It is clear the brand to consumer relationship has changed this year. The holiday period is usually a time of joy, charity, family, and comfort. With all the curveballs that 2020 has thrown at us, has any of this changed?
Our Q3 research shows that while these elements are still top of mind, the context for how they can come to life has, and consumers expect brands to play a more active role in them.
In Q3, 45% of people state Coronavirus has made their relationship with family more important – and spending time with loved ones is the third most looked forward to thing post-Covid. As such, it is undeniable that this holiday season will be different – framed against the backdrop of travel restrictions, shops closing their doors, consumers losing their jobs, or taking pay cuts. It is no surprise that 51% of consumers want to see brands focus on supporting people during COVID-19.
We broke these new consumer expectations down into three categories, all starting with the letter E, because good lists should always include alliterations:
- Economics & Quality
- E-Commerce & Safety
- Eco-Friendly & Social Responsibility
These should be used as secondary strategy points for brands, building on the primary points of: family/friend connections, joy, and understanding. A small percentage of US and UK consumers expect brands to show fewer advertisements this year – this may be due to 18% of consumers expecting their finances to get worse in the next 6 months, leading to them not wanting to be sold at from brands, creating a sense of FOMO. As such, it is integral that this holiday period focuses on the consumer’s most important value.
Economics & Quality
Value for money has naturally become much more important to people, in fact over half of those in the US and UK stated they want this from brands.
Overall, looking at the US and UK, most predicted spending less on Christmas shopping this year – with 16% stating this will be a lot less – and 30% stated they would be buying fewer gifts. It may not be a surprise, therefore, that consumers expect brands to ease the burden and help make this year just as special as the previous – as 42% are expecting sales and discounts.
Industries likely to be hardest hit can be identified in current cutbacks trends. Clothing is the hardest hit, as almost a third of Americans and Brits are reducing spending in this area. With many in lockdowns this cutback is understandable, and 11% said they were cutting back because they no longer need the product. The holiday period is synonymous with comfort, which is not dissimilar to what we’ve seen at the beginning of the pandemic, where many campaigns focused on stay-at-home loungewear.
Alcohol makes an appearance in the top-5 cutbacks, with 16% stating they cut back on buying in this area. As such, campaigns showing how gifting favorite brands of alcohol, reminding customers of times and memories from pre-Covid could prove successful in the beverage industry – by reaching the consumers wishing to be connected to family this holiday season.
E-Commerce & Safety
In the last quarter, on average 43% of those that bought gifts in the month prior did so online.
Despite wanting discounts, and value for money, consumers are not willing to risk their health for the typical holiday sale – over half of Americans and Brits say they’re not planning on shopping during Black Friday. Instead, consumers expect this to move online, as 50% of Americans and Brits are expecting brands to increase online shopping capabilities. This may mean bigger discounts and more interest surrounding Cyber Monday, versus the typically more in-person Black Friday. Promotions around Black Friday could potentially be deemed reckless by consumers in the current climate. 47% of people state they expect safety measures in-stores (e. g. limited capacity) to be implemented by brands this Christmas. Moreover, 44% expect curbside pick-up and 19% click-and-collect options. It is evident, in fact, that safety in shopping goes hand-in-hand with the main value of family/friends during the pandemic – people want to know their loved ones will be safe while celebrating.
Eco-Friendly & Social Responsibility
Almost half of all Americans and Brits feel it is very important for companies to set targets around reducing their environmental impact.
2020 hasn’t just been marked by the global pandemic. Social responsibility and ethics have been a large talking point this year – more than ever, consumers are expecting brands to take responsibility for their actions and their communities.
The call for environmentally impacting waste reduction is sector heavy, with consumers placing more responsibility on the Energy, Manufacturing, Automotive, Technology, Food industries – these being the top-5 identified by consumers as industries that should do more to reduce their impact on the environment.
In addition, 20% of consumers have switched to buying small and independent – options that are largely seen as, more sustainable, ethical, charitable, and community-centric. In facts, 23% of consumers expect brands to support or donate to charities. This would not only be a good deed, it would also contribute to building trust, in a period that is frequently seen as a time of charity, and with an audience that is holding companies increasingly more accountable for their actions.
18% of Americans and Brits state they’re more likely to shop with a brand if they supported people during Covid. As initiatives such as #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal continue, consumers are likely to remember who did, and did not, support their staff and communities during the past year. Brand partnerships with smaller, ethical, sustainable or diverse companies could see larger companies build their reputation as being community-centric and passionate about the same issues as their consumers – building trust, connection and positivity, thus hitting the primary strategy for the holiday season.
While these findings transcend the holiday period, connecting to the unique set of needs developed out of this year’s trials, bolstering the standard notions of Thanksgiving and Christmas – Family/Friends, Joy and Charity – can build positivity for both consumer and brands.
Many things have been said about 2020, and to us, it boils down to being the year of empathy.