The New Normal: Four customer trends that matter more than ever

new customer trends for 2020

Over the past week, more of us around the country, and globally, have entered and settled into the “shelter-at-home” routine, and heard a great deal about the need to adjust to the New Normal, personally, professionally, and socially. It goes without saying that the health and safety of our loved ones, colleagues, customers, and the community at-large should continue to be top-of-mind. Beyond that, however, the marketer and customer experience advocate in me also wonders how this New Normal may impact my clients and peers, the marketing and CX executives, and their approach to marketing and serving customers and prospects.

In response to my previous post, many of you agreed that now is the time to rethink, not retrench, direct communications to prospects and customers. And whether you are now working on communications to keep your customers informed, or auditing your automated email drip campaigns to update messaging and tone (which I highly recommend), the following four customer trends are worth paying attention to:

1. Empathy matters more than ever

Let’s face it. Everything about this New Normal is overwhelming. The magnitude of impact this has on our physical and mental health is unprecedented – from constant updates from government and health officials, uncertainty on things that should otherwise be simple and pedestrian in life, to dramatic swings in both financial markets and toilet paper inventory alike. Instead of avoiding the topic, marketing messages that convey empathy, understanding, and respect for the situation will go a long way in resonating with your current and future customers.

2. Consider self-care luxuries

Products or services can thrive by effectively communicating how they can help customers take better care of themselves (and their loved ones) through this time in lieu of conventional luxury purchases, like auto, and experiences, like travel and entertainment.

Economists coined this “The Lipstick Effect,” a theory stating that when facing an economic crisis, consumers will be more willing to buy less costly luxury goods (i.e. instead of buying expensive fur coats, for example, people will buy expensive lipstick). This theory was soundly proven during the last global financial crisis, as reported here by The New York Times in 2008. But this isn’t just limited to makeup. Think premium home exercise equipment, home hair coloring kits, audio/visual electronics upgrades, and premium/organic meal preparation kit subscriptions.

3. Focus on the home

For most families, the home has always been the focal point of everyday life. Under this New Normal, it is also your workplace, school, and sanctuary from the public health crisis just outside. As families adjust to vastly different uses of the home, they are also having to rethink the use of space, fixtures, furnishings, lighting, and even utilities like gas, electricity, and water. Messages that resonate may speak to:

• How to gain efficiency for the home (from connectivity to energy conservation)
• How to improve productivity in the home (from home improvement projects to prepackaged meal delivery)
• How to mitigate risks around the home, especially from unplanned expenses, (home security, insurance, appliance warranty, etc.)

4. Involve your customers in rebuilding the community

From monetary donations to opening up their services for free, businesses are stepping up and getting involved in the communities they serve. What I’ve found particularly effective is when a company also finds a way to bring their customers into this giving effort. For example, T-Mobile activated on its long-standing sponsorship of Feeding America last week by inviting customers to click on its featured “$1 donation” offer via the T-Mobile Tuesdays App, their existing “surprise & delight” platform for offers and promotional items.

To be clear, I am not here to debate the merits of Cause Marketing, nor am I suggesting that companies pitch in because they are looking for a marketing or sales angle to these efforts. That said, brands that focus on doing the right thing and can involve their customers along the way will see their efforts pay dividends in loyalty and advocacy.

Closing thoughts

In sum, marketers should assess the position of their brand and industry with respect to this New Normal and focus on the questions around what they should do differently, rather than quit communicating with prospects and customers altogether.

Vincent Cheung|March 25, 2020

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