As COVID gains strength again, and with brands facing an all-important holiday season, consumers are once more shifting their behaviors. The fact is, many are unsure what they should do now, and they’re looking to brands for help—and will surely be rewarding the ones that can meet their most pressing needs. The critical need for brands to build trust has never been more urgent—but how do businesses do that exactly?
Predicting trends can be difficult in the most reliable of times, but following a year of widespread uncertainty, planning ahead has become more complicated than ever before. With its newly conducted research, Deloitte was able to gather real-time insights that reflect the evolving needs of consumers and organizations. The resulting Global Marketing Trends Report is a timely and insightful look inside the needs of today’s consumer and a tangible resource that business leaders can look to when planning ahead for the year to come.
“It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a challenging year. While the future has always been uncertain, now more than ever connection and trust are paramount,” said Amelia Dunlop, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and chief experience officer of Deloitte Digital, in a news release. Our Global Marketing Trends research attempts to understand how human behaviors are changing and in doing so, help organizations and the executives who lead them make sense of whatever next looks like.”
More notable findings include:
- Customers look for brands with a purpose that aligns to their own values. They want brands to provide solutions they can trust, and experiences that include them as co-creators rather than recipients of someone else’s vision.
- Most brands and organizations who claim to be purpose-led clearly state their motives and have ways of holding themselves accountable to the promises they make.
- Customers are moving to digital channels with data suggesting this is a long-term shift that continues well after the pandemic subsides.
What does this mean for C-suite decision making?
Customers have made it clear they have high expectations for brands, and amid the current pandemic those expectations are heightened. Both consumers and companies are confronted with a global disruption that touches on every aspect of their day-to-day lives. Companies that are succeeding are typically those acting with transparency and clear intention, rooted in trust and the human experience, while also reacting in real time with the agility to meet the rapidly-evolving needs of their core consumer.
This new feedback, gathered during the pandemic, provides executives across the C-suite with real-time tools that can help guide brands through uncertainty and respond to customer needs as they unfold—urging brands to pivot business models to align with evolving needs and fostering the human connection consumers are craving.
“While the findings in this year’s Global Marketing Trends report speak specifically to this unique moment in time, they also offer universal insights that CMOs and other business leaders will be able to apply for the long-term success of their brands,” said Jennifer Veenstra, managing director of Deloitte Consulting and managing director of Deloitte’s Global CMO program, in the release. “So much of what we do right now will impact the relationship between companies and their consumers for years to come and this report offers a wealth of useful insights to help guide organizations through this chapter and into the next.”
The report outlines the following 7 trends that will define consumer behavior in the upcoming months:
Purpose: Built to flourish
Organizations that know why they exist and who they’re built to serve are uniquely positioned to navigate unprecedented change. They are often able to respond more quickly in times of uncertainty and can turn tough decisions into simple choices because they know how to invest, how to engage their employees, and how to meet the needs of stakeholders and consumers.
This clear sense of purpose is directly impacting businesses’ bottom lines.
According to the research, 1 in 5 customers will support a brand that has taken positive brand actions while 1 in 4 will walk away if they do not agree with brand decisions. Keeping this in mind, organizations should look to put their “why” at the center of their operations and work to amplify purpose both within and outside the enterprise.
Agility: Changing the playbook
The current environment has tested business models in unprecedented ways and made clear that agility is a crucial, cultural mindset for organizations. According to Deloitte’s Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey of 2,447 global consumers, 58 percent of respondents could name a brand that quickly pivoted its offerings to better react to the effects of COVID-19. Eighty-two percent said that these new, relevant offerings made them want to do more business with the brand. To ready an organization for these real-time shifts, CMOs and other C-suite leaders can look to digital tools such as social CRM and social sensing capabilities to forecast where conversations are headed and leverage customer feedback to rapidly prototype new offers.
