In a year where just about nothing was predictable, consumers actually were. Clear consumer behavior trends have emerged over the past several months, even as circumstances have changed.
Marketers are now looking to come out of the pandemic with more innovative approaches and flexible business models to acquire more customers.
Delivering on what consumers want (which, spoiler alert, is what content marketing is all about) has become the new business battle ground.
Let’s take a closer look at five of the top consumer behavior trends to watch in 2021.
- Consumers want the ability to choose online or in-person shopping (from the same brands) at any time.
- Temporary convenience options that emerged as pandemic solutions are likely to stick around for good.
- People are doing more from home than ever before, and their purchase preferences reflect that.
- Better access to more product options has made brand loyalty less secure.
- Consumers are increasingly seeking brands that align with their personal values and beliefs.
Trend #1: A Hybrid View of Shopping
The pandemic has changed the way people are shopping, but not in the cut-and-dry way you might think. The future of shopping won’t be as simple as a switch to online while brick-and-mortar stores become the stuff of nostalgia.
In fact, 46% of consumers still prefer in-person shopping because they can see and feel products, and even those who prefer online shopping indicate that they don’t do it exclusively.
Right now, we’re still living with pandemic safety measures that push consumers toward online shopping. But when Raydiant asked consumers which method they anticipated using 12 months from now, in-person shopping held the majority in nearly every case.
Online shopping was already here before the pandemic arrived, and people will want to shop in person well into the post-pandemic future. What has changed is the way we (the collective consumer) think about online vs. in-person shopping as separate categories for separate types of products.
The decision to buy online won’t be dictated by product type. Instead, it will just depend on what the consumer wants at that time.
For example: people have been buying gadgets from Amazon for years. It’s the kind of thing people bought online.
But grocery delivery? That was a service generally used by more niche consumer groups, like older people or young professionals living in cities without cars. Most people just went to the grocery store. Now, online grocery delivery orders are for the masses.
But that doesn’t mean people will use it exclusively. A more likely scenario is that they’ll take advantage of both options, choosing the one that works best for the situation. Maybe a quick list of items you need to make a party meal gets ordered for delivery, but you visit the store each week to peruse for your week’s groceries.
Whatever the scenario, the key will be options. These top predicted retail trends demonstrate the wide range of retail experiences customers will look for.
Certainly there are consumer segments who exclusively prefer one way to shop over the other.
For most people, though, the behavior trend will be sometimes online and sometimes in person, depending on any number of factors including their mood that day.
Trend #2: Craving Convenience
Brands have had to get creative in a time when business models were turned upside down due to social distancing precautions.
The past year saw upscale sit-down restaurants offering takeout, retailers adding curbside pickup options, and hygiene-motivated measures like cashless payment and contactless delivery gaining momentum.
Consumers are unlikely to want to let go of these conveniences going forward.
As pandemic safety measures ease, brands will need to think about how they’ll resume normal operations while also offering the added convenience options consumers are now accustomed to and likely to continue demanding.
The behavior trend: consumers will choose brands who offer multiple convenient service options.
Trend #3: Homes Become Hubs
Home used to be where people went when they weren’t doing other things. Now? It’s where we can do just about everything.
Home is where we eat and sleep, but it’s also where we work. Where we shop. Where we exercise. Homes have become hubs for our life’s most important activities, and that isn’t going away any time soon.
What we do in our homes has permanently changed. Accenture found that 46% of people plan to work remotely more frequently going forward. Sales of expensive in-home gym equipment like treadmills and stationary bikes grew exponentially in 2020 as people worked out at home.
Smartphones, tablets, and other devices have enabled us to talk face-to-face with family and friends from a distance. Today, we’re fully assimilated into socializing that way.
Now that consumers have invested in their at-home activities, it’s likely we’ll see them stick around post-pandemic. Brands whose products can benefit from this trend (like home office furniture) can capitalize, while brands whose traditional business models depended on customers coming to them will have to adjust (like gyms offering both in-person and virtual fitness classes).
The takeaway trend: consumers will enjoy the return to normalcy, but they’ll still be doing more from home.
Trend #4: Loyalty isn’t a Given
Building customer loyalty has long been one of the surest ways to drive revenue and sales. But is customer loyalty to brands seeing a downturn?
Raydiant’s State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report found that 48% of consumers have replaced a product they typically purchase in-store with an online alternative during the pandemic. About a quarter of consumers report they’re switching bands more often than ever before.
These may not be majority percentages, but they’re significant ones. Pandemic conditions certainly need to be considered (i.e. store closures preventing a store from opening at all), but the hard truth for brands is that it doesn’t really matter what the original reason behind the brand switch was. All that matters is whether or not the customer now prefers that new brand.
Thanks to a higher-than-ever online presence from brands across industries and increased conveniences like faster shipping times overall (even same-day in many cases), consumers have more choices and better access to their options than they ever have before.
The resulting behavior trend? Consumers will try more options, and they’ll choose the one they like best regardless of previous purchase history.
Brand loyalty is still important and effective, but companies can’t ever assume it’s a given.
Trend #5: Customers Want Value — in More Ways than One
Quality products and customer experiences aren’t the only places consumers are seeking value. Consumers today want to buy from brands that also align with them personally.
This Accenture survey of nearly 30,000 consumers worldwide found that significant majorities of consumers feel that a company’s values and social stances are important.
This isn’t a totally new phenomenon. But consumers now look more closely than ever at the way companies view and address social issues as well as implement environmentally-friendly practices — 89% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand they feel makes a positive impact.
The behavior trend to watch: consumers will seek authentic, transparent brands in an effort to make their buying decisions meaningful.
Consumer Behavior Trends: How Brands Can Respond
Elevated expectations around the customer experience and increased online brand presence are two common threads throughout consumer behavior trends.
There are actionable ways companies can respond to these overall trends. Specifically, they can use content marketing — proven to be 3x more effective than all other types of marketing — to stay connected to their audiences.
High-value, consistent online content establishes your brand reputation and personality, allowing consumers to “experience” your brand before they ever make a purchase or visit a physical location.
Marketing Insider Group can help you implement a strong content marketing strategy that yields measurable results for your business. To learn more, check out our Content Builder Services or schedule a free consultation today!