iProspect has released its latest whitepaper on the continuing effects of COVID and how Australians want to be secure and stable, but does a regulated world suffocate spontaneity of choice, activity and purchasing?
Author of the report, Sam Cousins, Chief Strategy Officer says, “We don’t know where we will be or what we will be allowed to do in the future. We’re effectively stuck in a short-term vortex, dreaming of the long term, tentatively planning the medium term. Consumers have found new and inventive ways to get ‘instant gratification’. How we make decisions, or choose brands and services in these moments has fundamentally changed.”
This report explores the impact of the need for stability, at the same time as the need to be spontaneous. If we’re more secure and stable, are we able to be more impulsive in our choices?
Where has spontaneity moved to?
The supermarket. No matter what happens, the impulse buy will still reign in the supermarket. As one of the key reasons to leave home in any lockdown, the shelf has become more important for instant gratification. The same could be said for larger more integrated pharmacies and newsagents. But the consumer isn’t going to spend ages weighing up the options, that defeats the purpose of impulse. It will be a ‘fast’ decision based on gut and feeling and emotion (and yes still influenced by price). But your brand still needs to be top of mind at that moment.
Casual outside occasions. The casual catch up has made a comeback. Especially out of the home where no booking is required. People have embraced the humble picnic, walking, takeaway coffees, simple moments that require no planning. The shortened decision making around these moments rely heavily on dark social groups and instant messaging that can be hard to target. Audio has become a companion in these moments, and a great time to integrate seamlessly from home to close to home when needed. There are more moments out of home to connect with audiences, even more so when dynamic targeting and real time measurement can make your message even more meaningful and effective.
Family meal times & in-home moments. At the peak of the pandemic 52 per cent of Australians were able to work from home. For many workers this level of flexibility especially in white collar roles, has continued and is expected. This means a great level of flexibility to do things as a family around meal times or after school. No longer tied to the commute and rushing home.
Snacking. During Lockdowns snacking goes up. Our proprietary panel shows sometimes up to 40 per cent agree they are snacking more. With more in-home moments and more flexible meal times the opportunity for spontaneous snacking has gone up. In the dip category peak spending was always at key times of the years where families got together. These moments are now any day and every day. How can your brand surround this or own new ones?
Online commerce. One place that continues to retain spontaneous behaviour is online. Digital commerce across all channels is reaping the benefits of a hyper local and home- based life. The more time we spend at home the more time we spend online and the more we purchase. Each snap lockdown reduces spend on petrol, entertainment, hospitality and sport or leisure, but increases on groceries and retail. We saw last year distribution of online sales by state mirrored peaks against increased restrictions.
Evolved payment methods. By their very nature ‘buy now pay later’ payment options invoke instant gratification for planned and spontaneous purchases. As partnerships broaden between provider and outlet, there will be more opportunities to capitalise on where spontaneity has moved to.
Lifestyle wear. As the fight for commerce dollars stays competitive consumers are maximising sales for lifestyle wear that makes them feel they’ve done the task without doing it. Impulse purchase for athleisure is akin in our minds to actually getting out there and exercising. The latest example of the athleisure evolution is hiking. Hiking boots are the new yoga pants with people buying them for that purpose and wearing them as everyday wear. It’s even got a name, it’s called ‘Gorpcore’. This kind of spontaneous purchase actually sets consumers up to tap into day trips and local hikes and walks at shorter notice, especially as we stay closer to home. Can your brand in this category add value with content around the best urban hikes or walks or anything related to the lifestyle purchase?
Flexible contracts. People are looking for greater flexibility when it comes to activities that are often on the list of things we can’t do in snap lockdowns or when restrictions are in place. This is time for the subscription model to shine. Think flexible gym passes spread across at home and in studio sessions, movie passes that encompass in the cinema and at home, spa treatments that cover at home treatments and in the salon. This is also a great way to drive loyalty. Additional benefits for the stability of 10 classes gets you one for free, and the freedom to be spontaneous on your terms. This can work across many categories and shows customer investment, understanding and your ability to be flexible.
