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Consumer's paradigms are shifting - what it means for marketers and brands

By Catherine Knowles
Thu 13 Jan 2022

The two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have re-shaped how consumers think and shop, calling for marketers to shift gear and accomodate new desires and motivations.

A Gartner survey of 1,752 consumers during October 2021 identified the top consumer and cultural trends for marketers in 2022.

Gartner Marketing practice vice president analyst Kate Muhl says, “Marketers responsible for strategic planning, targeting, positioning, messaging and corporate responsibility initiatives can use these trends to better align their initiatives to key cultural issues and changes in consumer behaviours and attitudes.”

Personal Revolution: The pandemic has created the space for consumers to ask big questions and test alternative ways to live

Fewer people tie their identities to their work or career. This was evident as the U.S. Labor Department reported that a record 4.5 million workers, or 3% of the workforce, quit jobs in November 2021, matching the record set in September.

The Gartner survey also revealed that 51% of workers admit to performing personal tasks during work hours more frequently than before the pandemic.

Muhl says, “Marketers must recognise that consumers are in the midst of an exhausting practical and spiritual overhaul. That presents an opportunity for their brands to be facilitators of change.

“Consumers are valuing themselves more. Because of this, brands must emphasise their values that speak to topics that include authenticity, identity and self-esteem.”

Time Warp: Society is reconsidering the experience, possibilities and meaning of time

Of those surveyed, 77% of consumers reported experiencing some distortion in their perception of the pace of time, led by Gen Z (91%) and millennials (88%).

Also, 66% of consumers report having difficulty making long-term plans or life changes at some point during the pandemic.

Marketers must appreciate the profound cultural transformations underway regarding time and lean in to brand values that answer consumers longing for control, health and reality.

Seeking Sincerity: The layered and contextual nature of social and traditional media is exhausting - consumers seek straightforward

Gartner’s survey identified 61% of consumers watch or listen to entertainment “to relax or be comforted,” followed by 41% identifying “to escape from, or stop thinking about, reality” and 33% “to experience funny moments.”

With these insights, marketers must realise that many consumers are more interested in straightforward, uncomplicated storylines than they used to be, Gartner states.

Muhl says, “The lesson here for marketing leaders is to do all they can to reduce mental load. This isn’t about increasing emotional engagement or intimacy. Right now, marketers must focus on simplifying the message and streamlining the consumer journey."

Omnichannel Flex: Consumers are toggling and blending online and in-person experiences well beyond the realm of shopping

Necessity drove consumers onto new digital platforms, but convenience keeps them there. 39% of consumers claimed to enjoy new conveniences of going online or doing things virtually in various areas of their life, a 6% increase from 2020.

Meanwhile, 57% of consumers identified their online or virtual experiences as inadequate replacements for offline or in-person experiences, a 17% increase from 2020.

Marketers must continue to invest in customer touchpoints and offerings that allow for hybrid online and in-person modes of interaction and choice.

They must also differentiate their brands by positioning omnichannel options not only as a way to gain security and exercise control, but also as a path to comfort, the analysts state.

Home First: With “before times” normalcy off the table, consumers have settled into a home-centred approach to living

Consumers are planning to have their home-centricity extend well beyond the lockdown, with 58% of survey respondents saying the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how they think about and manage their home (up 12% from 2020).

Muhl says, “Marketers must update their understanding of key drivers behind centering around the home. In the coming year, it will be less about consumers avoiding threats and more about consumers engaging in a cost-benefit analysis about experience.”

With this in mind, marketers should develop product offerings and buying channels that align with this home-first lifestyle and emphasise the aspects of their brands values that speak to consumers seeking safety, security and serenity, Gartner states.

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