Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

by | Aug 18, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Retail marketers still aren’t sure what the impact of COVID will be on the upcoming holiday season and beyond—or even what the next few weeks will bring. To help communicators navigate these uncharted waters, new research from customer engagement platform Braze details the impact of the pandemic on consumer behaviors and perspectives, provides retailers with actionable guidance on improving purchase and retention rates and examines what tactics will be successful for the 2020 holiday season.

“COVID-19 has changed the consumer retail experience forever as demand for e-commerce looks to become permanent, customer loyalty has been upended and spending patterns have changed,” said Myles Kleeger, president and chief customer officer of Braze, in a news release. “To effectively serve customers and drive future growth, prioritizing customer engagement is more important now than ever. Brands that double down on digital and place personalization at the heart of their strategy will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.”

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

The new report, The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal, leveraged several data sources, including a global survey of 8,000 consumers around the globe on their shifting behavior, sentiment, and expectations, as well as aggregated customer data.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

Analyzing data across geographies and generations, the report uncovered several key findings:

COVID’s impact is here to stay

The ongoing pandemic ushered in permanent changes in how and where consumers shop. Over a quarter (26 percent) of global consumers tried at least one new brand during the pandemic, and a whopping 95 percent reported intentions of buying from one of these new brands again in the future. The flight to digital and mobile channels during the peak of the pandemic is not a huge surprise. However, findings reveal that even as physical stores open back up 83 percent of consumers intend to shop online the same amount or more.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

Renewed focus on brand values and trustworthiness

As we look toward the 2020 holiday season, the report found that it’s no longer just about brand familiarity. Brand values and corporate empathy will play an increasing role in consumer loyalty and purchasing decisions. Only 10 percent of consumers consider “familiarity” as a top consideration when deciding where to shop. This is in contrast to 91 percent who responded that a company’s response to the pandemic, especially towards employees and customers, was an important criterion. Companies that mistreat employees, contribute to pollution or take opposing political stances were also revealed as top reasons for consumers to shop elsewhere.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

Generational preferences come into focus

Retailers continue to face challenges in courting consumers across generations, each with distinct preferences, behavior and expectations. Findings revealed that price matters to Gen Z with 45 percent selecting it as a top factor when deciding on a retailer. Inversely, less than a third of Millennials (28 percent), Gen X (29 percent) and Boomers (30 percent) said the same. When it comes to a brand’s response to COVID-19, Gen Z and Gen X were least likely to let it impact their purchasing decisions. Thirty-five percent of Gen Z and 34 percent of Gen X said that they were extremely or very likely to drop a brand based on their response to employees or customers during COVID-19 compared to 43 percent of Millennials and 20 percent of Boomers.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

What to expect this holiday season 

Retailers should anticipate a holiday season marked by a pullback in spending, increase in consumer expectations and focus on supporting small businesses. Forty-two percent of global consumers said they expect to slightly or significantly decrease their spending this holiday season. The impact of COVID-19 has also fueled support for small businesses. While consumers want to shop online, 48 percent said “supporting local retailers” is one of the reasons that would convince them to shop in-store.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

These headwinds mean that retailers should be designing campaigns now to deepen relationships with customers in the months leading up to the holidays. Building out effective onboarding and lifecycle marketing programs allow them to lower overall acquisition costs while increasing chances that customers are making purchases this holiday season and beyond.

Retail PR challenges and opportunities as COVID drives permanent shifts in behavior

Download the full report here.

Braze’s The Future of Retail: Opportunities for Brands in the New Normal was conducted by market research firm Wakefield Research among 8,000 globally representative adults ages 18+ across 10 markets: Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the UK and the US. The survey was conducted between July 3, 2020 and July 13, 2020 using an email invitation and online survey.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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