When policymakers steadily lift the pandemic-induced limitations and industries continue to reopen, there is a feeling that we may be on the brink of returning to “normal,” which is impossible. In the months of lockdown and self-isolation, we were literally writing a new future.
This has significant consequences for advertisers who are seeking to establish long-term partnerships with consumers. Granular monitoring of data and patterns in customer behavior has always been important for planning. Given the unparalleled magnitude of the pandemic and the drastic changes it is making, we agree that using imagination will be almost as important. Marketers will continue to think hard—and differently—about what the next typical customer will think, feel, say, and do.
We have seen six potentially major shifts in consumer behaviors. Some of them are major accelerations of current trends, some of which are just evolving now. What follows are recommendations as to how advertisers can continue to react to them. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and we do not assert any assurance as to the length of these improvements. Yet we agree that their consequences for advertisers merit close analysis and thoughtful intervention.
Getting to the big digital migration to extend digital boundaries
Consumers were just eight weeks away from the introduction of digital for five years. Large cohorts have been trying online for the first time. In Latin America, 13 million customers have made their first-ever e-commerce transaction.1 Across all the countries assessed by our global customer sentiment surveys, customers are moving to digital and reduced-contact access to goods and services. When we look more granularly in the US, this digital trend has been magnified for Gen Z, millennials, and higher-income customers in general. Social trading is also on the rise: 34 percent of people say they have bought Instagram on the advice of the influencer.
This change is expected to continue, to a large degree simply because e-commerce is much more effective, cheaper, and cooler for shoppers than shopping in traditional stores. Moreover, when social distances and security precautions remain the rule, shopping from our couches would seem much more comfortable by contrast. Our ongoing market sentiment surveys confirm that consumers across the world expect to grow their share of online shopping in most categories. Net intention to shop in physical shops until the COVID-19 crisis has broken down by seven percent in Italy and the United Kingdom and 8 percent in Spain. Amazon announced a 26 percent revenue boom in the first quarter of 2020 relative to the same time of 2019.
In the case of advertisers, this means rethinking how to communicate with customers. A greater focus on e-commerce and digital channels is obviously important, especially recognition of the position of direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce channels. In 13 weeks, a European retailer has established a working e-commerce website. This pace on the market is one reason why new technology has been such a key component of the accelerated return of sales for brands that are navigating the economic downturn.
Yet advertisers will continue to think about how to handle today’s latest data surge and how to leverage it to help tailor deals and communications to ever-closer consumer segments. Analytics would continue to play a key role not only in monitoring customer desires and habits at increasingly granular levels but also in facilitating quick response to opportunities or risks. Established predictive models will not be as reliable when forecasting actions in the next standard, and they may need to be quickly “trained” to make the best use of new behavioral data. This index will help marketers extend digital boundaries to the real world to provide more efficient and useful retail experiences wherever the customer may be.
Another, potentially greater, the effect on advertisers would be the need to reinvent shopping trips for customers that might be in a particular frame of mind. At home, customers are comfortable—they want to see loungewear choices in their recommended brands, and they want to waste time scrolling through add-ons. They’re not in a hurry—they should “add to the cart” and then go back for more. They could be shopping at various times during breaks from their remote work schedule. They may be shopping for their whole families through a variety of food categories