The Times They Are A-Changin’: 2020 and Its Forever Impact on Consumer Behavior

Eva Maria Schmidt
September 23, 2020

It’s been a uniquely challenging year globally, with economic and behavioral shifts triggered by a multitude of environmental changes. Most notably, the coronavirus pandemic impacted the way brands do business like never before: leaning on digital channels to meet, engage, and nurture relationships with consumers and audiences.

According to our just-published third-annual global consumer study, consumers have changed significantly as well, with 60% adjusting their priorities based on changes to their employment and a heightened focus on safety, to focus spending on essential items and services for health and personal protection. That said, a majority also balanced their “essentials” spending with booze and digital entertainment purchases to fight stay-at-home boredom.

The survey data is clear that while consumers are shifting their spending priorities, they are also very keen on buying from brands that offer the level of safety, flexibility, and up-to-date information needed to make their experiences ultra-smooth.

For example, 76% expect real-time email or mobile updates, while 81% value flexibility in returns or cancellations. Employment status has changed drastically – 75% of global consumers reported less work (reduced hours, reduced pay, laid off, etc.). The decline in income has signaled the need to buy priority items like food and safety products.

That said, people remain optimistic for the future — 82% of respondents believe they will be employed again within the next 6-12 months – with 56% of people predicting they will make new purchases to reflect their ‘more-at-home’ lifestyle change; especially true given the remote work reality that 58% of people expect for themselves.

Consumers need brands that can not only sympathize with their changing situations, but ones that provide immediate offers that help, such as deals and sales, and more flexible customer service policies. Brand efforts don’t go unnoticed: 38% of pollsters agree brands have made a considerable effort to improve their overall customer experiences in the last year.

Overall, our findings show how consumers have changed and how brands can rise to the challenge of meeting their evolving needs:

Timely communication synched across all channels

Consumer choice has exploded in the last decade, but brands have not provided equal experiences across apps, mobile, website, in-store, etc. As brands lean more on digital, those that prioritize valuable content delivered seamlessly across a consumer’s channel-of-choice are better servicing customers. 75% of consumers report they prefer to receive messages via email (59%) or mobile (33%), with most (54%) citing they want content that has clear, tangible benefits like sales and deals. Post-purchase, consumers are leveraging customer service channels that don’t involve a lengthy wait-time for a phone call, including email (preferred by 33% of consumers) and chat functions on a brand’s website (23%) and direct messaging via social networks (7%).

Thank your customers with more than an email

There’s a growing desire for strong customer reward programs like reward cash, loyalty points, insider perks, and free “stuff.” In fact, 51% of consumers say that free products and services are the best ways for brands to show they care. Brands need to look at how best to incentivize and reward customers for their engagement and activity. While only 8% of consumers are loyal to a brand because of brand name, a whopping 24% base loyalty on price point alone. Product availability, variety and quality represent the foundation of loyalty for 45% of consumers; they want to know they’re spending money on things that meet their exact needs.

Great customer service is a must have, not a nice-to-have

Because customer service isn’t just a post-purchase area, brands should look to how they service customers with efficient and safe experiences from browse to buy – and beyond. 29% of consumers agree their buying behaviors have forever changed, and they plan to shop more online than in-person moving forward. An important part of customer service lives in a brand’s ability to tie inventory and product availability to consumer needs in real time. 71% want to know product availability before purchasing online or in store. And once a purchase has been made, where pick-up is possible, 76% desire real-time app and email updates, and 64% want mobile and contactless pickup or check-in options. Brands that have the operational processes in place to meet these demands are better suited to weather the current climate.

We’ve created a compelling new infographic featuring many of these stats, which you can easily access here. It offers a quick glance at some key results from the third edition of our Selligent Global Connected Consumer Index, with enlightening statistics about consumer behavior following the pandemic, plus opportunities for brands to meet evolving needs.

And for even more insights and ideas on how to meet consumer needs through highly effective digital channels, download our full report: Selligent Global Connected Consumer Index: Third Edition.