Australian Brands Slow To Reflect The ‘New Normal’ Created By COVID-19

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While COVID-19 has changed everything about life and work as we know it, three in five (61 per cent) Australian brands are yet to adapt their marketing to reflect the new world we live in.

New research from Adobe has found that while 61 per cent of consumers say it’s important that visuals and text in marketing materials reflect the current state of the world, only two in five (39 per cent) Australian brands have shifted imagery or language due to COVID-19. This trails behind the rest of APAC where 56 per cent of brands have changed their marketing materials accordingly.

Adobe managing director Australia and New Zealand Suzanne Steele [feature image] said that Australian brands may be slow in adapting their communication because many (45 per cent) have not created a specific COVID-19 brand task force or specific team to manage this. In APAC, 76 per cent of organisations have done so.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound and permanent impact on every aspect of our lives, including how we shop, work and socialise. As the crisis evolves, brands need to present with empathy first and quickly evolve their messages and creative to maintain relevance with customers. More and more consumers are embracing digitally-enabled journeys and experiences which provides brands with an opportunity to think, operate and connect in new ways.”

The study, conducted by Advanis on behalf of Adobe, surveyed both consumers and marketers across selected APAC countries including Australia in June. At the time, restrictions had eased around Australia, and Victoria had not yet re-introduced restrictions in response to the second wave. Despite this, it was encouraging to see that two-thirds (64 per cent) of Australian brands said they were transforming their long-term strategy in case this period lasts over a year.

Consumers hungry for updates, brands must communicate early and often

“The pandemic has created a state of flux with circumstances sometimes changing daily,” Steele said. “In this environment, brands need to be communicating early and often. Consumers are hungry for information with three in five (61 per cent) stating that they want brands to continue updating them on their COVID-19 plans.

“But it’s important to provide the right type of information. Currently, only 37 per cent of consumers find utility in brand-related COVID-19 updates. The mantra of “tell, not sell” has never been so important. People want to see brands taking action to protect their customers and employees.”

The survey revealed that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of consumers felt the treatment of staff during this time was important. And while 60 per cent of brands said they had communicated about company policies for staff and stores in response to COVID-19, only 45 per cent of consumers agreed that brands are doing enough to ensure staff wellbeing.

Issues around stock shortages, delivery availability and price gouging are also high on the priority list for consumers. When shopping for essentials, 60 per cent of consumers had difficulties due to products being out of stock and 42 per cent had issues with higher prices. Only one-third (31 per cent) said brands were doing enough to prevent such issues.  –

One brand that had to respond quickly to these issues was 99 Bikes. Owen McLeod, digital leader at 99 Bikes said when gyms and beaches closed, they experienced a surge in demand and the team had to scramble to shift operations online and manage customer expectations.

“In April our website traffic and online sales exploded; we were selling as many as 1,500 bikes per day. We had to adapt quickly. We immediately stepped up customer communication around stock availability as supply and shipping delays arose. We wanted to set clear expectations with customers about delivery timelines, so we ran a banner across the top of the site and linked it to a COVID-19 update page with information on online orders, click-and-collect, shipping, and store operations. We adjusted our store hours to give employees more time to assemble bikes for customers and we made several improvements to the online shopping experience to make the ordering process as smooth as possible,” he said.

“We knew this was a critical point in our growth and that the impression we left with our customers now would have a lasting impact on our future. We wanted to provide the best experience possible, despite the circumstances. By focusing on the basics and being transparent in our communication, we were able to secure a lot of goodwill which we are now building on for long-term loyalty.”

Consumers reticent to switch to online shopping in the long-term

While COVID-19 has forced consumers to do more shopping online, Australians are particularly reticent to changing their usual shopping habits for the long-term. While one-third (33 per cent) of Australians had increased their online shopping during the pandemic, this was low compared to 66 per cent in APAC. Further, when asked if the pandemic would change the way they shop in the future, only 58 per cent of Australians said yes, compared to 79 per cent in APAC.

Indeed, when compared to APAC, Australian consumers are more likely to prefer in-person shopping across all product categories. The categories people are most likely to shop in-store for are groceries (88 per cent) and home improvement (81 per cent).

 

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