Video conferencing, at-home fitness courses and contactless delivery are some of the solutions that have salved some of the day-to-day disruption forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to slowdown the outbreak. But Fashion Snoops anticipates that some of these behaviors and sentiments will continue for the long term.
In a webinar Friday on “The Quarantine Consumer,” Fashion Snoops director of culture and insights Michelle Rotbart and culture editor Carrera Kurnik provided a closer look at how consumers are navigating social distancing, self-quarantining and their new work-from-home lifestyles.
“Right now, we’re all trying to find ways to maintain some semblance of life as we know it, but we know we’ll have to continue to modify our actions,” Rotbart said. “So, though we know this pandemic will eventually wane, we expect some of our behaviors and sentiments to stick around and really become the new norm.”
Consumers, she said, are reconsidering their commutes and travel, cooking more from home and integrating new kinds of technologies into their routines.
“New behavioral patterns will emerge as people reassess their old values, adopt a local mindset and favor more communal economic outlooks,” she said. With “business as usual” on pause, consumers are looking for a new generation of products that will support their new normal, and business will have time to reconsider their models, she explained.
From doing risk assessments on home deliveries, to connecting with friends via Zoom happy hours, here’s a look at the framework that is reshaping the consumer as the quarantined consumer.
Coping with anxiety
Awareness of mental health has been on the rise, but widespread fear and anxiety, coupled with loneliness that may come with social distancing, puts the topic front and center during this pandemic. And as a result, consumers are increasingly open to brands and products that can help bring a sense of calmness to their lives.
“We do see that people are taking this time to look inward and refocus and start to rebalance,” Kurnik said.
Skincare brands like Kiehl’s, she noted, are utilizing their ambassadors to connect with consumers via WeChat and other platforms to share DIY facials and other self-care rituals. Other companies are launching podcasts, Instagram live sessions and viral challenges all with the goal to stay connected.
Now, Kurnik added, is a good time for companies to “consider what solutions big or small can help create a sense of calm and ease and help consumers cope with anxiety.”
“In this zeitgeist of uncertainty cautious and untrusting buyers are spurring new market trends,” Rotbart said. The most common, she said, has been the “panic buying” of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, leading to substantial shortages, but further than that people are reconsidering the risks involved in package deliveries.
While the World Health Organization states that the “likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” studies show that the virus may persist on surfaces for up to several days.
Cautious consumers, Rotbart noted, want “additional reassurances to mitigate the perceived risk.”
As a result, companies that can deploy contactless delivery strategies can help quell consumers’ fears. The process, she said, can be as low-tech as delivery arrangements that minimize touch, to the roll out of autonomous delivery vehicles.
Consumers are living in a digital world. Meetings, workouts, classes—even some weddings, Kurnik said, are going digital.
“Working from home is really our new current reality, and social distancing and self-quarantine are creating this ideal environment for not only the homebody economy but for this rapid adoption of digital services,” she said. Netflix, Peloton and Zoom are among the companies, she noted, that are primed for the quarantine consumer landscape.
Brands, Rotbart said, should consider how they can not only help facilitate functional connections, but also provide tech support to teach people who have never used digital services with the new functions.
“All of this is really helping people regain a sense of normalcy and support during a strange time and really keeps us connected,” she said.
It’s no coincidence that random acts of kindness captured on video go viral on social media, and wholesome public figures like Mr. Rogers have reclaimed the spotlight in film. Fashion Snoops has been tracking “sentiments of goodness” for some time, which Kurnik said has stemmed from the bullying and toxicity of social media and news.
“In a world of intense partisan politics and environmental disaster, we predicted that people would come to value experiences that showcase the virtue of our species,” she said.
But the quarantined consumer may come out of this crisis with even more empathy.
“Governments, brands and citizens are all doing their best to help in this trying time,” Kurnik said. These actions, she added, are becoming a valuable new currency. From buying gift certificates from local restaurants to help keep them in business, to packing bag lunches for children, to fashion companies flipping their production to protective medical gear and hand sanitizer, the examples of goodwill during the outbreak are plenty.
“As we adjust to this new normal, we realize that a little empathy goes a long way and we appreciate those doing right things, for the sake of just doing good,” Kurnik said.