How can you influence consumer behaviour in a post-COVID world?

Kim Portrate
By Kim Portrate | 1 June 2020
Kim Portrate

Kim Portrate is the CEO of The Premium Content Alliance.

With their usual choices unavailable during the pandemic, consumers turned to new brands disrupting long-held loyalties. So how can brands be included in this consideration set or stay there if they managed to hang on to consumers? Kim Portrate has some suggestions to reinforce brand loyalty as the recovery kicks into gear.

CV-19 has impacted life in so many ways; the way we work, socialise, shop and, in some cases, the brands we buy. All this change started early when pandemic panic buying forced us to purchase products we wouldn’t normally because our "go-to"  brands weren’t available.

Stores were closed so we went online choosing brands and businesses we may never have chosen before. Instead of the gym, we signed up for online exercise classes, instead of wine from the shops, we subscribed to a vino delivery service. The same consumer needs were met but the brands chosen shifted in a matter of weeks.

As restrictions start to ease, I’ve been wondering how many of these changes will stick. Will consumer choices disrupted over the last few months forever change buying behaviours? And how can brands ensure customer loyalty is strong enough to keep them loyal?

One thing is certain, the relationship brands enjoyed with their customers probably won’t be the same post-COVID. As Richard Shotton’s book The Choice Factory points out, most behaviour is habitual and the best time to shake people out of long-entrenched habits is after they have undergone a major life event such as moving house, giving birth or getting married.

In many ways, CV-19 is a major life event equal to, if not greater than, those examples which makes this a unique moment for brands to leverage.

The first step for marketers is figuring out how to respectfully connect with customers, whether that’s winning them back or attracting new ones who sampled a host of new brands during the pandemic and are open to exploring new options.

Right now, consumers are recovering, but restless. Yes, they are looking for reassurance and familiarity, but their bullshit detectors are set to high alert. So how can a brand satisfy both these need states and shine in a way that attracts customers like bees to honey?

I suspect it’s a delicate dance that needs to be performed artfully across distribution, price and promotion. I’m no expert in either of the first two, but I do have a little experience with the third. One way to get in step with customers is to remind them why they chose your brand in the first place. To do this, brands need creative that reaffirms the relevance of the product. And this needs to be done in the media channels customers are choosing, ideally ones that have proven persuasion power.

Scads of research supports the notion that media placement impacts the way a brand advertisement is received and perceived. Choosing the wrong channel might mean falling foul of consumers who, cynical and stressed after weeks of lockdown, have turned to credible media channels.

The reality is that surrounding an otherwise fantastic ad with fake news can immediately render it ineffective, or worse, damage brand perceptions. By associating with credible media channels where the content is produced and curated by professionals, your brand will be perceived in the right light.

For proof this is an effective strategy, look no further than the government’s COVIDSafe app. To encourage downloads, ads were placed in a wide range of mediums and given the serious public concern about the virus, this call to action also spanned across editorial content. Research in-field in early May determined that when it came to influencing the decision to download the app, TV had the biggest sway. 53% of those surveyed cited the platform as the most influential. News media was the next most influential platform (11%) followed by radio (8%). In the space of three short weeks, 6 million people changed their behaviour spurred on, in large part, by the persuasive power of TV.

Right now, as businesses return to economic vitality, the ability to sway consumer behaviour in your favour has never been more important. And it will remain so as we surface from CV-19. As Australians emerge and continue to reassess their purchasing decisions, make it easy for them to choose you by aligning your brand with media channels that can prove they have the power to truly influence behaviour.

Kim Portrate is the CEO of The Premium Content Alliance.

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