The future is accelerating faster – is your brand ready?
By Senior Planner, Caroline Olechowski
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just been a shock to our collective systems – it’s been a catalyst that has accelerated behaviour change, and fast-forwarded us to the future. This means that businesses have had to move faster to understand and satisfy fast-evolving consumer needs.
Some have had to move quickly to keep pace with demand and capitalise on a huge growth opportunity. Others have had to pivot as their sectors’ fortunes have reversed. And brands that were already struggling to stay in business have seen their decline accelerated – RIP Laura Ashley and Debenhams.
All of which demonstrates that it’s no longer optional to keep pace with, respond to, and, as much as possible, anticipate these rapid changes – it’s a matter of survival. In 2020, playing it safe means risking it all.
To stay on the front foot, smart brands have adjusted their distribution and media strategies to reflect our fast-forwarded digital behaviours:
- While online services such as online shopping and video streaming services have all been growing steadily over the last decade, data from McKinsey shows that we have jumped five years forward in digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.
- Since the beginning of lockdown, e-commerce has grown from 30% to 50% of all non-grocery retail. Online grocery sales have doubled, with no sign of going back to ‘normal’: 17.2 million UK consumers say the changes to their shopping habits will be permanent.
- And with few options other than our screens for entertainment during lockdown, the time we spent on streaming services doubled, attracting an estimated 12 million new sign-ups in the UK alone.
And in many categories, what we buy is also shifting rapidly, as existing trends accelerate:
- Take premiumisation in the alcohol category, an important trend pre-pandemic. Kantar compared weekly purchase habits in the alcohol category during lockdown to 2019 and found that 70% of premium brands have grown their category share.
- Plant-based eating was already gaining popularity before COVID-19. Now an additional 1.8 million UK households have been buying meat-free products, with one in five people claiming they ate less meat during lockdown.
But moving quickly in this rapidly changing world isn’t easy. It requires new ways of working and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. As a client quoted in a recent MRS report explains: “As a business we have gone into a much shorter planning cycle. We’re now setting quarterly targets for everything rather than annual; we have had to think short term as things are changing every day.”
Three ways your brand can keep pace in this rapidly changing world:
1. Let go of the need to know everything before you try something.
So much can be learned by doing. Use research techniques that give you a quick read, rather than a comprehensive view, and build in smaller, faster cycles of learning at different stages of conceptual development. For example, we’ve recently worked with a drinks client to test NPD concepts at the proposition, messaging & pack design stages.
2. Listen to your people on the frontline.
When behaviour is changing quickly, customer service reps, salespeople and other customer-facing members of your team are an invaluable source of insight. Tap into their knowledge of new and evolving customer needs and queries to stay on the front foot.
3. Start small and scale up.
To make the most of emerging opportunities, test the waters with the minimum viable version of your idea. Without investing too much time or money, you can learn what’s working (and what’s not), improve your idea, and scale it up. Social ads offer an ideal way to test and refine campaign messaging & imagery before deploying your full campaign budget.
By staying at the forefront of shifting consumer behaviour, many of our clients have not only weathered the storm, but thrived in spite of it. Albert Bartlett’s UK volume sales are up 26% YOY, Border Biscuits’ UK product sales have grown 46% YOY and Smokehead Whisky has seen global volume sales increase 70% YOY.
Can we help your brand move faster?
At Guy & Co, we use an agile blend of creative & research to help brands to adapt and pivot at pace. Whether our clients are developing marketing campaigns, social content or entirely new brands, we help them move faster, test braver ideas and ultimately smash commercial results.
We incorporate consumer testing early and regularly into our concept development process, allowing us to respond to, and anticipate, changes in consumer behaviour. We focus on the insights that matter and use lean research techniques to get to those insights, faster. All of which helps us to embrace braver creativity and disruptive marketing ideas – with less risk.
Can we help your brand move faster and keep its fingers on the pulse of shifting consumer behaviours?