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Fear, control and existential crisis – How Covid 19 (and lockdown) has changed your consumer’s mindset, forever (and some practical tips on how you can adapt)

The Covid 19 crisis and associated lockdown may be seen as a global existential crisis. Governments and countries have restricted the freedom of movement of their citizens and many lockdown measures have introduced uncertainty and reduced control over many aspects of people’s lives.

Many have already experienced the severe economic effects firsthand and everyone is concerned about the future economic climate that lies in the wake of the pandemic. People are questioning whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value – and will be doing the same towards all of the brands that play a role in their lives.

Now, more than ever, brands need to consider the consumer phycology of their customers – those underlying cognitive processes that explain their choices and how they respond to the influence of marketing, as well as the external stimuli that convince people to purchase certain products and services. This crisis has reshaped the mindset of your customer base and you need to develop appropriate strategies to respond, adapt and survive in this new era of our global economy.

There is substantial evidence from the behavioural sciences literature which elucidates some of these mindset changes. Firstly, the crisis has dramatically increased levels of fear and anxiety, and fear can be one of the most powerful emotional and motivational forces behind human behavior. For example, customers who are fearful are more likely to stay with what they know and are less likely to take risks. This can paralyze your customer into inaction. This means that companies attempting to launch new products and services within certain categories, especially those that rely on trust, may find it difficult to penetrate the market.

ECOM TIP: Reduce fear and anxiety by shifting focus away from COVID19 topics to more positive themes across all communications platforms; Reduce purchase risk by offering free trials, discounts, flexible returns policies, etc.; Offer customer support; Provide opportunities for distraction and escapism, possibly through online gamification and uplifting branded content”

Secondly, customers are making purchase decisions based more on immediate needs and tend to prioritize the choice for goods and services that concern health, utility, survival and wellbeing over leisure, luxury or pleasure. Thirdly, lockdown has introduced scarcity effects, whereby customers often feel they simply cannot obtain certain goods and services. This results in the seemingly irrational purchasing behaviors of your customers- such as panic buying.

ECOM TIP: Provide reassurance by displaying the quantities of stock/inventory available; Limit order quantities to reasonable levels; Promote substitutes for high demand items; Educate customers about what quantities they actually need vs. what they think they need”

Lastly, due to the various lockdown measures, there is less control over many aspects of people’s lives. When customers experience a loss of control, there is an increased sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Predictability in choice and expectations become anchors when many other important areas of a person’s life remain inconsistent. It therefore becomes important for brands to remain consistent in their actions, as perceived changes in brand behaviour may have negative consequences.

ECOM TIPGive you customers control by allowing them to make their own decisions – ie. which delivery mechanism they would like to use, how they would like to pay etc. Note: it’s not about offering more choice – it’s about providing perceived control over the process; Provide order tracking and delivery status notifications to manage expectations; Pre-warn customers about upcoming product/service changes well in advance; DON’T try to rebrand or re-position your established offerings in the short-term

The long-term consequences of all of this, is that customers will be re-evaluating the utility and value that is provided by brands. This will also extend to how their products and services reduce fear and anxiety and provide them with a sense of control. They may also be more focused on meeting immediate needs, have entrenched scarcity concerns and be less open to taking risks. All of which will impact their future consumer behaviour and decision making.

Contact Us:

mark.drummond@neuralsense.co.za | 082 700 8979

If you’re in need of a partner to help you navigate these new challenges, feel free to reach out to Neural Sense.

We’re a neuromarketing company that elevates customer experiences through providing strategic consulting and cutting edge market research services (including Website/App UX Testing for eCommerce platforms).

We’re experts in the application of consumer psychology, behavioural economics and consumer neuroscience to increase the effectiveness of your marketing, advertising and sales strategies.

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