Consultant’s Corner: Changing Customer Expectations

Q: As a small business owner, what can I anticipate about consumer behavior as restrictive orders across the country are lifted?

Previously, we discussed reevaluating and revising marketing plans. In doing so, questions may arise regarding a business’s target market, and how consumers’ spending habits may have been impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty. At GoSmallBiz we believe that health and safety—specifically cleanliness—and technology have been key ways for people to confront that uncertainty. Focusing on health and cleanliness is the answer to people’s primary concern and gives them a measure of control. Meanwhile, technology is a way that people can maintain some semblance of normalcy and continuity.

Looking at people through the consumer behavior perspective, that uncertainty is there too. Consumers are focusing on what they can control or how they can mitigate uncertainty, especially when it comes to spending money. Some people are attempting more DIY solutions rather than purchasing, as well as being more active in communicating with companies when they do purchase products or services as a way to clear up uncertainties during the transaction process.

Based on the patterns of activity that we’ve seen during the restrictive shelter-in-place period, consumers will likely fall into one of 4 categories now that restrictive orders are being eased.

  • First up are the Unfazed. These consumers don’t feel directly impacted by the pandemic, and will continue or resume the same spending patterns they had prior to the pandemic.
  • Second are the Fearful, consumers who will continue following self-imposed restrictive social distancing behavior. They will spend less on products and services they view as non-essential and stockpile what they believe are essentials.
  • Third, the Economic Savers. These are individuals or families who have been impacted financially by the pandemic and as a result will be spending less in general.
  • Finally, there’s the Change of Heart category. These are consumers who have reassessed the value they placed on particular products, services, or brands. They plan to continue spending money, but are likely to place less importance on brand and more on purpose and inherent value.

Small business owners should understand which type or types of consumers their business is most likely to appeal to and work to target those types through their marketing efforts.

Taylor Hughes

About Taylor Hughes

Taylor Hughes is a Small Business Consultant with GoSmallBiz.com and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Alabama. He has been part of the GoSmallBiz.com team since 2017. Taylor helped launch an outdoor recreation company near Yellowstone National Park, and has worked in logistics with John Deere.