Since the future is uncertain, the tendency to hoard for a tomorrow that is not known will give way to relishing here and now; Image: Shutterstock
Is 2022 the lull before the storm or after the storm? Nobody knows for sure. But depending on how consumers see the world ahead of them will decide how business folks react to them. Trends to be aware of and act upon are:
1) Believers and cynics
So much of our world has been shaken and so little is certain that marketers will have to learn to segment their consumers into those who hold steadily to a belief of how to navigate the world, and those who question everything—or in other words, believers and cynics. This fundamental difference will have to be kept in mind over all the other routine segmentations because how you communicate, what you offer as benefits, and how you engage with them will decide the success of your brand’s offerings.
2) Experience over accumulation
Since the future is uncertain, the tendency to hoard for a tomorrow that is not known will give way to relishing here and now. Brands that offer deeper and sooner gratification will prevail over those that take a longer and loopy view of consumer interest.
3) Products and services divide will blur
Or even vanish. Because brands will be expected to cover all aspects of consumer needs: from extended product experience to post-purchase experience, to even post-purchase counselling for future needs. Brands that do so will pull away since consumers will want to simplify things as far as possible to either keep their time free or deploy productively elsewhere. For example, insurance companies will have to collaborate with gyms, pharmacy chains, financial services or whatever else falls in their orbit if they want to stay competitive.
4) Luxury and affordability polarisation
With the economic squeeze that is inevitable, consumers will grow at the top and bottom end, leaving the middle somewhat stagnant. People who have money will continue to splurge because avenues for spending are less, and those who don’t will flock to very affordable brands. Being in either or both segments will benefit because the mainstream, in the middle, will be difficult as the middle class will have to restructure their wallet, leading to deferred spending.
5) Environmental issues will matter
Consumers are going to be far more receptive to brands that are active to make a difference in the domain of their environmental responsibility. However, the trouble is that any move in this direction by businesses comes at a cost because the technology for alternatives is expensive. Therefore, consumers may have to pay up more. Whether they will do so or not, time will tell, but brands will not have the luxury to be indifferent to this aspect, even if they are just starting in 2022. The generation shift of young consumers that happens in the next five years will decide the scale of this change.
6) Preventive versus curative
Experience with Covid-19 has proved the stupidity of waiting till the problem strikes. Consumers will have the mindset to look for problem avoidance. Brands that offer a promise of prevention will thrive for the larger audience, even more than those that are providing solutions. Brands that can resolve this anxiety of consumers in an empathetic way could have them cue up outside gratefully.
In short, it’s a year of transition. Brands and businesses will take off from here or start to wither. Watching consumers closely and walking with them, as always, will be the answer. Old and comfortable business practices must be challenged voluntarily before they become a reason for the decline. 2022 is the year of the agile and the alert.
Arvind Bhandari is the global business head of Wyeth Nutrition, Nestlé Enterprises SA – NESA. He is also the author of ‘Brandvantage – A 12-Week Master Plan for Brand Leadership and Beyond’.
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