Marketing

New customer sets shaped by the pandemic

Harish Bhat | Updated on September 19, 2021

Covid-19 has led to the emergence of different consumer segments. Marketers should take note

It is now nearly a year-and-a-half since the Covid-19 pandemic burst into our lives.

Many of us have now learnt to navigate reasonably well through the uncertainty, though we know that there is a long haul ahead. The pandemic has also dramatically transformed consumer behaviour, and in particular, shopping habits. This has resulted in the emergence of new consumer segments, which are very different from each other, and therefore require differing marketing approaches.

The Avengers

This is a large segment of upper-middle class and affluent Indians who feel they have lost out on many of the good things in life, over the past 18 months, because of various Covid-19 related restrictions on travel, sports and entertainment.

Now fully vaccinated, they are determined to make up for lost time, and have begun travelling and shopping with a new vengeance. Terms such as “revenge shopping” are now part of our vocabulary.

Marketers can leverage this customer emotion in many interesting ways, including highlighting the good life, and the urgency of taking back control of your life.

Lonely Elders

For elderly people across India, the pandemic has led to a sense of loneliness, and utter dependence on others, because they themselves cannot venture out easily.

This is particularly true of elderly men and women who live by themselves, perhaps having lost their life partners.

Marketers can usefully serve this new need, through establishing support systems that are relevant to their respective categories --- such as convenient home deliveries of essential food, groceries and medicines, easy online banking, and engaging these consumers in a meaningful manner that can help alleviate their loneliness and isolation. As a specific example, marketers of home appliances can offer special help lines to senior citizens, for quick after-sales service, at a reasonable cost.

Home alone

A big segment of consumers has become ultra-cautious during the pandemic, because they do not wish to fall victim to Covid-19.

They venture out of their homes very rarely, and do so only if essential – totally unlike the Avengers.

Their homes alone are now their workplace, entertainment station, fine dining location, gymnasium, living space, all rolled into one. Going out makes them anxious. For this segment of people, marketers have the opportunity to provide unique products and services to make the home even more convenient and liveable.

And, of course, to enable easy online shopping and quick home deliveries. In addition, retailers can consistently communicate the high safety standards that have been implemented in their stores, to alleviate any anxiety of shopping.

A beautiful mind (and body)

For so many of our colleagues and friends, safeguarding our body and mind during this challenging time has taken top priority. Health and wellness in everything we do - ranging from the kind of immunity building foods we eat to, the meditative yoga or balcony gardening we engage in, the books we read, and the vitamin supplements we gulp down.

This segment of customers are also likely to gravitate to the most trusted brands of foods, beverages, and supplements, because they believe they just cannot afford to take a risk with their health in these challenging times.

Not a penny more

A vast segment of middle-class and less affluent Indians have been impacted significantly and adversely by the pandemic. These families have suffered loss of jobs or income, particularly in specific sectors of the economy which have been badly hit by the constraints of the pandemic. In many cases, their savings have been depleted. Therefore, in most of their purchase decisions over the next year, affordability will be the key. They are also likely to choose the brands which, in their view, offer empathy and a genuine understanding of their circumstances. To succeed with this customer segment, marketers will need to provide more affordable products and be sensitive to their emotive needs.

The Beach Boys

This is a relatively small and elite segment, which has decided to work and live during the pandemic close to the beaches in Goa, or in hill stations in the Himalayas. Since they are living away from their primary residence, their needs – for instance, for temporary furnishing, long-term rental accommodation, comfort food, medical consultation facilities in a relatively new city, occasional flights or train journeys back home, even storage spaces for their goods in the cities they have temporarily left - all create a unique new market for many product and service categories.

These are just a few examples of new pandemic-induced consumer segments. Marketers can evolve their own list of specific segments which are most relevant to their product categories, and decide whether and how to serve each of them. Here is a good way to spot and leverage new opportunities, while also serving consumers well.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.

Published on September 19, 2021

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