Preparing for the changing post-Covid consumer
by Dave Nemeth. Preparing for changing consumer attitudes is as important as any other business strategy.
by Dave Nemeth. Almost everything in this world is driven by consumer attitudes. When these attitudes change, they may not be immediately identifiable but can have a rapid impact on business. So, preparing for them is as important as any other business strategy.
The past year and a half has created a huge amount of emotional anxiety within almost every single human being, and many may not even be aware of these emotional changes. In general, we have become less tolerant of almost everything. Continual lockdowns have taken away the freedom which we once took for granted and we are surrounded by deaths on a daily basis, be it family members, acquaintances or icons. You just have to scroll through Facebook to see the level of this anxiety. People are currently taking exception to almost anything, and uninformed conspiracy theorists and ‘would be’ scientists who get their information from fake news sites, are just fuelling this fire.
At this point in time, all of us yearn for the normality we had prior to this pandemic. We want to be able to socialise, go to restaurants and not have to worry about going shopping. We get irritated having to sanitise our hands before we enter a store if we have just gone through this ritual at a store right next door. There is, however, a big positive factor at the moment and that is the availability of the vaccine. There is an incredible feeling which overcomes people when they get their first vaccine and even more jubilation on receiving the second one.
But, the rollout of the vaccine has created two very distinct groups of people: those who see the necessity of getting vaccinated; and those who will find any story or any stat to justify not having it done. Mass vaccinations in countries like the UK and the United States have shown us how things are able to open up again when a large number of the population have been vaccinated.
We have also seen a huge backlash against anti-vaxxers, the world over. The French government introduced the ‘Pass Sanitaire’ (vaccine passport) to eat out, travel and participate in other cultural events, such as the cinema. It will also be a legal requirement to show a Pass Sanitaire when dining out, drinking in a bar, visiting a hospital (not for emergencies), and traveling on long distance trains. And from September, it will be legally required by employers to ensure that all contracted workers have one too (source: Forbes). You do not need to be vaccinated to have a Pass Sanitaire, but if you are not, it must be because you have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or are recovering from COVID-19.
There is already talk in South Africa of deploying these kinds of regulations and those businesses which are prepared for such regulations will be a step ahead of those that aren’t. One industry which immediately comes to mind is the restaurant industry as patrons could start putting pressure on these businesses to ensure that their staff, including waitrons, are all vaccinated. If you yourself have been vaccinated, do you really want an unvaccinated person serving you food, or having to sit amongst other unvaccinated customers? As harsh as this may sound, it will be a real thought in people’s minds and something that the restaurant industry is going to have to start to consider. The need to feel safe in public environments will remain a priority as things start to open up more, and we have a greater freedom of movement. Some restaurants have already come up with some initiatives such as offering free coffee to those who can produce their proof of vaccine.
Whilst it is still going to be quite a while before we have complete freedom, one can already see the increase in footfall in malls, as well as within the entertainment sector. This is good news for retailers although they will have to remember that they are dealing with a completely different consumer, and these are some of the changes they can expect:
- Me first. The good old mantra of “the customer is always right”, will begin to be tested as customers need to feel that the retailer really does have their best interests at heart. Cheap talk, marketing and advertising will all fall by the wayside if the actual experience is not met.
- Zero tolerance to bad service. Superior service will be expected, and this does not only refer to service by personnel, but rather across every touchpoint, such as products being out of stock, no pricing on items, and even lengthy check-out queues.
- Brands must have a voice. Brands which sit on the fence with regard to world issues will not garner the support enjoyed by those brands which make their voice known. Whether it is pro-vaccine sentiment or gender equality, this will be a new expectation. The days of being wishy washy are over.
With so much uncertainty in the world right now, the one thing that can be guaranteed, is that things will not miraculously return to the way they were pre-Covid. Anticipating the change can only be of benefit to the retail sector.
Main image credit: Pixabay.
Retailing Africa’s retail analyst and columnist, Dave Nemeth is the founder of Trend Forward; and a design thinker, innovator, business re-designer, trend analyst, keynote speaker and writer.
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