Thriving in the post Covid-19 ‘normal’

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The government has confirmed that nearly all remaining Covid restrictions will end in England on 19 July.

So, is the end in sight?

There have been a lot of unknowns during the last 15 months, but one thing is crystal clear – life as we knew it is over. That may sound a bit over the top but in certain areas of our lives the impact of the pandemic is here to stay.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

For with change comes opportunity. New ways to engage with consumers, new trends to capitalise on, evolving purchase journeys to harness, new consumer priorities to consider and new categories to open up to.

There have been hundreds of cultural trends, or consequences, born out of the pandemic. I hesitate to call them trends because it is unknown if they are here to stay or if they are merely a short-term consequence of the pandemic.

I have identified five that could have the biggest impact on brands and media consumption habits.

The so called ‘Death of the High Street’

2020 saw almost 10,000 stores disappear, but this is a trend that was happening pre-Covid. The net change between shop openings and closures has been steadily increasing in the last 5 years, reaching a new peak of -9877 during 2020.

In Feb 2020, 19% of total shopping was online. In Feb 2021 this stood at 36%.

However, let’s not forget that online shopping has basically been forced upon us with the closure of non-essential shops. Past data suggests physical retail will climb again.

And stats can be about perspective - think of it like this - at the peak of online shopping, 64% of shopping was still done physically.

So what?

  • Don’t neglect the physical retail experience and opportunity
  • How shops provide a safe environment whilst maintaining a seamless and quick shopping experience will be key to their recovery
  • High streets could become a hybrid of online & physical retail, providing social experiences combined with the ease of online shopping

The reimagination of the working, no, the daily routine

The pandemic forced most of us to participate in the world’s biggest remote working experiment. The crisis confirmed that flexible working is achievable. This gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine the way we work, giving benefits to employees and employers such as less time wasted commuting, a better work-life balance, more disposable income and greater inclusivity opportunities.

But this isn’t just about the working routine, but the daily routine. The government will be pushing to spread activity and travel out over the day, so are we moving towards a more 24 hour culture?

We will always have a rush hour of some sort, but the size of the peak will likely shrink. People will adopt more flexible working hours, meaning the traditional rush hours will likely be reduced in size.

So what?

  • Consider how peaks will now spread across the day, and consider specific days when commuter traffic might increase
  • Monitor what triggers the decision to wfh or go into the office. Is it set days? Is it weather based? Is it childcare based? Is it random?
  • Incorporate flexible plans that aren’t weighted purely against traditional commuter hours, and push for flexibility on when impressions are delivered

(Re)birth of the community spirit: Support Local

This is a movement that we have certainly seen evidence of interest in, but I do have reservations on the longer-term outlook. People will talk a good talk about supporting local, but when all is back to ‘normal’, will they put their money where their mouth is?

We saw peaks in search terms of ‘Support Local’ when each of the 3 lockdowns were announced, but interest tailed off during the lockdowns. Coupled with Amazon seeing record revenues across 2020, it makes me wonder if it’s conversation without action – people may always prioritise ease, convenience, price and familiarity as purchase drivers.

So what?

  • Even if the support local movement fades out, with the changing working routine there will certainly be a need for brands to take a local approach
  • Brands need to understand renewed movement patterns and the footfall potential within local, as we know travel patterns have changed significantly through lockdowns and will continue to adapt
  • Consider how and when brands should localise their message to maximise relevance for their audience

Accidental Savings

The pandemic has kept us away from the things we spend money on. Pubs and restaurants closed, holidays banned, shops boarded up and events cancelled. Some audiences have never had more money at their disposal.

  • £245bn saved in the UK
  • Q2 2020 saw household savings as a proportion of income the highest since records began
  • 35% of people purposefully increased their monthly savings, whilst 38% just simply managed to keep more money in their current account than usual

People are torn whether to spend or to continue saving. Either way, if only a small amount of people loosen the purse strings on even a portion of this accrued wealth, a lot of money will be up for grabs.

So what?

  • The meaning of value now goes beyond price cuts and spenders can be incentivised by brands being socially responsible, educational and useful
  • Perceived value can be gained through flexible payment and loyalty schemes – satisfying the shopping cravings of the more nervous shopper
  • Some people will have anxieties about spending and the situation in general – be pressure free and sensitive towards these anxieties

‘Opportunity: Green re-set’

Covid-19 has had a mixed impact on the environment. There’s been improvements in air quality, lower levels of noise pollution & reduced Greenhouse emissions.

However, there’s also been an increased use of single plastics, and lower oil prices has made it cheaper for manufacturers to produce new plastic goods.

But it has brought an increased awareness and new focus from consumers on sustainability. And according to the World Economic Forum, ‘the pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine and reset our world.’

So what?

  • Ensure any environmental claims are ‘Purpose with proof’ – what are brands actually doing as well as saying?
  • Sceptical consumers will start demanding that brands back up their sustainability claims with evidence and numbers. There are a growing number of tech tools to help companies with this, something that Mediacom are showing initiative with through the Carbon Calculator – which calculates the carbon footprint of media plans and suggests how to offset that amount into sustainability projects
  • Consider what we can do within media. Are there special sustainable formats we can look to use?

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