Life as we know it has changed and whilst many of our regular freedoms have been restricted, there have been cultural shifts in society that may be to our benefit.
The concept of mindfulness has rapidly grown in the consumer psyche but we now find ourselves in a position where mindfulness has been thrust upon us. We can’t travel around the world like we used to, we have to book tables at pubs and restaurants as opposed to simply walking in, we must be conscious about who we see and when we see them.
This leads me to ask the question; have consumers shifted from want to need, and how does this benefit businesses?
To answer this, I took a look at my own lockdown spending habits and came to some pretty interesting conclusions…
Whilst working from home has been great for many reasons, the drop-off in high quality coffee was deeply felt. This was one step forward for my wallet but three steps back for productive mornings. Cut-off from the office coffee machine I’d eyed up a couple of bags of ground coffee in the supermarket but decided to opt for getting coffee delivered from my favourite cafes in the city centre. This was the more expensive option, but as the scale of the virus became apparent it felt more important to invest in the businesses that had earned brand loyalty. As lockdown has reduced, I have changed which cafe I would get my coffee from in an effort to spread my spending across all my favourite places.
All of the cafes I have supported have been mindful of their existing customer base, of the brand loyalty that we hold for them. The manner in which the employees conduct themselves, the products and services they offer and simply the vibe of the business itself has encouraged me to find a way to stick with them. All those occasions on which they have let people sit at their tables a little too long after they’ve had their brunch is now paying dividends.
We have too many whilst having nothing to wear at the same time. I am guilty of buying items ‘that will do for now’, function over fashion, as opposed to saving a bit of money to spend on something I’d really like.
When life was moving quickly our purchases were based on convenience as opposed to quality. Going against my previous habits I decided to buy a set of 501’s from Levi’s. I’d saved a bit of Money during lockdown and this seemed like a good investment. And it certainly was. I did my research, worked out which style was which and looked at them for so long in the changing rooms that I accidentally left my phone in the pocket and had to run back mid-purchase to retrieve it. What was more, the staff on the shop floor were really helpful – less customers in the shop made for a better, calmer shopping experience.
The 501’s are one of Levi’s most enduring products and having made the investment in them I am conscious of looking after them in a way that I might not with cheaper products.
3. Subscriptions & Wholesale
Around the middle of the lockdown, I was hit with an ad that appealed to me. Clearly informed by the shift in consumer spending , Minor Figures (a speciality coffee company that makes oak milk and other delicious things) had adopted a subscription model allowing customers to buy directly from them with a modest discount. It wasn’t the most radical of cost savings but after splitting the bill with a house mate and buying in bulk, we wound up with a cupboard full of the stuff.
I went for this product largely because it’s such good quality. The minimal, elegant graphic design on the carton also appealed to me. It was also the right ad, in the right place, at the right time; a sponsored Instagram story a few days after pay day.
Another offer that came via social media was for Huel (a nutrient rich food replacement product). This was at the start of the lockdown and perhaps a panic purchase off the back of people stockpiling food. I’d tried it in the past and was generally okay with it as a product. I’d seen a volley of ads a few months earlier suggesting there was a new formula, that it was ‘new and improved.’
What got me back into it was that a friend made me a shake from this new and improved batch and I realised that Huel wasn’t lying – it really was way better and shifted me from being generally okay with the product to ‘I’m almost definitely going to buy this.’
A favourite book of mine, Simon Sinek’s ,’Start with Why’, explores the basic premise that businesses that have ‘what we sell’ and ‘why we do it’ in harmony will create sustainable business models built on brand loyalty. Both Minor Figures and Huel have their why’s and what’s in harmony, setting them apart from their competition.
With the vast majority of the planet in lockdown, why your products and services should be the ones chosen is in far greater focus.
4. Brushing Up
We tend to spend our lives rushing around and learning things as and when we are required to do so. But now with so much time on our hands and a couple of months of Netflix asking if we are still there, a little study time can go a long way to helping us feel motivated.
Skillshare is priced at $100 a year (£76 at the time of writing) which eventually works out at a little over a fiver a month. The return on investment is thousands of hours of courses that come complete with resources, tasks you can download and try yourself, as well as forums and groups.
As many of us have nowhere to commute to and a radically reduced social circle etc, spending four to five hours a week brushing up on something or trying something totally new is a refreshing break to our potentially monotonous routines.
These were the first thing to go and will probably be the last thing to come back and whilst we have made the most of the intermittent sun in our gardens, I’m sure we could have all done with a ‘proper’ holiday, AKA, abroad.
Slowly but surely air bridges have opened, flights have embarked and although I would love to head somewhere further afield, the prospect of having to return suddenly because of quarantine lists leaves me looking for something closer to home.
Our country has so much to offer – Lakes, mountains, beaches (albeit on the pebbly side) forests and more, all steeped in rich history and culture. With that in mind, I’ve decided to set my sights on Snowdon and a trip down the North West coast of Wales this year. I’ve not been for about ten years, but it’s beautiful, familiar, and doesn’t pose the same level of risk as the Amalfi Coast.
We’re often told by CEO’s that their company’s number one priority is their customers, and truth be told, we’re not!
As we know, it all comes down to profitability and shareholders. However, this crisis has brought into question the base safety of a customer entering a shop, and as a result, the marketing we’ve seen to convince people that retail is safe is potentially the first marketing we’ve seen where the customer really is coming first.
Campaigns have shifted towards what customers need to engage with a brand as opposed to shouting about what the brand’s services and products are. It’s about how brands fit into our lives and meet our needs as opposed to aiming at wants.
Products and services are also not as readily available as they once were, and whilst shops are open again, the need to queue and restrictions within the shop itself makes you question your motive for buying. It’s in this moment of mindfulness where brand is king. I often feel brand is too grand a term for smaller businesses, of course it does apply but in my opinion it’s the personalities behind those smaller businesses that make me want to support them.
I whole heartedly believe that we have shifted from want to need. Whilst lockdown has been largely negative in many ways, it’s also been permeated with a sense of empathy and thoughtfulness. We need to feel like life will return to normal and collectively we want all the many moving parts of our society to stay intact so that when the day comes, we can pick up from where we left off.