Preparing for 2021’s emerging consumer behaviour on social media and engagement trends

In this particularly dynamic year, we have seen several key behaviour trends appear over 2020. Businesses need to prioritise building bonds with their employee and customer communities as a response.

There has been a dramatic shift in how people have had to live in the last few months. As a result, what consumers expect and need from businesses that serve them has changed.

Many cities have suffered a hollowing out, as office workers work from home. While city and town centre retailers have struggled, this has led to stronger sales for local neighbourhood businesses. One consequence is that people have focused on nesting, with a drive in DIY and homeware sales. This focus on eCommerce purchases was across almost all sectors, resulting in online sales being higher than any of the Balck Friday or Christmas records.

The other is that consumers have developed a community mindset around their business patronage. Without office culture to lean on for the bulk of daily socialising, getting to know our neighbours in the coffee shop queue has become an important daily need for many. Customers are more likely to shop local, but are also expecting more from the businesses they choose to use.

As these two trends converge, we can see an opportunity appear; being able to serve both a local marketplace with a keen desire to (re)build social routines, as well as access to a growing segment of online shoppers.

So, what should businesses focus on, if they want to ensure their competitivity?

Digital availability is critical

Some businesses didn’t see eCommerce as a critical part of their business plan prior to the Covid19 pandemic. But lockdowns cripple onsite purchases, and if there is no other means or ordering, sales are effectively blocked. Reviewing or implementing digital storefronts should be a priority to ensure consumers can access your products; whether in lockdown, isolation, or simply because of this shift to minimising time spend in shops, not having an eCommerce outlet is no longer an option.

Effective social media communications

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there was growth in the number of people using social media globally this year – 9.2%, with 3.8 billion active users and a projection of 4.41 billion by 2025, according to Statista.

With a couple of months to go till 2021, it’s a suitable time to review how well your social media program is helping to achieve business goal. Running or commissioning an audit on target persona alignment and resonance of your content programming is a wise activity, given how much consumer behaviour and priorities have changed.

Ethical and societal considerations

With socially conscious movements such as Black Lives Matter, Mutual Aid and a growing sense of ecological responsibility, today’s consumer is far more concerned about who they are buying from.

Focusing on transparency and reviewing business practices will help answer these questions. Due to the increased use of social media, there will likely be more customer service questions. The ones that can be trickier to answer are those on these topics, so having a position prepared will be helpful.

Community first and foremost

With all this in mind, the principal change is the increase in expectation by consumers in terms of how a business fits in with their life. Companies that consider their clients and employees as part of a community, and treat them as such, as likely to benefit. This is because people have far more concern for choosing the right business, and with the increase in social media content, have greater access to reviews and recommendations.

They are also better integrated into digital networks that span greater reach than they previously would have had; the effect of their loyal advocacy can be far more impactful.

Companies must think in terms of building a sustainable community around them, seeing the link between providing a sustainable and supportive employee experience, a proposition or product that aligns with consumer expectations and concerns, and an experience that straddles the need that brought a consumer to you, but also the secondary needs you can serve such as education, connection and growth.

Consumers expect more from businesses than they use to; for them to be a positive part of their lives, accessible when and how they need them to be, and aligned with their personal beliefs.

Successful companies will be those who can build an engaged and loyal community around them, that includes those who want their products in their lives, those who support the company mission and want to work on it, and those who want to promote businesses with a people-first culture.

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