The impact on brand choice when moving online during COVID-19

Each week we are seeking out actual observed changes in purchase and consumption behavior and summarizing this in ten points.
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benjamin cawthray

Global Thought Leadership Director

paul murphy

Global Analytics and Insight Director, Worldpanel Division

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Since last week we’ve passed the 100-day mark of the year, meaning 100 days of coronavirus. We don’t have all the answers, but we continue to unearth actual changes in behavior, some of them short-term, pointing to how we may behave in the next few weeks, and some to longer-term implications post this period for FMCG.

More than ever, we believe behavioral evidence has a greater role to play to help us see what's happening clearly and to develop growth strategies and responses to them. We have focused on insights that truly reveal what happens to people’s personal care, food and beverages routines whilst staying at home, as a way to predict what consequences to expect in future behavior.

10 insights around purchase and consumption behavior and COVID-19:

  1. When would you loosen the lockdown? And how? Based on what we saw in China, for the most affected countries going back to ‘normal’ has some way to go. We are thinking slowly and with lots of measures in place going out to shop and eat freely is still some way off.
  2. The impact in the UK has been a classic brought-forward sales path. What happens next will dictate whether grocery shops are going to win overall. We suspect it will be difficult given the amount of people with less income and the restrictive shopping rules in place.
  3. How do price promotions work and what are their benefits? Can anyone remember? And does this change in lockdown, where demand still exceeds supply in certain categories? If we do see a reduction during lockdown – which logically we should – is it in fact time for famous brands especially to re-think their future promotional strategy as we recover?
  4. For those wanting to grow it is about breaking habits. We know channel change is one of those times when more habits are broken. So, more marketing spend to focus on people moving towards ecommerce for the first time or returning should be a priority today.
  5. Why is grocery ecommerce relatively low compared to non-consumer packaged goods? For many countries, it is the restrictions it imposes – a minimum size of basket plus limited delivery times. Of course, it will grow during the lockdown. But it will grow significantly faster in places where these restrictions have been minimized e.g. South Korea.
  6. “We need to be more digital” will be the lesson many will take from this period. But even sectors like clothing, which have made it easy to shop and return goods, still can’t get over the fundamental problem: the majority still like to go into physical stores and shop!
  7. The winning activities during the lockdown in China: sleep and entertainment (sitting down, no doubt). We believe this will be replicated in every country – home is where we all like to relax. When we do get back to normal, this is what we will miss the most, we suspect.
  8. Our new routines are forming. We thought snacking would do better than this. What we are seeing is more meals (lunch and evening meals) especially increasing. This may develop as we move forward – in China in-home delivery recovered for example. This is one to watch.
  9. We expect personal care occasions to be under pressure and it’s those which we do to make others and ourselves more confident which are the more likely to reduce. For example, deodorants are for when we are on the move and seeing people, not for when we sleep and watch TV at home!
  10. Two older influencers to end this week: the Queen and Andrea Bocelli. Both offer us hope for a better future in their different ways. What was interesting is one used the classic traditional method (a TV broadcast) while the other newer one (a live stream) to reach massive audiences. Brands need to reach mass audiences as well – most will need to use both channels.

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