As consumers move through the COVID-19 situation, brands have the opportunity to move beyond basic needs and communicate wants

Week by week, our experience with COVID-19 continues to evolve. When the pandemic first hit, our lives were turned upside down, and our chief concern was basic human safety, for ourselves and our families. That included accessing essential goods and services—food, medication, hygiene products, even banking—and doing so in the safest way possible.

Consumers and the business community adjusted, adapting their customer experience by adding services like curbside pickup and delivery. These enhancements have enabled consumers to get the products they need without compromising social distancing. And while at first these actions were nothing short of revolutionary, they now have come to be accepted as a matter of course—the way we need to do business for the foreseable future.

Now, as our worlds get a bit bigger again, and we go from survival mode to making the best of things, our basic needs are expanding. What were “emotional wants” a few weeks ago are becoming “functional must-haves”. We are evolving from “We NEED this” to “We DESERVE this”.

A perfect example of this is the recent surge in demand for hair dye. A month ago, being concerned about colouring your hair would have seemed downright frivolous. Now, as we’re settling into our new normal, we’re refocusing on our vanity.

This evolution presents a new opportunity for retailers that cater to these wants. It’s time for them to move beyond survival-focused communications (“In these challenging times…”) to messaging that, while still supportive, is a bit more indulgent (“We understand that you want to make the most of your time…”).

In this context, brands need to:

  • Remind consumers they’re there
  • Communicate how their products and services can improve life in lockdown
  • Specify the purchasing options for these products and services

For example, tech retailers should be emphasizing products and services—video games/consoles, home theatre systems, creative tools & software) that can keep boredom at bay in isolation.

Hardware stores will want to highlight achievable projects consumers can tackle at home to make their quarantine both more productive and their home more enjoyable, whether that means building a deck, planting a garden, or painting the kitchen.

General merchandisers might focus on how to help parents keep kids busy and active (and away from screens) in the backyard as the warm weather approaches.

It’s important to note that once again, as with all communications, timing is everything: A few weeks ago, the above suggestions would have seemed tone-deaf.

Now, they are absolutely appropriate, and consumers are ready for them—at least for the time being.