As late as August 2021, half of UK adults and more than half of adults in the US still feared that new variants of COVID-19 would arise.

A new Forrester report shows that consumer behaviours have been changed conclusively as new habits were formed during lockdown and long-term pandemic disruption. Today’s consumers are seeking comfort in the familiarity of their preferred brands.

Forrester also reports that expectations around online customer experience have undergone a significant shift, as concern about COVID-19 moves more of our lives online.

Looking for a sense of escape

As the world enters the third year of the pandemic, fears linger in consumers’ minds about both physical and financial health. Consequently, many are finding comfort in brands that deliver positive, ‘feel-good’ products or experiences, and offer them a sense of escape.

The result of this shift in sentiment is reflected in the types of products and services that are thriving during a period of overall economic downturn. Products that can be enjoyed at home, such as ready-made ‘comfort foods’ and spa kits, have done well.

Similarly, once people were able to leave their homes, spending on experiential self-care rose significantly as consumers sought to take care of their physical and mental well-being, and enjoy experiences with their closest friends and family once again.

Brand values matter more than ever

While pointing out that brand values have been important to consumers for some time now, Forrester also reports a similar shift in consumers’ attitude in this critical area. While big brands are expected to play a role in the fight against climate change, with some 60% of Fortune 500 companies having made an environmental commitment, consumer attitudes have hardened in this regard.

Increased cynicism and awareness of so-called ‘greenwashing’ has made some consumers very particular about the brands they trust in this area. Forrester segments these consumers as the ‘hyper-aware’ – and brands which take a genuine stand on environmental issues are set to benefit from that awareness.

In the coming months, the most successful brands will be those that leverage these new consumer sentiments, positioning themselves as environmental champions and anchoring themselves to products and experiences that make their customers feel good.

No distinction between online and offline lives

 Enforced time at home during lockdowns has meant that growing proportions of consumers’ lives are spent online. The most obvious is remote working – but everything from exercise to worship has moved online, at first by necessity and now by habit.

Forrester reports that consumers expect their trusted brands to have learned to deal with the new circumstances, and create winning products and online experiences accordingly. Indeed, there is increasingly no divide in consumer perceptions of their online and offline lives, with an unbroken and seamless interaction between the two being the norm.

Incentivise what consumers are already looking for

One activity that will never move entirely online is travel, and recent relaxations in COVID-19 measures have seen a surge in consumer desire to escape in that respect, too. Affluent consumers are prepared to pay for testing, administrative processes and any other security measures that are necessary if it allows them to travel.

Those consumers will take mobile devices with them in order to continue working or at least stay online, even while on holiday. Savvy firms, Forrester predicts, will offer incentives to this important demographic in an effort to harvest their data and enable the sale of ‘on-the-go’ products and experiences.

Consumers are pining for variety and mobility, and the possibility of staying digitally connected is shaping habits of ‘on-the-go’ productivity.

New behaviours will create new economies. Forrester concludes that stand-out brands will be agile enough to take advantage of them, however temporary they may be.

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