It has been more than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world. It is one of the biggest crises that resulted in an unprecedented health challenge in the recent past. This outbreak has brought about a significant economic crisis, let alone a health crisis. Many developing and underdeveloped countries have suffered the most at the hands of the pandemic. Minor setbacks and problems are expected, but an issue of this magnitude was beyond belief as it has severely jolted the economies. Months of strict lockdowns posed a significant threat to business landscapes, leading to many sales challenges.

During the Covid-19 phases, the consumer’s behaviours have changed, so have the response of the brands. It has changed the daily lives of people, impacting how they go about businesses. However, it is commendable how companies strategically tackled changing consumers’ behaviours to upkeep their growth trajectory.

Consumer behaviours in the pandemic:

Before going into how brands responded to Covid 19, let’s have an overview of the consumer behaviours as they fluctuated during this time. Current research has precisely encapsulated the changed consumer behaviours as:

According to this chart, consumers have shifted online for shopping. While their needs also have been modified meanwhile. In a nutshell, it will be accurate to say that the changed consumer behaviours brought on by the Covid19 are:

1.    The drastic shift to online shopping: 

Where would the consumers go when all the physical stores and outlets were closed? It is evident that they would leverage technology and look in the stores they would access online. People were made to adopt a different lifestyle, so they started shopping differently. When they were completely locked in their homes, the rise in online shopping became inevitable. During this period, the customers relied on online retail shops for buying products of daily use, such as grocery and mainly household cleaning supplies.

A survey called “COVID-19 and E-commerce” stipulates that the pandemic has modified the way consumers use E-commerce. It examined E-commerce trends in Brazil, Italy, Germany, China, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Korea. According to this survey, more people have shifted to shop online. The emerging economies are among those which made a tremendous shift to online shopping. Therefore, it can be said that the world has successfully entered the phase of digitalization as these trends will sustain and have lasting effects

2.    Value-based purchasing:

Given the economic crisis and being sceptical about their jobs, consumers remained careful about unnecessary shopping.  People have been focusing on value-based shopping and avoiding unnecessary shopping. And they have become more price-sensitive than ever before. Moreover, the price of products has become an essential driver of consumer’s shopping decisions. The other vital factors that are becoming more critical elements when buying are accessibility and availability. So, the key determiners for shopping online during the current pandemic are the product’s price and its availability and accessibility. 

Brands response to Covid 19:

Different brands have different approaches to dealing with and approaching a crisis. During the Covid 19 pandemic, a few brands kept their silence, some showed adaptability, while others responded proactively. However, it was challenging for brands to maintain their selling outreach while being empathetic and considerate about the crisis. The brands were complied to follow the HATCH method to sustain their relationship with customers amid the catastrophic situation.

3.    Helpful:

The people’s lives and lifestyles have been ultimately affected by the pandemic, and they look up to the brands for help. A brand’s top priority must be helping its valuable customers in a tragic time. By helping, it does not necessarily mean offering financial assistance. Instead, it means to ease the technicalities for the consumers in every possible way. For example, a few brands came up with the resolution that they will follow health guidelines and ensure the protection of the workers and production of products under high health recommendations by health officials. This is a kind of health assurance people look to come from brands during a major health emergency. 

4.    Accuracy:

The brands need to understand what their customers want and pay attention to being more accurate about informing the audience. By disseminating accurate information, it means that the brands must be clear, transparent, and truthful. A few brands kept telling their customers what they were up to, and they were clear about what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how they were doing it. 

5.    Timeliness:

Time is an essential element in crisis management. The brands showed timely responses to the pandemic, followed by their marketing strategy. It is necessary to be quick to let the customers know that you are aware of their problem and play a role in the resolution. 

6.    Compassionate:

After all, the consumers are humans with great feelings and emotions. In a crisis, empathizing is the best tool to earn trust and reliability. Many brands reached out to their customers with motivational, encouraging, and empathetic posts, messages, and ads. The realization of brands about the tough time is enough for the customers to feel relieved. 

7.    Human:

The automated and robotic brands are unsuccessful, especially amid a crisis,  because of their inhuman attributes. Brands that incorporate a more personalized setup showed that they know your customers personally. A retweet or reply is a  small step that would foster the conversation between people and the brands. Many brands came forward by creating short videos and clips to show that the brand understands the people’s perspective.   

Brands response strategy:

The brands moved step by step at the verge of a global pandemic for better crisis management. The steps are as below:

Respond:

The responsible brands responded with solidarity and generosity. Moreover, they showed the customers what they are up to, as they had a clear idea of where they were heading. That is what accuracy is in the HATCH method. The brands responded clearly and transparently to inform about their plans and how they go about their strategies to keep up customer services. At the same time, few brands could not adequately respond as they had no clear strategy or plan in their head. 

Recalibrate:

Using the analytics of customer’s changing behaviour patterns and the current situation, the brands used the strategy to recalibrate by employing innovative and adaptive techniques. For example, most clothing brands introduced matching face masks with articles, which went really well. In a way, these brands cherished the new normal, and people were guided to live to the fullest in the new normal

Recover:

Of course, businesses of all kinds took a nosedive during the pandemic. The retail shops were shut entirely, and people were heading towards value-based purchasing. In such a scenario, businesses faced a severe setback. In this perspective, the brands needed to recover and stabilize themselves. Brands used the approach to reinvent themselves and focused on getting back the reputation. Brands that were selling expensive products and services had to curtail their prices to win back their customers. 

Reset:

The last phase was about the situation when brands adopted the strategies of optimism and empathetic consumerism to redefine their vision and values according to the new normal. The brands have entirely changed the mode of their regular operation in accordance with the new normal.  

Case studies: 

Some of the examples of brands and their response during the pandemic are:

Nike: 

Nike is one of the brands that responded to the pandemic in the best possible way. It crafted hashtags #playinside and #playfortheworld to encourage people to stay indoors while ensuring its presence in the market. The intelligent and straightforward response was timely and captivating. And that is where it downplayed its counterparts. It was successful in delivering an accurate, empathetic message yet maintaining brand identity. 

Moreover, the Nike apps and website contains athletic and kid tools for physical and mental wellness in lockdown. 

Nike was at the forefront in offering assistance to fight the global pandemic. It informed people that it is committed to helping the affected communities with the power of sports. It spent more than 30 million on pandemic response effects around the world. Its response efforts include manufacturing and donating PPE(personal protective equipment). 

Delta:

The Covid 19 response of Delta was completely driven by empathy and accuracy. It showed one of the best examples of how brands should know what their customers want and tell them what the company is up to. Delta was not only among those who acknowledged the issue timely but was among the first ones to take important measures. It introduced a new cleanliness standard, by which they ensured the people flying with them do not contract the coronavirus. 

Unicef: 

Unicef always remains in the frontline when it comes to offering humanitarian assistance to children. However, this time it was quick and effective in providing its services to help people fight the coronavirus. Since the covid-19 outbreak, UNICEF is continuously offering its services in terms of aid and awareness.

One of the exceptionally brilliant works it did was spreading the awareness of coronavirus among the children. It realized the parents’ difficulty in guiding children about the outbreak and safety measures. It created a guide for the children to understand what is a coronavirus. 

Moreover, its response efforts include assisting 153 countries with financial and technical support. It reached around 261 million children to ensure their health, nutrition, education, protection, water, hygiene, sanitation, etc. It trained approximately 3.3 million health workers about infection prevention and control. It supplied millions of WASH(Water, sanitation, and hygiene)related items protective gear to help health staff and people who contract coronavirus.

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