You snooze, you lose

There’s no doubt that the events of 2020 have created a new economic landscape that poses a threat to all those who are not ready nor willing to adapt. In the same way, many of those who were quick to keep up and adjust to changing demands are enjoying a success that they perhaps never thought possible. Regardless of how swiftly you’ve changed, opportunities are plentiful for those who know how to appeal to the ‘new’ customer.

Global online gathering

Covid-19 has spread around the planet, sending billions of people into lockdown – a shared experience unlike anything most of us have ever experienced before.

So, if there’s one thing that defines the COVID-19 era, it was our easy move to global, online access. Take Zoom, for example, which despite intentionally pursuing a low-key growth strategy, quickly became the video conferencing leader for work, learning and socialising– with a 30-fold increase in usage in April alone and further growth is expected.

Online food delivery has been cited as ‘one of the only winners’ of the outbreak, during which our client Roberts bakery accelerated the launch of its e-shop – and first national TV ad campaign –  in response to an increase in consumer demand for bread during lockdown combined with the shortage of flour and yeast in shops and a surge in the popularity of home baking.

It was obvious when the world moved online that businesses had to do the same to keep up. But who’s doing right and who’s left behind? As lockdown begins to ease, we’re looking at the real winners and losers of the pandemic to find out what makes post-Covid consumers tick.

Creativity and ready-made online platforms

As we all moved online, it was easy for the likes of Amazon, Netflix and all social media platforms to adjust. They were doing it anyway.

Amazon was impressively quick to align its brand to the lockdown way of life – for both shoppers and employees – during lockdown. The value of building emotional relationships with consumers is now more important than ever. If shoppers buy into brand ethos and values, chances are they’ll be loyal long-term. Spotify’s Covid-19 Music Relief and Pret a Manger’s 50% discount for NHS workers – not to mention sharing some of its recipes for us to recreate at home – are more great examples.

Also doing well were the brands that met consumer boredom by providing things to do at home. In our #ShareYourBakes campaign for Roberts bakery, we searched for Britain’s brightest home baker to star in a special TV ad. The campaign tapped into the popularity of home baking and celebrated our newfound love of it.

Indeed, UGC exploded in popularity among brands during the pandemic due to both content production limitations, as well as being inspiring, uplifting and directly relatable content that nods to the situation that we all find ourselves in. It’s a really powerful storytelling tool that acts as the bridge between brands and their audience.

Decline of the high street?

The high street has been under pressure for years, and the pandemic has made a bad situation a whole lot worse.

Thousands of jobs have already been lost as the furlough scheme winds down, despite the lockdown that kept shoppers at home now starting to be lifted.

A recent study reveals that over three quarters of us Brits don’t plan to visit stores because of health and safety fears amid the coronavirus pandemic – despite shopping restrictions being relaxed. It seems the spread of Covid-19 remains a big worry.

It’s clear that even the relatively healthy retailers are using the pandemic as an opportunity to re-evaluate how big their store estates should be – John Lewis closing eight of its stores is just one example – and how they work alongside ecommerce operations.

Greater sense of community

Lockdown has definitely made brands become more community orientated, which will most probably continue for many. You can see it already online and on TV ads.

In all of the media we consumer, there’s an undeniable focus on support, the public and national unity. Nandos, Waterstones, Superdrug and ASOS are amongst many brands offering discounts to key workers.

Vogue magazine celebrated their amazing work by featuring three on the front cover of July’s magazine. And Camden Town Brewery has rebranded its classic Camden Hells lager to Camden Heroes Lager as a thank you beer to all the healthcare heroes out there. NHS workers can even claim themselves a free six pack. We really do hope that such community empathy and gratitude is here to stay.

One thing is certain. The longer the virus stays – bearing in mind we’re being told to prepare for a second wave – the more likely brand perception will be measured in terms of how they serve the people and interact with the community, not in how it represents our personal persona.

This year we’ve seen a previously unbelievable shift in the relationship between industries and the consumer. Whether these changes are permanent or not, it remains to be seen. The unique nature of the pandemic is sure to bring with it further unanticipated changes as we continue to adapt to what is a new ‘normal’ – whatever that will be.

What is certain, however, is that those brands who embrace the online community and do it successfully, will be better off for doing so.