How Covid-19 will change playbook for brands with shift in consumer habits

Businesses have the opportunity to target 'specific micro-markets' as the recovery to the normal takes its own time
Consumer behaviour has undergone a complete overhaul as a result of Covid-19 and the associated lockdown and that calls for brands create a new set of rules with which they will target, woo and finally win over customers. A joint report by Facebook India and the Boston Consulting Group, titled ‘Turn the Tide,’ focuses on the changes in consumer behaviour and the altered the path-to-purchase to set down a rough guide for the new world. 

The report has identified 11 trends of consumer behaviour that have emerged in this period and the impact that these are likely to have on brands and marketers. These changes are a fallout of the pandemic and the way governments have responded to the crisis. 

For one, the social distancing norms prescribed under the lockdown have meant that retail and recreation related visits fell as much as 85 per cent, while workplace visits also fell to 65 per cent. As a result, companies “should strategically prioritize re-opening and scaling up business as lockdown starts easing across regions,” the report said. In addition, businesses have the opportunity to target “specific micro-markets” as the recovery to the normal takes its own time. 

“With consumers embracing the digital medium, brands need to focus on solutions such as hyper-localisation, create virtual experiences, re-look at the media-mix for efficiency, or build messaging around new habits such as DIY (do-it-yourself) and the increased focus on health and hygiene,” said Sandeep Bhushan, director and head, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India.


Another thing to keep in mind is spending capacity. The report found that 54 per cent consumers expect overall household income to reduce in the next six months. As a result, 43 per cent consumers expect a decrease in their overall spend and their purchases are likely to be triggered by more functional reasons.

Pre-Covid, consumers were more inclined towards experiences, with travel, entertainment, indulgence, adventure and personal development taking up bulk of their spending. With social distancing kicking in, consumers are now open to trying alternatives. 
Brands have been trying to adapt to the new customer by filtering their value propositions through a new lens. For instance, Airtel Xstream fiber highlighted how consumers can enjoy office-like internet at home in their product messaging, Spotify centered its communication on Instagram around ‘WFH’ and beer brand Budweiser organized a three-day virtual party to engage with consumers. 

“We are experiencing unprecedented shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours—80 per cent plus consumers will continue to practice social distancing and are bringing the outside inside, over 40 per cent of consumers are dialling up on health and wellness spends, e-commerce adoption has already advanced by 2-3 years—to name a few. These aren’t just temporary surges, and many will last longer and become more defining traits,” said Nimisha Jain, managing director and partner, Boston Consulting Group. 

The analysis showed that only one in six companies emerged stronger in past crises and these were those who reinvented their value propositions, go-to-market plans and business models.

One way to do that is to step into areas where consumer behaviour is likely to change for the long term. For instance, hygiene and health are expected to be concerns that last well beyond the pandemic and brands have responded by extending their product lines into related categories. For example, Marico entered the hand sanitizer catrgoty, ITC launched ‘Savlon Surface Disinfectant Spray’ and a new hand sanitizer ‘Savlon Hexa,’ Swiggy introduced ‘safety badges’ for restaurants and so on. Also with the consumer becoming more value-conscious, it becomes important for brands to segment in order to optimise and offer what is relevant for the segment. 

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