The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led governments worldwide calling for self-isolation and social distancing to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Retailers across the globe are waking up to a new reality as consumers become hesitant to leave their homes and avoid crowded places and events. With consumers being home more often, we’re seeing early signs of a shift in how they behave and shop. So what happens when brands can’t meet their consumers face to face and how can they adapt to this new “home-bound” landscape?
From in-store to at-home
While people’s hesitation to leave their homes is understandably affecting physical retail traffic, it seems to be fueling eCommerce, at least in the short term. Retail giant Amazon announced on Monday that it plans to hire 100,000 new full and part-time employees in the U.S. to meet the surging demand they’ve experienced while online grocer Farmstead claims to be experiencing a rise of more than 30% over normal levels. Online shopping doesn’t only seem to be the convenient way of shopping at the moment, but also the safest. Whether or not this impact lasts long term is yet to be determined, but one thing remains true: brands need to start thinking about diversifying their marketing mix to adapt to their audience’s new reality.
With more and more consumers staying indoors, many of the channels CPG brands have relied heavily on for awareness, like experiential marketing and in-store sampling, are taking a direct hit. The beloved retailer Costco, known for its legendary free in-store samples, was forced to suspend in store activations and product demonstrations over health and safety concerns. Disruptions like these are forcing marketers to think outside the box for new ways to reach their target consumers.
Re-thinking the traditional
In a recent operational checklist to help CPG companies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, consulting firm Bain & Company advises marketers to adapt touch points to reflect the rapid shifts in the consumer landscape: “Focus your efforts on online and digital media, as opposed to out of home and physical media. Curtail in-person and on-trade activations and events, shifting to avenues that may be less traditional but are spiking in importance due to changing consumer behaviour.”
Luckily for marketers today, there are more options to engage consumers online than ever before. Even the most traditional of methods, are now being activated online.
As more traditional marketing tactics continue to be impacted, activations like direct-to-consumer product sampling are becoming the new norm for brands. Rather than handing out product samples in-store, brands are able to target consumers online and deliver the product sample directly to their doorstep, allowing them to physically experience the brand from the comfort (and safety) of their own home.
In a time where “stay-at-home” becomes not only a matter of comfort but of safety, brands need to get creative and think of new ways to connect and deliver the brand experience directly to consumers' homes. The winning brands will be the ones who focus the most on easing the transition for consumers in this new era. The reality is, consumer behaviour changes over time, even more so during global disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic. This simply reminds us that as brands, we need to be there for our consumers wherever they are - this time, it’s where they feel the safest: at home.