Pandemic-Driven Consumer Trends That May Outlast the Pandemic

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Probably the top-of-mind question for the marketers I work with is, of all the many ways consumer behavior and attitudes have changed since March of 2020, which ones will still be with us when the pandemic is over? There are many ways to approach that question, depending on the sector you’re in, the timelines you’re working against and what your goals are. If you’re planning for the next 6 to 18 months, one key way to focus on the most durable consumer shifts is to to dive into Gartner’s annual Consumer and Cultural Top Trends. Each year, Gartner identifies the top trends happening with consumers and in the culture that are poised to impact the decisions marketers are going to be making in the year ahead. And what a consequential year 2021 is gearing up to be! A new administration in the White House will likely result in major shifts in how the pandemic and economic impacts are managed. Experts forecast an extremely difficult winter, but vaccines – which according to expert estimates could reach most of the general population by May or June – offer a glimmer of hope for the opportunity to return to “normal” some time in 2021. But what will that “normal” look like? Top Trends offers an early picture of what to expect. Over the next couple of weeks, Gartner will be publishing the Top Trends heading into 2021. I’ll be updating this post with live links (subscription required) as they are available. This year’s Top Trends include: Do the Hustle which surfaces and sizes the “side hustle,” an under-recognized and misunderstood aspect of US consumers’ lives and the consumer economy. By Gartner’s math, half of US adults have some kind of side gig or additional source of money on top of their primary income. And most people who have side hustles have them because their primary source of income doesn’t go far enough. Amplify Main Street to Boost Big Brands which provides a roadmap for major brands to develop stronger emotional connections with consumers by aligning with and supporting the businesses consumers trust most: Locally owned small businesses. Super-Secret Double Consumption which tracks the impacts of pandemic-era propriety on discretionary spending and social media behavior. Spoiler alert: Making flex-worthy purchases is in bad taste. Flexing on those purchases is even worse. Employee Activism: The Call Is Coming from Inside the House which delves into the connections between consumers’ brand perceptions and the actions of activist employees who hold their employers to account vis-à-vis the issues most important to them. My So-Called Hybrid Life which explores not just consumers’ embrace of digital for seemingly all aspects of life, but also the significance of that profound change. Because the shift isn’t simply to digital, it’s about a wholesale embrace of digital enhancement to in-person, real world experiences. And finally, Home Is Where Everything Is, a profound trend hiding in plain sight (because we’re all living it every day) which seeks to frame out the full meaning of the realignment of all of life into the home and away from public spaces. Taken individually, each of these trends highlights a specific aspect of the US consumer experience poised to impact decisions around channel, brand and messaging. As consumer experience and expectations rapidly evolve, marketer tactics must shift accordingly. Taken together, these trends tell a story of major cultural change in the wake of covid-19 that should inform any strategic planning for the year ahead.   If you’re interested in a more in-depth overview of the trends, I hope you’ll join me for a free webinar on the topic on Monday, December 14, 2020. Click here for more information and to register for the event.

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