ReimaginedIn the recent study ''Life Reimagined', the consulting firm Accenture examined which developments are increasingly influencing the purchasing decisions of consumers today and how companies should react to them to continue playing a role in their market in the future.

“Among the ‘reimagined’ consumers, 66% said they now expect brands to take more responsibility in motivating them to live by their values and to make them feel more relevant in the world, versus 16% of ‘traditional’ consumers”, Accenture revealed, looking at such a result not just as a pandemic effect, but as an inevitable long-term consequence of the shift to digital technologies informing and enabling purchases—accelerated by the pandemic.

“Consider how easily and quickly consumers can check prices on the internet and get a strong sense of the quality of an offering through recommendations and reviews. Multiple platforms such as Amazon and Google have built this process into the fabric of consumers’ lives. When the pandemic elevated digital shopping to daily necessities of life, the ability to immediately cross-reference price (comparison shop) and quality (ratings/reviews) impacted everyone and leveled most playing fields”, Accenture said, whose research revealed five distinct purchasing motivations that will gain in importance in the future when addressing customers, realizing that consumers’ main motivation for buying isn’t price and quality anymore but support for their reimagined values, rather the following:

1. Health and safety

Health and safety issues are becoming increasingly important for consumers—not just since Corona. However, people everywhere have become safety-obsessed since the pandemic: 63% of the ‘reimagine’ consumers think it’s crucial that companies/brands actively promote healthy practices, versus 32% of the traditional ones, and they want to be confident that every business will strive to be part of a health-oriented ecosystem that can overlay their lives. Companies should take this into account when addressing customers, especially since they are evaluated by third parties on their consumer health and safety policies and initiatives. Therefore, brands must consider current events and the changing emotional state of their customers in their communication—across all channels.

2. Service and personal care

It has never been easier to part company with a brand than it is today, and customers make use of it. When they feel they are not in good hands or when services that are now considered standard are missing. Pioneering brands with a top customer approach use the potential of data for targeted customer communication to meet their customers at many contact points with comprehensive services and an individualized approach. It is also of great importance to maintain the recognition value of a brand across all sales channels, which means the look and feel of a brand must always be the same—whether in-store, in images and videos, online advertising, print advertisements, or even posts on social media.

“More than half of the Reimagined say they would switch brands if a brand doesn’t create clear and easy options for contacting customer service or provide clear responses about service levels related to pandemic or economic/societal issues”, Accenture’s report revealed.

3. Ease and convenience

Customers value convenience and comfort—at every point in their customer journey. They now expect to be served exactly at the intersection where they are, regardless of whether they are in the digital or analog world. For example, they attach great importance to being able to be reached on an ad-hoc basis instead of waiting for minutes in the queue of a customer hotline.

Insights from Accenture’s focus groups revealed that, in-store, consumers seek the same prices and deals they would get online, as well as contactless payment, “click and collect” options, speedy home delivery, longer return windows and easier returns, and improved self-check-out methods. They also seek more, and easily available, background information on the products in front of them, including product reviews and source information; while online, consumers want the ease of purchasing on a device and picking up in-store. They expect better (virtual) services to help them “try on” or “test” products, better insight into product quality, more personalized, thorough, and faster service, and faster delivery.

4. Product origin

Sustainability was a hot topic among consumers even before the pandemic, but COVID raised this customer request to a new level and has developed into a real customer need. More and more often, consumers want to know exactly where the product or individual components come from. The slogan "For a Better Future" alone is no longer enough to satisfy them, instead they increasingly demand verifiable and more in-depth information. The packaging is useful to deliver important product information easily: e.g., printed QR codes, which lead to detailed information pages, are more credible and more productive than a new range of "green" labels that advertise the sustainability of the product and its origin. The purchasing chain should also be transparent for the customer and comprehensible at every touchpoint. Not to mention that manufacturers must be prepared for the fact that customers will soon place more value on greener supply chains, deal more with the ingredients, and that compliance with the human rights of all suppliers of a product will become more and more important to them. By using blockchain technologies, for example, seamless traceability could be achieved.

5. Trust and reputation

Trust as a currency—there is a risk of considerable loss of reputation and image damage due to false assumptions or rumors related to environmental and product scandals. The problem is that a real, concrete case with empirical evidence of misconduct is no longer necessary, which has greatly expanded the range of risks and made the effects on the business figures more unpredictable. Consumers have become more critical and are increasingly questioning whether their own values are still in line with the actions of their brand. They are ready to turn their back on their favorite brand much faster if, for example, there is a lack of transparency regarding equal opportunities, diversity, environmental protection or the protection of health. In case of doubt, they would even spend more money on a competing product if there were a greater harmony with their own interests. Companies should therefore always approach questions and needs of customers proactively so as not to jeopardize existing trust and reputation.

In summary, even before the pandemic, purchasing behavior had changed massively, but COVID and its consequences have reinforced and solidified this development: consumers are buying more and more online, aspects of sustainability are increasingly coming to the fore in purchasing decisions and, especially in online shopping, customer expectations are higher regarding the speed, convenience and simplicity of the buying and return processes. Hence, to drive growth, companies must reimagine their entire business to build new loyalty and revenue streams. This requires from retail, branded goods, and consumer goods manufacturers, dealing with a multitude of personas whose different needs and expectations must be met precisely to be able to keep them as satisfied customers.

Consumers are increasingly critical. They want to find out more about brands and the origin of products, attach great importance to health and safety aspects and give preference to manufacturers who are in harmony with their personal values and attitudes. They also value highly personalized services and easy communication at every point in their customer journey. Accordingly, the differentiation of brands today must go far beyond price and quality. If companies and brands keep these aspects in mind, they can change together with their target group and drive new value creation and growth.

By Daniela La Marca