Consumer Public Relations Trends: Consumer PR in 2020

With some states loosening up COVID-19 restrictions, what lies ahead for merchants and marketers? What changes, if any, in strategy, services, and technology do they need to employ?

Earlier studies revealed that many consumers who began relying on digital platforms for searching and shopping when the pandemic was declared intend to do so after it’s over. Forrester Analytics decided to dig deeper into consumer attitudes in a May survey of nearly 1,100 adults in both the U.S. and Canada. Here are some highlights and suggestions.

In-Store Shopping

Many consumers are still wary of going out to shop with 39% citing stores opening too soon, and 38% saying many merchants weren’t taking enough precautions. As a result, only half said they would return to stores even after they were satisfied that it was safe, sanitized and where both shoppers and employees were required to wear facial masks. Another 42% said they wouldn’t return even after stay-at-home orders were lifted.

Two things did change for consumers who did return to stores. On average, overall purchases were 16% higher, but the number of transactions dropped 6%, suggesting that while consumers bought more, they made fewer visits.

Nonessential Spending

Walgreens told Forrester that spending for nonessentials was lower in May, continuing a trend the analytics firm found in its April survey. That poll reported that 56% of respondents had cut all sending except for essentials.

Online Spending

Forrester reported that its latest survey showed the popularity of online purchases remaining high. Of those polled, 84% reported spending as much or more in May as they did a month earlier. Walmart saw a 74% increase. Merchants that expand and increase their omnichannel channel programs may see greater online success.

The future of same-day delivery, however, is questionable. Only 23% said they intend to continue once the pandemic is over. Curbside pick-up, however, is up in the air. While Best Buy retained 81% of 2019 sales by employing this, Forrester found mixed results, as 37% of online shoppers said they would rather go into the store, while 33% opted for curbside, in-store pick-up, or delivery.

When it comes to groceries, the potential looks promising. A month after the pandemic was declared, 21% said they purchased groceries online for the first time. In earlier surveys, shoppers cited selecting their own fresh groceries as the main reason for shopping in person. For marketers, the challenge going forward is around generations and delivery charges. According to Forrester, only 14% of Boomers are willing to pay for the delivery of grocery items compared to 40% of millennials.

Contactless Payment

Consumer interest in contactless payment appears to be increasing slowly. Forrester’s April survey found that 19% used it to avoid touching screens. In May, 12% reported using their phones and 10% of their credit cards for the first time ever to avoid contact.

Recommendations:

Monitor consumer interest in contactless payment usage and demand and adapt, where necessary. Continue and elevate, if possible, the quality of curbside service. Look for ways to make the brand’s e-commerce and digital platforms problem-free and even easier to use. Pioneer shoppable video and other new tactics to keep the line of communication strong with customers. Continue gathering customer data and consider expanding drop-ship assortments.