In the holiday 2020 blog, we were six months into Covid and had the ability to analyze consumer behavior and make some educated guesses about what was next. We looked at it from three perspectives: Insecurity, Transition, & Recovery.
All of us experienced some level of personal & professional insecurity in the spring of 2020. This included health concerns, financial concerns, rising food prices, out of stocks on staple items like toilet paper & paper towels, less promotions at the grocery store and a focus on non-perishable items along with a huge growth in e-commerce. Many businesses closed due to government orders and some have never come back. Many of those businesses that have been lucky enough to survive have had to change something (or many things) in their business model.
We entered the transition phase in April 2021 in most areas of the country. Last year the “experts” thought this would happen when cases decreased, the economy bottomed out, food prices began to fall and we saw more promotions and a more stable supply chain, and consumers began to work through all of the items that were stockpiled over the past 12 months.
As I am writing this in early June, the economy is growing, people are spending, the stock market keeps rising, we are seeing prices go up on many items and we are still having supply chain issues primarily with things coming from Asia and Europe.
But, consumer confidence has returned and many people are spending money on everything from home improvements, to vacations and a return to on-premise dining and entertainment. And, as we all know, off-premise consumption increases during the summer with people heading to the beach or lakes.
It looks like we are close to the recovery phase and have begun to see some behaviors go back to the days of 2019. More frequent shopping trips, smaller baskets, increase in on-premise dining & socializing in larger public gatherings, fans in the stands at sporting events, students in the classrooms and no social distancing.
We are seeing few if any new cases/deaths and our optimism about the future has returned. The economy looks like it is in growth mode once again. As we approach the summer of 2021 and “The New Normal,” having current information on your best customers & potential new customers is more important than ever.
I am seeing less masks in public places, more people out and about and a collective sense of relief that the worst is past us. However, we are seeing wages rise quickly and a labor issue at retail and in food service establishments. In addition, if food costs continue to rise, many of us will have to reevaluate our pricing strategy. The key for everyone will be to understand their core customer and deliver what they want, when the want it and how they want it.
Whether you are an on-premise or off-premise retailer, you need to make sure that you understand this group of consumers and build your products, merchandising and marketing programs around how they live and act in the new normal.
It will positively impact your bottom line. And remember, marketing is a race with no finish line.
George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food Marketing which is the largest major at Saint Joseph’s University recently celebrated its 59th anniversary. George is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-660-2254.