From solid to fluid: adapting to changing consumer behaviours

From solid to fluid: adapting to changing consumer behaviours

25th March, 2020 by Sally Haywood

We’ve already seen a large shift in typical consumer behaviour as a result of the global pandemic COVID-19. Consumers are bulk-buying food and toilet roll, there’s been an increase in low contact commerce with several takeaway chains offering a ‘contactless delivery’ as the standard and we’re being urged to practice social distancing. This new wave of consumer behaviour places brands firmly in unchartered territory as to how they should respond to the current world crisis.

In light of the challenging times the world is currently experiencing, a report by Ipsos discusses the impact of Coronavirus and consumer behaviour change, and what this means for brands as a result.

This drastic change into the unknown means that brands have lost their autonomy. We’re so familiar with ‘business as usual’ that our entrenched behaviours become more automatic, which allows for a more simplified decision-making process. In times of extreme uncertainty and instability, ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option and brands can’t adhere to their familiar patterns and behaviours. This shifts us from a “solid” decision-making process, to a “fluid” one.

According to Ipsos, how we navigate in a fluid time can no longer depend on automatic behaviours, as they may reflect a mastery of a past that no longer exists.

The report explains that within these unstable environments, there is a role for brands to play, however, this must be carefully considered. So far, we have seen brands show comradery during this time of uncertainty and panic to make it clear they are there to help add value to consumers’ lives and adapt to the new social norms and behaviours.

Before more recent announcements that cafes, bars and restaurants must close, Pret was offering free hot drinks to all NHS staff and 50% off food. Healthy fast-food brand Leon was offering NHS workers 50% off and free food deliveries to hospitals.

Self-made brand ‘The Body Coach’ created by Joe Wicks used his popularity on social media to encourage the nation’s children to take part in PE lessons every weekday morning in light of school closures. With the first session gaining a massive 806,000 households tuning in, it’s clear to see the increased need and desire for brands to add value to consumers’ lives.

The Ipsos report provides some key take-outs for brands looking to adapt to the shifting content and support consumer behavioural change:

  • Build long-lasting, trusting relationships by investing in consumers
  • Be a source of truth and positive impact
  • Show empathy / give comfort  
  • Help people constructively use time and build new routines at home
  • Go virtual
  • Recognise and affirm new social norms
  • Learn from the last ‘new normal’