Companies can no longer wall themselves off from the non-business world around them. Indeed, corporate social responsibility is on the minds of consumers as they seek out organizations who are committed to diversity efforts, social and environmental consciousness, and compassion for their employees. As consumer priorities shift, businesses must rethink the way they market and sell their products and services.
Here are 4 ways consumers’ priorities are changing and what companies can do about it:
Shift #1: Customers buy in new ways and convenience will remain key.
Brand loyalty used to be easy. Consumers would maintain allegiance to a product, sales rep, or company and would often show their loyalty through repeat purchases and positive word of mouth. Now, for many, convenience supersedes brand loyalty.
Up to 49% of buyers admit to abandoning brick and mortar businesses with no online presence for the ease of buying online. For example, customers who used to eat out are now favoring businesses that offer delivery or use delivery apps.
Action: Companies need to remain agile in how they respond to customers’ changing needs. Inspiring or maintaining loyalty means understanding how customers want to buy and making it easy for them to do so.
Of course, this can be done in an online way or by incorporating technology like AI tools into the buying process. For example, AI can be utilized by offering touchless checkouts or adding a customer service chat-bot function to a website. Also, consider ways to put a more personalized spin on an in-person service or experience to lure buyers back to physical locations.
Shift #2: Justice for minority groups is important to consumers.
For years, in the US at least, the modern work ethic and belief that if people just work hard enough then they will find success clearly did not hold true for many groups in society.
Out of this, equality—the belief that all persons should be treated equally and be given equal opportunity—became one of the most important consumer and employee movements in the past year. People recognize that more needs to be done to address underlying causes of inequality and injustice.
Action: Companies need to take steps toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their ranks and company culture. Consult experts and invest in continued training and education around DEI for managers and staff. Be deliberate in sharing initiatives with followers and customers, but don’t let promises of action go unfulfilled.
Shift #3: The era of less human contact is here– lean into new ways to serve customers through virtualized service.
Restaurants, bars, concerts, sporting events–the places we once gathered routinely – were opportunities to socialize while boosting the economy. Seventy-seven percent of respondents to the 2020 Gartner Consumer Behaviors and Attitudes Survey said they didn’t feel comfortable socializing in the same ways as they did before the pandemic. This means fewer chances to meet consumers in-person – a trend likely to continue even after the pandemic.
Action: Businesses need to meet consumers’ new needs by creating experiences that are comfortable, often meaning distanced from others with various safety measures in place, such as having masks available or enhanced cleaning procedures.
Personalized experiences rather than mass events may be the new normal for many industries. For example, in-person sales seminars can become virtual events or individualized appointments. Look for ways to serve customers and generate sales that limit in-person interaction while meeting their unique needs.
Shift #4: Being environmentally responsible is good for the planet and for business.
Unabated industry growth used to be the norm, and consumers’ demands required the expansion and growth of manufacturing to meet their needs. But for many consumers, the environment is now top of mind as the world faces potentially disastrous results from climate change.
As an example, 75% of smartphone users say the mobile brand they buy from should act toward sustainability in their product designs, even down to their packaging. Up to 80% of consumers in all industries have become increasingly concerned with environmental impact with 38% reporting they have changed buying behaviors as a result.
Action: Organizations need to evaluate their impact on the environment and take steps to manage their carbon footprint and plastic use, among other concerns.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, this could be as simple as switching to energy-efficient lighting or working with suppliers who are environmentally responsible. For service-based industries, it could mean replacing company vehicles with greener options or spending on carbon offset programs.
As consumer preferences change, so too must businesses to keep up with demand. Whether it’s putting your products online or offsetting the negative effects of manufacturing to be carbon neutral, there are several strategies companies should consider to attract socially, environmentally and convenience oriented consumers. For more sales strategies in an ever-changing world, check out our blogs or training courses.
Mark Marone, PhD. is the director of research and thought leadership for Dale Carnegie and Associates where he is responsible for ongoing research into current issues facing leaders, employees and organizations world-wide. He publishes frequently on various topics including leadership, the employee/customer experience and sales. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.