Organisations and academicians alike, attempt to ensure some semblance of streamlining of the marketplace; by categorising their consumers into cohorts, in order to service them better. Popularly, these divisions are based on gender and age. However, over the years, there has been a growing recognition of consumer cohorts based on commonality of memories e.g. the World Wars, Sub-Prime Crisis; 9/11 attack and, closer home, the Taj terror attack and Demonetization.
Individuals, who experience these events, demonstrate considerable similarity in their future perspectives and behaviour.
Aligned with this theory, is the devastation of the Covid pandemic that the world is grappling with; and which has created paradigm shifts; that may divide the consumer mindsets into the before-and-after Covid.
Some key post covid consumer trends, that are significant here, are:
LOC (Life Out of Control)
The born-to-be-free global citizens are, for almost half-a-year now, caged and “lock-downed”. This invisible adversary has changed the canvas of life, where the new normal is that there is, actually speaking, nothing normal! To mitigate the impact of this LOC, the consumers will seek control, by opting for a lot of D-I-Y(Do-It-Yourself) products. From the make-your-own-pizzas to the personal-fitness-regime and make-your-own herb garden; the consumers are now going to become prosumers (Kotler, 1986), where they will want to self-Control by self-Creation.
YWLO (You Will Live Only Once)
From a frenzied to a stationary routine has led to a reflective contemplation and realization that the mantra for life, instead of YOLO (You Only Live Once) is YWLO. This self-discovery is and will lead to individual pursuits, like resurfacing of habits such as reading, music, gardening, fitness on one hand; and connecting with significant others, across regions and countries, on the other.
Revelation that- “Kya Pata Kal Ho Na Ho”(who knows what happens tomorrow), will lead to new sentiments and pursuits. The hobbies and habits which were kept under folds, to be pursued one day, will come out of the closet and become part of the mainstream every day.
F-Factor (Fear, Faith and Freedom)
The ‘house-sheltered’ post covid consumer will now examine most offerings from the “F-lens”. Safety, hygiene, health and transparency of information will be quintessential for brands, as consumers make their choices. Lockdowns and restrictions have enhanced the value of freedom multi-fold. However, while in collectivistic Asian countries like India, containment and restrictions- e.g. masks-may be better adopted; clarion calls for freedom-to-be, may lead to chaotic and confused consumptions in individualistic nations like USA and Europe.
B-to-B (Back to Basics)
No stepping outside the “Lakshman-rekha” of the house- both for work & leisure-means that, there is a prudence and starkness to everyday life. This will lead to a peculiar paradox of frugality and spending. On Maslow’s hierarchy, the lower order needs of food and housing and basic apparel- comfortable casuals and tees-are what will see high spending, while luxury and premium will experience a slow-down.
It’s a wonderful V-World (Virtual)
Technology adoption and events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and hold-your-breath, even “Tehraveens/ Kriyas”(ceremonies) in a virtual space will be the new normal. This will impact event planning and participation. This may move in either direction – of closeness or seclusion. The virtual world will enable global participation, but lack of autotelic touch-feel in real time will create a “Social Distancing” (pun intended). This will impact the consumption of several products and services of the pre-Covid world, like apparels and accessories; grooming and hospitality etc.
The 5Cs of Post Covid Marketing
These trends are significant and need to be adequately addressed by marketers large. While there be specificity in terms of sectoral implications, the 5 Cs of the post Covid Marketing, that will be all encompassing are:
For a D-I-Y prone consumer, firms have a gamut of product opportunities; from the mundane-a multipurpose mop, bots and dishwashers – to the creative-Mandala art forms and Salsa dancing. Brand Communications that work ,will be ones that put the consumer in the driving seat and give ‘control’, offer solace and therefore convert into an urge to buy.
For the F-consumer(explained above), the vitality of back end processes that adhere to safety and best hygiene practices as they ensure ‘contactless delivery’, will need to be consumer shared for building assurance and ensuring conversions. This will require new quality norms for Hospitality, Travel and Tourism sectors.
The frugal and wary consumer will also narrow his/her choices and choose brands that are recognized and reputed, therefore reliable. A rationality to the purchase decision will thus necessitate that brands build confidence and trust, by following and declaring ethical values and practices as they salute the ‘Covid Heroes’ and empathize with the consumer with a ‘Suraksha Kawach’.
For the at-home, social-animal consumer, technology platforms that help Zoom, Webex and Meet will find permanence in the consumer’s life. Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant’s status, from casual acquaintances, change to BFF-Best Friends Forever-as they enable, converse and educate the wistful and stay-at-home consumer.
Several sectors, most prominent being education and ITES, will never be the same again; as one will see hybrid delivery models, which will require learning of new habits and garbs. The large floating and migrant population (House helps, drivers etc.) that was the invisible backbone of urban living, will suddenly find themselves isolated; and will need to adopt new skillsets to earn a living and survive in the urban locales.
To conclude, rejuvenation and reinvention are the ways this beautiful universe exists. So, while one constantly, over the centuries, witnesses emergence of new archetypes and conducts; strangely it is near impossible to fathom the paradox of the consumer’s mind and predict future actions; no matter whether you have a crystal ball or state-of-the-art data analytics.
Thus, as the subdued consumer learns and adopts new norms and habits; the eternal optimist in him waits for the vaccine of hope; and when everything will be ‘back to normal’.
But what will be that post Corona normal? We will have to wait for Kali & Kronos (Hindu Goddess and Greek God of time) to reveal and unfold………….
This article was first posted at the IMI Insights blog
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