Your Guide To Reopening: 5 Consumer Insights
We may be entering the Resume phase of The Four Rs of Crisis Marketing, but it’s clear we’re not out of the woods with this pandemic—at least not from a medical, economic, or social perspective.
Now’s the time to start thinking practically, especially for brands that operate brick-and-mortar locations. Consumers are currently determining which businesses they will patronize in person, and how they will do so. Brands must be swift and compelling in their messaging to consumers, and they’ve also got to be ready to back up those messages by delivering value safely and dependably.
“Business as usual” now involves several more layers of awareness and precaution, so we’ve identified five key signals to help you gauge your customers’ receptivity to opening your doors again, plus a few creative ways to work with new mandates and best practices.
Signal #1: Institutional cues
As more consumers resume in-person and group activities, they’re looking for institutional cues about the level of risk they face by going out in public, and how to proceed as safely as possible.
In their ongoing COVID-19 Consumer Pulse surveys, McKinsey & Company finds that 80 percent of U.S. consumers are not currently engaging in out-of-home activities on a regular basis, with 17 percent reporting they will not resume these activities until there is a vaccine or treatment for coronavirus. Twenty-one percent of those who are waiting say they’ll feel safe to resume most out-of-home activities when their state and local governments lift restrictions.
Most consumers are waiting for a combination of factors to coalesce; they’ll be out and about again once governments lift restrictions, medical authorities give them the okay to go out, businesses take sufficient safety measures, and other people resume pre-pandemic activities.
Signal #2: Safety Measures
Other consumers are most concerned about unknown risks. Approximately 45% cite worry over contracting the virus as the main thing preventing them from participating in nonessential travel, public entertainment, dining out, and shopping in stores. Essentially, they’re avoiding people, not places.
Focus on ways to keep customers at a safe distance from each other, and communicate them clearly. Here’s what American consumers are looking for when choosing where to shop in-store:
Cleaning and sanitization: 31%
Masks and barriers: 25%
Physical distancing: 15%
No-contact purchasing: 11%
Store regulations: 10%
Employee health checks: 8%
Emphasize your brand’s safety policies and practices when communicating that you’re open for business, positioning your approach as a positive differentiator. Remember that contactless delivery and curbside pickup are no longer perceived as annoyances; in the minds of consumers, these offerings are now convenient and add value.
Social distancing policies don’t have to detract from the customer experience either, even for the most social business types. For example, some restaurants are expanding patios and outdoor spaces, often incorporating physical cues to help patrons maintain a safe distance from each other. Learn more about the smart, creative ways restaurants are keeping diners safe with unique, on-brand approaches to safety measures.
Signal #3: Local news
Local news is consumers' number one source of information right now, and 21 percent are choosing this media channel over all others. This is, perhaps, because 70 percent of Americans feel the media is accurately depicting the status of COVID-19.
To reach these consumers, generating and leveraging local public relations (PR) communications is more important than ever. Start by noting the tone on the news; it’s generally a good indicator of a market’s readiness to reopen.
Signal #4: Social
Facebook takes the number two spot as a news source, and the overall use of social media has skyrocketed during the pandemic.
Therefore, we recommend increasing paid and organic social media to reach consumers. It may seem counterintuitive, but during the last recession, brands that increased their marketing spend saw greater ROI on that spend than they did in more prosperous times, and retention rates for new customers also went up.
The lesson: New customers gained during a crisis are stickier than those who discover you when the economy is healthy.
Simply don’t have the budget for paid media at the moment? Put your owned channels to work:
Leverage and promote user-generated content (UGC) from patrons to help others see it’s safe (and socially acceptable) to go out if you are healthy and taking the proper precautions.
Email is working well these days—brands are relying on it more heavily, and open rates are soaring. Make the most of email as both a cost-effective way to promote your brand and as a way to gather information from your customer base.
Signal #5: Behavioral
Find ways to alleviate consumers’ cabin fever. Monitor foot traffic, discretionary spending, and activities like socializing, going to parks, and non-essential shopping. Then, if possible, incorporate ways for people to safely enjoy these activities into your brand experience and offerings. Some ideas:
Generate brand engagement, local PR, and UGC by sponsoring a socially-distanced outdoor event.
Bundle your offerings or deals so people can make fewer outings as well as justify necessary decisions to go out. Acknowledging the fact that money may be tighter than usual during this time will go a long way with most audiences.
The pandemic has also caused a shift in consumer habits that many predict will continue well after the threat has passed. Out of the activities consumers added or increased, they want to maintain:
Virtual classes: 40%
Video chatting: 39%
Social media: 32%
Online fitness: 27%
Shopping online: 26%
In-home entertainment: 24%
Of the activities consumers have had to avoid during COVID-19, they plan to resume:
Shopping for necessities: +80%
Shopping for non-necessities: up to 59%
Going to salons or dining in at restaurants/bars: up to 39%
Going to gyms, crowded outdoor public spaces, or large events: up to 19%
Traveling or going out for entertainment: up to 19%
Keep in mind that consumers everywhere, just like brands, are wrestling with questions that don’t have easy one-size-fits-all answers. While many want to support businesses and service workers, they also want to protect others from getting sick (and reduce the impact on the healthcare system).
“My state is reopening restaurants and movie theaters. Am I selfish if I go, or am I selfish if I stay home?" wondered a consumer in Texas. Communicating clearly about these five consumer signals can demonstrate that you share their values and concerns.
We’re here to help you navigate the post-COVID marketplace through the Resume phase and beyond. To learn more about how we use the power of data and insights to help you connect with customers, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.