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Brands must be agile to keep up with a changing consumer

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Gauging consumer sentiment during “regular” times is difficult enough, but during a crisis its challenges are augmented. Companies need to adapt to manage the now and tomorrow in ever-changing circumstances.

The coronavirus has upended businesses and economies but also changed consumer behaviour, and not just because of lockdowns or the inability to freely shop. Intrinsic behaviours have changed, with Covid-19 affecting many on a deeply personal and human level, watching the tragedy unfold first other parts of the world and then their own.

Research from the EY Future Consumer Index by Ernst & Young conducted in May reports 51 percent of consumers surveyed say the way they shop will fundamentally change because of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has driven many to rethink – and raise – their expectations of how organizations behave in a crisis. People expect organizations to respond in a positive way and to share what they are doing.

Insights from EY show consumers are changing how and when they shop, with many using multiple, digital channels on a greater scale or for the first time. Many of these behaviours will stick. When the world reboots, we’ll have a new operating system.

Brands and organizations must keep a finger on the pulse of these new needs, putting humans at the center of their response, while embracing technology at speed and innovation at scale.

Create the best digital touchpoints

Digital touchpoints have become more important during lockdown conditions but will remain critical for organizations to stay relevant during a prolonged period of recovery. Businesses can prioritize their investments in technology and transformations by developing customer journey maps to identify where physical touchpoints can be replaced by digital ones to add the most value to the customer experience.

Create relevant brand messages that are consistent with your values Articulate your response to the crisis and deliver it across a prioritised set of channels. Companies will need to be mindful of ensuring communication is strong and consistent to mitigate the risk of brand damage while balancing the challenges of new operating cost restraints.

Build resilience

Companies should develop new ways to improve their customer focus. Build ongoing customer insight platforms that help identify opportunities on product feedback/listening. Scale new services created through e-commerce/digital channels and create new products and services that meet emerging customer needs.

Build trust

The post era will be one of uncertainty. Some behaviors will revert to normal quickly. Others will see long-term change, especially against a backdrop of austerity. Organizations will need to reflect these changes by focusing on new priorities, using multiple channels and creating more authentic, human-centered customer engagement strategies to build integrity and trust.

Article source: Ernst & Young, part of a series about Covid-19 enterprise resilience. For more information go to www.ey.com

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Consumer behaviour
Ernst & Young