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For brands, building partnerships with consumers to get through tough times will be key to forging strong loyalties for the long term: Murtaza Bakir, Mintel
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What brands need to do to build trust among consumers in a post-Covid world
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For brands, building partnerships with consumers to get through tough times will be key to forging strong loyalties for the long term: Murtaza Bakir, Mintel

What brands need to do to build trust among consumers in a post-Covid world
  • The pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer behaviour. While some changes were short-terms, there are a few changes that are here to stay.
  • In this new world order, the consumer will be more cautious, as well as demanding.
  • Murtaza Bakir, Country Manager for Mintel in India & Sri Lanka walks us through some of the changes in consumer behaviour and how brands can keep up.
As the world starts to pivot, slowly, towards a recovery mode, one thing is for certain, the impact that the pandemic has had on the way we live, buy, travel, work and consume is huge. While some of these changes might have been short-term, limited to when we were completely stuck at home, there might be some changes that are here to stay.

The consumer in this new world order will be increasingly careful and much more demanding. During the pandemic, consumers prioritized saving over spending. There has also been a huge shift to digital, with more and more people across the country getting comfortable with spending online.

However, most experts believe there will be a change in the consumer-brand relationship and brands will need to rethink the way they talk and do business with their consumers.

To understand the short-term and long-term changes in consumer behavior and how brands can navigate these changes, we caught up with Murtaza Bakir, Country Manager for Mintel in India & Sri Lanka. He helped us understand how 2021 will be different and how brands can keep up with rapidly changing consumer expectations.

Excerpts:

Q) 2020 was a very interesting year when it comes to observing changing consumer trends. What are some of the biggest trends you have witnessed since March last year?

Last year, we released our 2030 Global Consumer Trends, developed as a living, growing prediction model that will adapt with the unforeseen. The model supports the fluid acceleration or deceleration of the trends according to the reality of individual markets, allowing us to not only be more adaptive and reactive to change but to continue to allow us and our clients to focus on the futures we (humanity) want to invent—or avoid.

Our new 2021 forecasts remain embedded within our system of Mintel’s 7 Trend Drivers and their supporting pillars. They also take into account the changes that have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—the subtle yet profound shifts in consumer thinking and responses from brands—and attempt to encapsulate the better future that consumers, globally, aspire to, and towards which brands can build their own strategic visions. Below are the seven trends set to impact global consumer markets in 2021:

1. Health Undefined: An awareness of wellbeing is at the forefront of consumers’ minds, but a playbook doesn’t exist. Brands have a responsibility and opportunity to set new rules.

2. Collective Empowerment: Consumers around the world are making their voices heard loud and clear in the push for equity, agency, and rights.

3. Priority Shift: Consumers are seeking a return to the essentials, with a focus on flexible possessions and a reframing of what ownership actually means.

4. Coming Together: Consumers are coming together in like-minded communities in order to connect with and support each other, driven by the impact of the global pandemic.

5. Virtual Lives: Physical separation due to the pandemic, increased need for escapism, and improved technology are driving consumers towards digital experiences.

6. Sustainable Spaces: COVID-19 has subtly but significantly shifted consumer awareness of our relationship with the spaces in which we live, accelerating demand for sustainability.

7. Digital Dilemmas: While there are many benefits to a more digitally-connected life, concerns about its negative impacts are putting consumers in a predicament.

Q) From an overall consumer behavior perspective, how different will 2021 be from 2020?

COVID-19, and the ensuing economic impact it has caused, is set to bring about a multitude of changes in consumer behaviour. We are tracking these changes through consumer research to help our clients plan ahead. Few of the notable changes that we will see include:

• decreased discretionary spend by Indians on niche products
• permissible indulgences will be important
• people will seek products and services that will help them to spend more quality time with loved ones
• increased focus on health, which will translate into increased demand for added health claims
• heightened demand for food safety and hygiene

Q) In a post-Covid world, consumer expectations from brands, esp in a retail environment, will be very different. They will become more demanding. How can brands keep up with these expectations?

The events of 2020 have resulted in a shift in Indian consumers’ ambitions, including a desire for better, more balanced quality of life, with a focus on health, safety and more family time – all within a more sustainable environment.

Our research highlights that these seemingly modest ambitions and slight shifts in consumer behaviour are easy to overlook, but collectively, and cumulatively, they can have profound repercussions on brand strategies well into 2021.

These small changes in consumers are being reflected in similarly small steps that promote profoundly significant ideas, coming from local Indian and international brands. These shifts are a response to changes in how Indian consumers are demanding brands to help them. They want brands to offer affordable, quality products and services to help balance budgets towards achieving their ambitions. They want brands to deliver products and services that help create occasions for quality time with loved ones and improve efficiency at work and home to create more quality family time. They want brands to offer value, safety and health benefits to meet their health concerns.

Q) If there were 3 things that brands should keep in mind while communicating with their consumers in a post-Covid world, what would they be?

Our research highlights that with Indian consumers hesitant in the face of uncertainty as they emerge from a global pandemic, Indians have shown a decline in positive responses across the seven pillars and a hesitancy to commit until they know more about the ‘next normal’.

Brands, therefore, have a role to assure consumers, and to take a lead in helping to shape a better future vision that Indians can both aspire to and identify with, thus building their trust.

Three things brands should keep in mind while communicating with consumers include:

1. Brands need to gain consumer loyalty and trust by delivering real value. Consumers are budgeting cautiously but are still spending and seeking brands they can trust. They are also demanding proof of product/service value benefits. The recession won’t last and building partnerships with consumers to help them get through tough times will be key to forging strong loyalties for the longer term.

2. Brands need to stand out by leading the way to a brighter future and project positivity.

3. Opportunity exists for brands to help consumers celebrate festivities through E-retailtainment which includes online shopping, live-streaming and social commerce mainstreaming. Consumers still seek the best deals and products to suit their pockets and needs. Be it online or offline, brands need to entertain as they sell. As more brands go online, the challenge will be standing out by being more informative, fun and entertaining.

Q) 2020 showed brands that being empathetic will make consumers choose or lose them. Do you think even in a post-covid world, brands need to keep empathy in mind while coming up with communications or in general become more empathetic even in the way they conduct their business?

Our 2021 Global Consumer Trends Report highlighted how consumers are coming together i n like-minded communities in order to connect with and support each other, driven by the impact of the global pandemic. With cooperation and support being a common consumer goal, it is essential for brands to offer them a platform to help each other. Allowing consumers to donate to a cause by making a purchase fulfils this desire and allows for brand–charity partnerships.

And yes, brands need to be more empathetic towards consumers, especially with the pandemic. When nostalgia, localism, unity among communities and corporate social responsibility matters most, brands need to be innovative, down-to-earth and listen to what their customers really want. Brands must find a way to engage with them in a way that feels personal and ‘invited’. It is more crucial than ever before that brands find their ‘true voice’ and a way to connect with consumers that keeps them relevant in a post-COVID world.