Day trips/staycations/weekends away. Never before have we had to be more agile with plans constantly changing. The travel purchase journey is exponentially shorter for day trips and weekends away. Offers, options and availability should be communicated in real time with messaging tailored to time, device, location. Providers need to work quickly to offer alternatives when plans change or provide exceptional customer service to keep them for the next impulse.
Social media. With increased time spent on social media since 2020, it is still the place for spontaneous conversations that evolve into plans. House Party was the epitome of spontaneity linking you directly with your friends the minute you opened the app. Its shine quickly wearing off as it became massively inconvenient. Clubhouse is built on a similar premise, you have to be in the know, or in the right place at the right time to experience some of the rooms. An always on strategy would be needed to capitalise on these moments, so how can you align yourself with the right groups, or target the right behavioural triggers when you can’t be part of the conversation? Remembering social isn’t just social anymore, it’s lifestyle; so there will be ‘ways in’ for your brand whether it’s commerce, community, education, support, inspiration, connection or news. Organic reach will always be higher so the right content strategy can be the way in.
Thought starters for brands
Most of the suggestions here are cornerstones of what ‘good’ should look like in comms planning for brands. The growing base of increased desire for stability gives brands the opportunity to create tools to help their customers feel secure. The shift in where customers are able to be spontaneous, enables brands to connect with them by demonstrating understanding. Understanding your audience is always important, but exploiting some of this nuance could be the next level of understanding that they need from you. And remember all that understanding is fuelled by data, so maybe looking for the insight where it might not usually be found.
Agility & flexibility. It goes without saying that being agile and flexible is something we all have to be. In these instances where spontaneous behaviour has shifted, targeting, messaging, environment and context are all affected. Leaning into dynamic messaging and automated behaviour based on new cues can accelerate the easy wins in digital whilst we build an emotional story around it in other channels.
Long term mindset. It doesn’t really matter what the short-term throws at us, brand activity will never be wasted. It just has to have some stretch to it. Believe in your story, tell it ably and own the change.
Instant gratification. How can you deliver an experience immediately? Impulsive behaviour needs an outlet, what does that look like in your category? Promotional activity related to snap lockdowns has been hugely successful for retail online especially in clothing, where state or city only offers feel personalised and demonstrate understanding, and offer the gratification of clicking ‘buy’.
Shift in occasion. Where is there opportunity to surround new occasions in your category? If more have been created some of them can be ownable with the right insights. Customer data and intent can help identify the what and the when. Keeping on brand and in spaces you’ve got credentials to play is key.
Different user experiences. No one person’s journey is the same, so personalised experiences become more important. Having a base understanding of the different journeys where someone over indexes against spontaneity versus a natural planner, helps inform comms choices throughout that journey.
Maximising the new communities. Last year there were more new entrants to most categories than ever before. More people trying online shopping for the first time, more people buying products they’d never needed before. How have those customers evolved since the height of the pandemic and how might this tension between stability and spontaneity help you connect with them?
Lean into values and circumstance. Understanding your customers’ core values and what they align with helps identify where they may default and what they might need when snap lockdowns or restrictions come into effect. This could be as simple as enabling connections between separated families or facilitating virtual guided content for children so that adults can manage work and home school. For single households it could be disarming loneliness and isolation for when they need connection. If they feel more planned around pressure points, they can lean in to more impulse.
Dial up delivery options. Cart abandonment is often linked to delivery wait time and cost. The more options people have to get something now the closer the gratification can be to the impulse. Potentially aligning with the right delivery partners even if it’s just during a snap lockdown or dialling up the click and collect experience.
Extending your remit. Recently Netflix announced they had entered the ecommerce business selling key merchandise related to core shows. Lupin based in Paris have partnered with the Louvre to deliver affordable products that people can impulse buy during or around the show. Netflix are not only owning the storytelling narrative but the future involvement with consumers and major partners, for moments that evolve around content choices.
“In a more planned world, some will thrive and others will not. Consumer behaviour will ebb and flow and find ways to adapt. Being present throughout the consumer journey has never been more important. Understanding the tension people face and when they will take action means approaching comms from the bottom, and the top will be equally as important. ‘Brand’ will be needed to uplift performance, and performance will be needed to capitalise on behaviour,” Cousins concluded.