has been the strengthening of the relationships between brands and consumers as brands try to mitigate the loss of wholesale. Brands have become more adept at engaging directly with their customers, creating a human connection through clever use of social media and taking the opportunity to surprise and delight whenever possible. Never underestimate the power of a small thank you gift or note from the founder!
Sustainable and carbon-neutral brands in particular have seen a welcome bounce in popularity as they tend to be digital-savvy and have benefitted from the migration to online channels.
In the world of Covid-19, shopping is less of a leisure activity and more of a mission, a trend which is unlikely to change over the coming months. When customers do venture in-store, they prefer zero contact but still appreciate a friendly face and as normal an experience as possible.
There is opportunity here on many levels. Introduce e-receipts and explain the benefits to your customer: as well as keeping them safe by avoiding contact, e-receipts will make it easier for them to return items and can help them with size recommendations and advice. Before 2020, many brands felt that asking for an email address at the till was off-putting for customers but the consumers themselves have proven to be adaptable and eager to embrace digital services. Offer a direct service benefit and make data capture one of the top KPIs for your store staff – you’ll have tenfold the number of marketable customers before long.
The benefits for the brand are many. Use emails collected instore to link your online and offline sales and target your digital campaigns accordingly. Emailable customers are worth 50% more than non-emailable customers because you can build a direct relationship with them and help them understand what your brand purpose is all about.
Make sure your store-dominant customers are receiving the right messages online – local store updates, messages from store staff and new discounts will all land online with those customers.
Customers are comfortable with shopping online. Older customer demographics have embraced online services and are becoming used to discovering new brands and products online – they may need a little more reassurance (chat boxes and phone numbers to customer care lines are essential) but the shift to digital is here to stay.
The challenge for brands is to adapt with their customers and to think digital-first, even where they have stores. Purchasing must be frictionless across online and offline channels and brands should seriously consider reviewing their online payment methods – Visa sales dropped 17% on Black Friday this year while the use of ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes increased 300%.
The 2020 shopper has undergone a huge transformation and the 2021 shopper is the result. More considerate, less impulsive and more discerning, customers have higher expectations of brands than they once did but they also have a greater emotional connection to those favourite brands. Engaging with customers on a personal level will be key in 2021, as will understanding what each cohort needs from your brand. Some customers will need more reassurance that supply chains will remain unimpeded while others want transparency around eco credentials.
Listen to your customers and make sure you can communicate with them on the right channels about the issues that matter most to them. If you are sensitive to their needs and ready to go that little bit further to delight them, your customers will stay loyal and become true brand ambassadors. Remember, every delighted customer will bring you another for free.
It’s been a strange year in the world of retail (and the world in general) but if you get the basics right and keep the customer at the centre of everything you do, you’ll be set for whatever 2021 has in store.
Need help or want to learn how you can apply this to your brand? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’re here to help!