2021 will be the year of the switch 

It's never been more important for retail to connect with consumers, writes founder and director of Fifth Dimension Consulting Lyndall Spooner

With consumers walking away from known brands that they have purchased for many years, to those that are distinctive and can effectively respond to the shifts consumers have undergone in their values and desire for increased tangible and intangible value – 2021 will be the year consumers make the switch.

The pandemic has disrupted our lives in so many ways. One of the key areas is how we think and what we value – and in turn this is changing how we shop and what we want.

COVID pushed many people online not just out of necessity but increasingly by preference. Australia Post announced in May last year that online shopping had increased by 80 percent during the pandemic. This figure has continued to remain strong despite getting COVID community transmission under control.

With so many people now shopping online, they have more access to product information, industry research and consumer reviews. In addition, the additional time consumers have been spending on social media is exposing them to more targeted campaigns. Consequently, the process consumers go through to reach a buying decision is more disrupted than ever before.

Shoppers can research product and service options at speed and to the level of detail they desire. Finding and switching to new brands has never been easier, and in 2021 we will see consumers put to use the skills they have acquired to explore and find new and exciting brands that better meet their needs and budgets.

Essentially, 2021 will be the first true year of the switch.

COVID-19 economically impacted most levels of Australian society – we see a real divide between the haves and the have nots coming into 2021. This creates two diverse purchasing patterns, those who try to navigate their way forward in 2021 with a reduced income and job uncertainty, and those who are in a strong financial position who have reduced spending on large items like overseas holidays and are able to take advantage of ongoing sales and lower interest rates. We will see households who are looking for strategies to be more careful and diligent with their funds, and those looking to take advantage of their improved financial position.

While the economy has bounced back from the depths of 2020, Australian businesses will need to work harder than ever in 2021 to retain and acquire new customers. They will need to ensure their brands are distinctive, they are customer focussed in their products and services and design engaging customer experiences that not only result in a sale but ensure shoppers will come back again.

What we are seeing is a greater balancing of pleasure and pain in the path to purchase. We like to feel good when we make a purchase, we love the endorphin rush, but we can’t go out and just buy anything we want as right now many of us are severely budget constrained. This means many shoppers look for exactly what they want, and ignore options that don’t tick all their boxes.

Australians are looking to support local companies and now is the chance for Australian businesses to share their human stories of who they are to make consumers feel good about making a purchase, but it needs to be supported with a strong value message. Value is not always about being the cheapest, it’s about demonstrating that your product is being sold at a reasonable price for what it is.

The key things that consumers will be on the lookout for in 2021 include:

  • Cheaper prices. Unfortunately, 2020 taught consumers that during an economic downturn companies run more sales and promotions to try and get consumers to part with their money. Given we are still in a pandemic, many consumers will expect to see the continuation of sales and will explore what deals they can access.
  • More for less. Consumers want bundle deals and two-for-the-price-of-one-style sales in order to feel as though they are receiving more value for their purchase.
  • Longer warranties. Shoppers will be more wary with where their dollars go, so knowing they will receive a replacement or refund if something goes wrong with a product will be a major selling point in 2021.
  • Better delivery options. Delivery fees in today’s age are often a deal breaker. Shoppers want fast, free and to-their-door delivery – no exception.
  • Better customer support. Great customer service is now the expectation. Not looking after customers if they are not happy with a purchase may result in your brand never being considered again.
  • Local customer service. Consumers want to talk to local people in local call centres when they’re reaching out to businesses for help and assistance. This is especially important for those people who have recently moved to online purchasing. Local support increases their confidence in the capability and ethics of companies and works towards building brand preference.

Lyndall Spooner is the founder and director of Fifth Dimension Consulting.


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