With changing customer needs over the past 12 months, it’s been difficult to predict buying behaviours, with most product categories experiencing both huge spikes and drop-offs in demand. The most important thing though, is that consumers are still buying.
When it comes to planning ahead as best you can, retailers must first understand exactly what it is that motivates purchases in times of difficulty. These fall into 3 categories; Protect, Connect and Distract.
The most important concern for the majority of consumers right now is the protection of themselves, their loved ones and their communities.
This protect instinct has, of course, driven sales in food and household essentials, but also anything health and fitness-related such as vitamins and exercise equipment.
Protect mode also drives a desire to ‘cocoon’; seeing consumers make purchases that help them create home environments that create a sense of calm, cosiness and reassurance.
Connect has multiple facets, one being a surge in items that allow people to connect to others such as computers, phones, tablets and televisions—as well as the items that facilitate them, such as desks and stands.
It also is seen in the rapid growth in gifting. In a time when people can’t drop in on their loved ones for a cup of tea or glass of wine, customers are looking to stay connected in other ways, with a huge increase in gifting.
Businesses that can send items directly to the recipient with a note or gift wrapping will appear most attractive to customers.
Whether it’s for themselves or their kids, more customers than ever are on the hunt for activity-based purchases. What’s more, people are expected to maintain these hobbies, catering to a need for mindfulness and a sense of achievement.
According to Google, searches for craft kits were up 200% throughout lockdown periods and purchases of educational materials for kids, such as flashcards and art prints, also surged.
Higher priced items such as gaming consoles, ping pong tables, kids play equipment and trampolines are selling well as people look to equip their homes with entertaining and engaging pieces.
Why do you need to know?
You may or may not be able to change the actual products that you sell, but you can adjust your messaging. Be mindful of why people are currently looking to buy and position your products accordingly.
If you can’t pivot your actual product, you may be able to reposition how it’s sold. For example, brands that typically hand-make products could sell the materials in instructional kits instead.
As mentioned earlier, gifting is really important at the moment, so if you can offer packages that are nicely wrapped with a gift note, why not update your home page to reflect that? Bear in mind that many people will be purchasing from you to send to another address, so make sure that process works seamlessly—can they tick an option to specify that it's a gift so the price isn't included on the packing slip?
Even with light at the end of the tunnel, this current climate can still feel scary and negative but bear in mind that people are still out there spending. If you can get into their mindset and help them with a product that they will benefit from right now, you will continue to sell.
This article has been adapted from a piece originally written by Catherine Erdly for our sister show, Top Drawer. With more than 19 year’s retail experience—working with businesses of all sizes, from high-street household names to brand new businesses—Catherine is an expert in retail business strategy and planning. For more information about her incredible services, please visit www.futureretail.world