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Research: 5 insights into today’s recessionary consumer, and what retailers can learn

Since the start of 2020, global consumers have adapted to rapidly shifting circumstances. It won't be news to anyone that this has affected how, where and why consumers spend their - often harder to earn - cash.

But what's less clear is consumer sentiment right now, and how it's likely to adapt in the lead-up to the much-anticipated peak shopping period of 2020 and beyond.

To shed light on the evolving habits of consumers in the UK, Epsilon-Conversant ran a consumer survey with Retail Week, designed to give retail marketers greater insight on today’s consumers and how best to market to them.

Below, I’ve detailed a few of the key insights that jump out at me, but we've also created a series of one-page reports in collaboration with Retail Week, detailing the findings in more detail. Claim your copy of the first report here.

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Consumers want to hear about discounts and sales, not just products

Consumers are overwhelmingly looking for discounts and special offers right now.

While many are confident in their personal finances over the next year - 77% expect their level of discretionary spend to either stay the same or increase - consumers expect to be cautious in their spending. 86% of Christmas shoppers expect a low price to either influence them more or the same compared to Christmas 2019.

Of course, this is reflected in the content of messaging that consumers want to receive from brands. 46% of consumers want to receive messaging about discounts or special offers from retailers, while factual content - such as opening hours - is preferred by 17%. Messaging that contains wellbeing and positive thinking is preferred by 15% of consumers, while community focused updates was highlighted as a preference by just 10%.

Interestingly, product focused content, and messaging that looks ahead to upcoming stock is only preferred by 7% and 6% of consumers respectively. The takeaway is clear: you need a good reason - such as a sale - to contact consumers specifically about your products right now. To do otherwise will risk alienating them.

Not all marketing is equal: Measure both success and failure

Of course, there’ll be no surprises that perceived value is an important factor in consumer loyalty, with 52% admitting bad value discourages them from being loyal to retailers, and 55% saying they’re put off by poor quality products.

What may be surprising to some retail marketers is that repetitive or irrelevant adverts that follow consumers around the internet are almost as influential in discouraging purchases - 47% of consumers in our survey cite this as a factor that stops them from being loyal to a retailer.

Similarly, too frequent communications is blamed by 41% of consumers as a factor that stops them from shopping with a retailer.

It’s now more important than ever to ensure your marketing contributes to overall profit, and that means properly measuring the outcome of your marketing. Gauging success via last click attribution will never show the negative outcomes that some marketing activity can have on consumers, actively dissuading them from purchasing from you.

Measuring according to the incremental return each activity brings your business is key to unearthing the true value – positive or negative – that marketing activities create.

Understand the recipient of your marketing

Every consumer is different, and events so far in 2020 have certainly highlighted that. We asked consumers how frequently they were prepared to receive emails from retailers before it annoyed them: just 17% were prepared to receive emails daily. 44% were happy to receive retailer emails weekly, while 19% said that once a month was the right amount.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is the need to truly understand who it is that you’re messaging. One consumer might have an affinity with your brand and the capacity to read daily emails from you, but that same cadence of messaging risks annoying 83% of consumers. Adapting your messaging - whether it’s advertising, email, SMS, or more likely a combination of channels - to the person receiving them is vital to ensure your marketing has a net-positive impact on your business’ bottom line.

Relevance in loyalty is key to cut-through

Many retailers - Lidl and Marks & Spencer being great examples - are doubling-down on customer loyalty right now by either launching new, or re-thinking existing loyalty schemes. But consider the consumer - loyalty programmes require input from the consumer, whether that’s remembering to carry a membership card, collecting rewards, or an uptick in communications from a brand.

On average, the number of retailer loyalty programmes that our consumers reported being a member of was 3.4. Yet the average number that they participate in each month was just 2.8.

To cut-through and ensure your loyalty programme positively impacts consumer loyalty with your brand - to make sure your programme is one of the 2.8 loyalty programmes that consumers actually use - it’s essential that you use what you already know about your consumers to inform your programme. The relevancy of your loyalty activities is key to ensure uptake among your most loyal consumers.

Consumers definitely want their retail experiences personalised

There’s a clear understanding amongst two-thirds of consumers that in order to have a more relevant and beneficial experience with a retailer, they need to provide information about themselves. 68% of consumers report that they are happy to provide personal information in order to receive a more tailored shopping experience.

Digital personalised experiences can be both on-site and off-site - from email messaging and advertising, through to up-sells and product recommendations at checkout. Retailers that see the most success from personalisation lessen consumer friction by increasing relevancy for each individual consumer - that’s win-win for both consumers and retailers, especially during recessionary times.

As mentioned, we've also created a series of one-page reports in collaboration with Retail Week, detailing the findings in more detail. Claim your copy of the first report here.

Claim your copy