• Hannah Geiger

How COVID-19 Changed Consumer Brand Preferences

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic is changing the ways in which consumers shop. Consumers are shopping more locally and from small businesses. They are also more likely to show brand switching behaviors. 33% of consumers have been trying new brands, and 38% are purchasing from less expensive brands (The University of Otago, 2021).

  • Consumers are becoming more conscious of brand values and how they align with their own values. 62% of consumers say they want the brands they purchase from to share the same beliefs as them (Ho, 2020).

  • Generation Z has been leading the movement towards brand consciousness over the last several years. Generation Z cares about sustainability, the environment, and health. Despite their digital presence, Gen Z is supportive of small business, and many prefer to shop small.

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in how consumers view and react to brands in terms of ethics. People started becoming more aware of the brands they support and purchase from. Today it is incredibly important for marketing teams across the world to make sure that not only does their product solve a problem for their consumers, but the brand must align with the types of consumers and their values in their target market. In the fast-paced and always changing marketing world, it is imperative to succeed to have a marketing campaign that addresses the issues that consumers care about.

The COVID-19 pandemic only heightened this need as consumers had more time and energy to think about the things that matter to them. Consumers have more control, now more than ever as they spend more time at home, over what brands they deem align with their beliefs. As of 2020, 62% of consumers reported that they are more likely to purchase from brands who share their values, according to research by NEXT Data & Insights (Ho, 2020). Consumers are also more interested in purchasing from small businesses due to the pandemic as they have been home more often than ever. One of the appealing traits that small businesses have is their strong connection to their core values as they are usually run almost, if not completely, by the person or people who started it. This draws more appeal to the idea of buying from small businesses. Consumers are enjoying a slower life, where they want to get to know their community and the people in it. This behavior will create a trend for the coming years where consumers are going to be seeking out authenticity and ethics in the brands they purchase from.

Consumers are also more likely to show brand switching behaviors. 33% of consumers have been trying new brands, and 38% are purchasing from less expensive brands (The University of Otago, 2021). One of the reasons for this brand switching is because people are home and have more time to think about the products they buy. They may be more likely to buy a new product when they have the time to test it out before committing. While people are cooped up in their homes and taking meetings on Zoom in their pajamas, consumers do not feel that switching brands to try out will negatively affect them. Another reason for the brand switching behavior, however, is due to the recent supply chain issues. Many consumers have been forced to buy different products than they usually buy, but according to AdAge, many consumers are not planning on switching back to their old brands.

We have also seen the trend in more sustainable and ethical brands as Generation Z started becoming big consumers over the last five years. Gen Z is more concerned with issues such as health, sustainability, and the environment than any other generation preceding them. This trend towards ethical business in the younger generation has also affected the way they interact with social media. This gives us insight on how to best target this target demographic.

Gen Z is known as the generation who has always been online. This has shaped the way they view and interact with the world around them. From a young age Gen Zers have been deeply exposed to ethical issues such as social and environmental issues due to the emergence of the Internet and social media. Now that the oldest of Gen Z are adults and high schoolers, we are starting to see this manifest in the way they interact with brands in person as well as on social media. The COVID-19 pandemic only heightened their attention to social and environmental, and health issues. It is expected that by 2026, Gen Z will surpass millennials as the largest consumer base in the United States (Meola, 2021). As more brands bring this young generation into their target demographics, it will be immensely important to keep up with the issues they care about. COVID-19 will especially shape the way that this generation views the world as well as how they spend their money. It is important for them because of their frugality, to spend their money wisely on brands that they feel they can trust.

The pandemic shook the world in 2020, and its effects on every industry will continue to affect our way of life for the coming years. One of the biggest marketing questions as we move towards a post-pandemic world is: how do we brand ourselves in a way that aligns with our consumer’s values? As we see more trends towards supporting small businesses, mid-size to large businesses may wonder if there is anything they can do to attain the trust that small businesses seem to hold. Keeping marketing simple important to attain this goal. With the emergence of TikTok, we have started to see brands engaging more with their audiences, which is big for connecting with consumers and gaining trust. Consumers want to feel like they can reach the people who are selling to them. Using social media to engage with consumers on a deeper level and adding human personality to the brands will be important moving forward.

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