By the time you read this blog, Christmas has officially bloomed into shopping malls and television advertisements. You may also have noticed an odd shift in the timing, as usually this tends to happen in the first week of October. This noticeable delay can, of course, be attributed to only one thing: the pandemic.
Business and marketers are at a loss of how to promote Holiday specials in a severely depressed economy continually under threat of yet another lockdown. This is not just pessimism speaking, we have already seen it happen in Europe. In cold reality, the economic benefit of the Christmas/Holiday season to every business is nearly incalculable. Many businesses survive the first few (usually quiet) months of a new year on the profit and good will made from the few weeks of Silly Season.
This begs the question, with all the challenges facing business in 2020, what to do?
Very early on in the pandemic, and especially the lockdowns, it was postulated that this experience, painful and traumatising though it was, may just be the greatest learning experience granted to business trundling along in the grooves of “what has always worked.” Now, what has always worked is not working so well because the environment in which it worked is no longer extant. We have already looked at the new sales funnel [Read more: Funnelling sales in the new digital era in which it is clear that the traditional way of luring potential consumers into a sale is not as predictable as it once was:
However, in the new interconnected world of digital technology and mobile devices, customer journeys no longer conform to the linear AIDA model. Research over the last two years, using third-party opt-in tracking panels, have found that customer journeys are now not only no longer linear nor conform to a funnel, they do not conform to any set pattern – and no two are alike.
Taking into account the necessary changes made to the traditional sales process created by pandemic shopping restrictions, more and more potential consumers were forced into the new sales funnel (perhaps as unprepared and unwilling as many businesses) to adopt the digital consumer experience. However, this is proving to be one genie one really cannot put back into the bottle. The natural progression of the development of the new sales funnel happened without external pressure but grew in influence because of it. The new model is already established as part of the dreaded “new normal.”
All this “newness” can be overwhelming. It implies drastic changes to systems, thinking, strategies and overall business practices. The pace is blistering and only seems to be speeding up.
At this point, we would like to invite you to a moment of pause. To take a breath. Because as much as all this is true, the most important question any businessperson or marketer should be asking is not “What will change in 10 years’ time?” but rather “What will be the same in 10 years’ time?”
And the answer, quite simply, is people. People will still be people tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade.
A business’ potential consumers, its market, are populated by people and people are all driven by the same basic, core needs. They want to maximize positive emotions, boost, and express their identities, grow social relationships, and achieve goals. These are core human needs and businesses and brands that help people to fulfil these needs – whatever the time of year or occasion – gains loyalty and advocacy. The pandemic may have shuffled the deck, but the needs in the game remain the same. Here are three fundamental truths about people that will never change:
People want to feel in control. They want to feel they have agency in what they achieve. In terms of people as consumers, consumers want the benefit of the ability to achieve their consumer goals efficiently and effectively. The pandemic and lockdowns have negatively influenced the consumers’ perception of control in their shopping journey. This is where online shopping plays a key role to engaging with your market base, and where plotting a consumer journey filled with intent is a vital key to success.
- Activating positive emotions
When thinking of Christmas, or any special occasion shopping strategy, activating positive emotions is practically a tenet – as it is a fundamental component of consumer psychology. People want to maximize good feelings and minimize bad ones. Businesses should engage and extend the positive emotion valence for as long as possible, keeping consumers energised, inspired, and excited either through limited-time offers, sales or the promise of extensive, after-sales support.
- Reinforcing personal and social identity and belonging
“People want to cultivate a strong personal identity. Personal identity in consumer psychology is about how a brand enhances consumers’ self-image, their pride, and their self-esteem,” according to social psychologist Erica Carranza, Ph.D., vice president of consumer psychology at Chadwick Martin Bailey.
Working with the personal identity of the consumer is about helping him or her to feel good about themselves. Social identity is about belonging to a group with whom they strongly identify. When a consumer’s personal and social identity is activated and reinforced through the engagement with and to the business or brand, the meeting of this basic need will cement a loyal, and perceived to be, reciprocal relationship.
These fundamental needs remain the same over all time, but the way in which people-as-consumers satisfy these needs can change. Businesses can provide new products, services, and options to consumers to meet those needs, such as can be seen by the rapid adoption of online shopping and delivery or kerbside pick-up in recent months.
During the pandemic Christmas and beyond, business should not only focus on activating energy to boost sales in the short run, but to also activate the calmer, emotionally reassuring emotions that consumers long for in times of upheaval. The paradox then, is the old one: creating excitement and energy in a way that enhances security, calmness, comfort, and security.
Giving people control, activating positive emotions, and reinforcing personal identity and belonging is the foundation on which to build a winning business strategy for any time or occasion, but it must at all times be agile enough to adapt quickly to the social and cultural context changes in which consumers find themselves.