As the world begins to open back up, there’s no doubt that life, as we know it, has changed. This is doubly true for the consumer. The way we buy, the things we buy, and the mindset in which we buy them have all been altered forever. This means that the way businesses present their products and communicate with their customers also needs to change.
From the Bain & Co. report we'll discuss later in this post.
The changes will look different for every business, and they will continue to evolve as the pandemic situation evolves, which is why I’ve written this post. I’m going to use expert insights, recent data, and marketing fundamentals to help you better familiarize with and more effectively and compassionately market to your post-COVID customers. I will cover:
- How COVID-19 has impacted consumers in general.
- What the post-pandemic consumer is looking for.
- Four strategies to better understand your customers in the wake of COVID-19.
Before we begin, we do want to acknowledge the reality that COVID-19 is still an active pandemic that is taking lives daily. The terms “post-COVID” and “post-pandemic” in this post refer to this current time period after the peak of the pandemic in March and April.
How COVID-19 has impacted consumers
We know that COVID-19 has impacted businesses across all industries, but let’s focus on the consumer—or rather, the individual with a family, a job (hopefully), and basic daily needs to support. Much of this is not surprising, but let’s take a look at what is being said among institutions about the impact of COVID-19 on today’s buyer:
As Accenture explains, “Consumer priorities have become centered on the most basic needs, sending demand for hygiene, cleaning and staples products soaring, while non-essential categories slump.”
From our latest COVID-19 benchmarks post.
More online and buy local behavior
The factors that influence brand decisions are also changing as a “buy local” trend accelerates. Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping—a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.”
Consumers and businesses have been through trauma—emotionally, physically, financially, and more. COVID-19 has left millions of people without jobs, sent billions into isolation, and has forced everyone to come to terms with the fact that we are all inherently vulnerable, as reported by CNBC.
Let’s focus not just on the consumer, but the individual with a family, a community, and basic daily needs to support.
What is the post COVID-19 consumer looking for?
So we can see that the post COVID-19 consumer is lacking in morale, security, and even the ability to venture out of their local community. But what does this translate to in terms of what they need? What is this new customer looking for? Management firm Bain & Company recently conducted a survey of 162 people in seven countries, who shared their priorities and their essentials as we move into this new season:
- People want to feel less anxious.
- People are seeking a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.
- People want to feel more connected.
- People are seeking out kindness and purpose.
- People are more mindful of their spending, reflecting on what is essential and what is frivolous
Source: Bain & Company
Aside from emotional changes, the landscape for businesses has changed physically, too. Consumers are more likely to interact with businesses online, opening up an even wider digital landscape.
Consumers are more likely to interact with businesses online, opening up an even wider digital landscape.
How can you get to know your post-COVID customer?
So it’s clear that COVID-19 has caused major shifts across all aspects of the consumer’s life—buying behaviors, emotional mindsets, daily challenges, and core desires. So what does that translate into for your customers? These four expert-recommended strategies will help you to obtain and implement that knowledge.
1. Recreate your personas
It’s clear that you’re no longer serving the customer you were serving 6 months ago. That means it’s time to update your personas so your messaging, outreach, sales, and branding are actually attracting customers to you. Holly Rollins, President of 10x digital echoes this sentiment in her recent blog post. She says:
“Even if you’ve done this exercise before, it’s still a great time to revisit—especially with the drastic shifts that have occurred during this season. A persona should include your target audience’s general demographic/psychographic details, behaviors, industry pain points, and concerns.”
From our post on buyer personas.
Rollins suggests that your personas should also include details that help you dig deeper into their emotions, purchasing behaviors, and more, including:
- Purchasing habits
- Goals and objectives
- Personality type
- Roles and responsibilities
One way to get your new persona information is to conduct one-on-one customer and client interviews. Get to know what they want and need right now and build those new customer profiles around their responses.
2. Don’t ignore social media
In a post-pandemic world, social media can no longer be avoided—both for getting to know your customers and for connecting with them. A recent study from CMO found that 84% of companies were using social media for brand building and more than 54% have used it for customer retention.
But what does that mean for getting to know your post-COVID customer? Just as you conducted the one-on-one client check-ins for personas, it’s important to use social media as a tool to connect with and get to know your post-COVID customer passively and actively. For example:
- Passively take note of consistent questions and comments. What patterns are emerging about the verbiage your customers are using and the topics they’re discussing?
- Actively seek out conversations with your customers via comments and DMs, polls, surveys, and other engagement features on social media. With so many interactive tools now available through social media, you can intentionally get to know your customer better.
Remember, however, that above all, consumers are looking for authenticity, especially on social media. In fact, a recent Stackla report found that 90 percent of the 1,590 consumers surveyed say authenticity is important in deciding which brands to support.
Focus on community building centered around authentic content to get to know your customers and keep them around long-term.
Remember that above all, consumers are looking for authenticity, especially on social media.
3. Build customer engagement into your culture
In our post-COVID world, customer engagement and development are key. For Alex Turnbull, founder of Groove, it’s all about getting your customers on the phone on a regular basis to discuss their pains, their needs, and their challenges.
While Turnbull likes to have these conversations off-the-cuff, it might help you to prepare a few questions, such as:
- How has your business or life changed since COVID-19?
- What would make your life easier?
- How can our product or service be better suited to your current needs?
Remember: this type of customer communication goes beyond one-on-one calls. Build this mentality and curiosity into your company culture so anyone on the phone with a potential or current customer is culling these insights. When everyone is asking the same questions, patterns will emerge, allowing you to get to know this new customer.
4. Track customer sentiment
Tracking what your customer is saying, feeling, and thinking is a critical right now. In an article for Forbes, contributor and marketing expert William Craig explains:
“Track the decision-making process of clients through trends and cyclical patterns gathered through analytics and predictive modeling tools. You can build realistic models of what future patterns look like, and get ahead to impress the client and build your brand.”
A/B testing is one way to quantifiably track your customers’ sentiment.
To get started with tracking your customers’ sentiment, get a few key processes and elements in place:
- Set benchmarks and quantify wherever possible so you have a constant to compare back to.
- Choose and implement your tools, along with processes for tracking and accessing data so everyone is seeing and working with the same data sets.
- Consistently check-in and analyze the data. It’s not doing any good if no one is actively tracking it and implementing changes.
Having this knowledge about your new normal audience is crucial for being able to maintain effective client communication, strong client relationships, and relevant marketing messaging.
Now is the time to get to know your post-COVID-19 customer
Consumer habits have shifted drastically, and will likely continue changing as we wait to see what else COVID-19 will bring to the world. Getting to know this new customer and continually engaging with them to keep a thumb on the pulse of what they need is key to your success in marketing during and after COVID-19.
Use these strategies to tune into your customer, rebuild your personas, get a feel for their needs, and start speaking their language so you can continue growing and evolving as a company, no matter what’s happening with COVID-19.
About the author
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, Score.org and more. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.