Human experience: Know thyself
Striving for efficiency is a logical path forward for organizations scrambling to find any possible means to preserve their business. However, when the pandemic made technology the primary way for customers to interact with companies, it proved insufficient in building connections. According to Deloitte’s HX In Uncertainty research, which surveyed 16,000 individuals earlier this year, more than 56 percent of respondents reported they specifically desire a more “human” experience from virtual environments. How can companies become a bit more human? Deloitte’s research suggests C-suite leaders stay proactive in aligning their values with shareholders and view their organizations as human entities that mirror—and support—the values of those they are built to serve.
Trust: The promises we keep—or don’t
Trust is built on a brand’s promise and the delivery of their product or service. Even in the most turbulent of times, when delivery meets expectations, brands build trust. When the gap between messaging and delivery widens, trust breaks down and reputation suffers. While trust takes years to build, it only takes seconds to destroy. In today’s digital age, data privacy is often at the core of building consumer trust and Deloitte found that consumers are 2.8 times more likely to continue purchasing from a brand after a data breach when brands are transparent in their intentions.
According to the study, even during the global pandemic, a third of respondents most concerned with data privacy are willing to share data with businesses helping with the pandemic given that they were trustworthy organizations operating both transparently and ethically.
Participation: A two-way street
Deloitte also surveyed 405 C-suite executives about their response to COVID-19 and over two-thirds of respondents said that they transformed the way they engage with consumers because of the pandemic. Many brands have had to rely more heavily on digital technologies and less on in-person interactions but rather than limiting participation, this shift has increased the opportunity for brands to digitally collaborate for extended customer loyalty. Evidence of this success? An impressive 56percentof respondents reported that they participated digitally with a brand over the last year with acts including posting on social media, developing original content and even co-creating product offerings.
Fusion: The new ecosystem
Fusion is the art of bringing together new business partnerships, customer insights, and digital platforms to create ecosystems that more holistically address human needs. While partnerships were important ingredients to growth before the pandemic, an overwhelming majority of C-suite executives (78 percent) agreed that new relationships forged during COVID-19 will continue to be part of a long-term strategy after the pandemic subsides.
And although executives are still operating with a defensive mindset, 42 percent of respondents are looking at digital investments as a way to improve efficiency, while very few (17 percent) are looking to grow revenues. Through pioneering partnerships that address customer needs beyond what their organization does today, companies can establish a new, proactive mindset focused on growth, differentiation and disruption.
Talent: Marketing disrupted
As the pandemic shifted ways of working and impacted budgets and even headcount, marketing organizations have focused on ways to make their most valuable asset—their talent—a strategic force. The research found that a vast majority of CMOs (77 percent) have turned to AI to automate work during the pandemic, but only a small fraction of those (6 percent) have also tapped the gig economy—an option that could allow companies to scale their workforce up or down as needed.
An interesting layer to the CMO response regarding the role of gig workers, the research found that 14 percent of respondents had entered the gig economy for the first time during the pandemic.
“Now in its second year, our Global Marketing Trends report could not have come at a more pivotal moment,” added Suzanne Kounkel, principal at Deloitte Consulting and chief marketing officer of Deloitte U.S., in the release. “As business leaders look to recalibrate their approach to marketing and build deeper, more human connections with their customers, this report was designed to help marketers and business leaders navigate uncharted waters ahead.”
Deloitte conducted three surveys to inform the 2021 Global Marketing Trends Report:
- The “Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey” polled 2,447 global consumers in April 2020. This survey was launched in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, China, South Africa, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
- The “Global Marketing Trends Participation Survey” polled 7,506 consumers in April 2020 across four countries—the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil and China—to better understand who is participating in brands, why they do it, and where they engage the most.
- The “Global Marketing Trends C-suite Survey” polled 405 U.S. executives from global companies in May 2020. This survey asked CEOs, CIO/CTOs, CMOs, CFOs and CHROs their thoughts on a variety of topics related to their response to COVID-19.