Expecting shoppers to sustain pandemic-driven behavioral changes, brands and retailers are building up their e-commerce strategies
Celebrating in the Time of COVID-19
As shoppers settle into a new normal and state governments start easing social restrictions, brands and retailers that had slowed promotional spending or directed it almost entirely to cause programs are now considering new marketing tactics based on rapidly changing realities.
“I think that everyone is focused on trying to understand how shoppers are going to behave as they prepare for re-entry,” says Sarah Cunningham, chief growth officer at TPN. “We’re working with our brand and retailer clients to create marketing plans that are not necessarily anchored on specific dates or quarters but on stages of the pandemic. I think the big questions right now are who’s going to come back and what does that look like?”
Retailers have started modifying their messaging for big events on the seasonal calendar. Easter, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day campaigns focused on celebrating at home by promoting brands used for cooking meals or making crafts, and it’s very likely that marketing around the Fourth of July will continue that approach.
“People are definitely talking about Fourth of July, particularly brands [for which] summer is their busiest time of year,” Cunningham says. “A lot of them saw sales in March that were similar” to what they’d normally experienced during the summer holidays as consumers stocked up on various products. “Not knowing what the limitations will be on the Fourth of July and when people are going to be able to go out in public, they’re talking about how to help families have celebrations at home.”
Now that the initial panic buying of paper products, shelf stable foods and other essentials has subsided, shoppers are pivoting toward purchases that will help them have fun at home. Colorful chalk has become a popular way to share encouraging messages with the neighborhood, while backyard pools and floats have become an alternative to a trip to the beach or public pool.
Brands like Hershey’s that typically have been driven by impulse purchases are positioning themselves as a way to provide happiness at a time when those things are in short supply, according to Cunningham. Helping families create moments at home to spend time together or hold small celebrations is a sound strategy. “It’s talking about that, giving them solutions and ideas,” she says. “A lot of brands have done really well reminding families about different ways they can use products to create moments of joy or positive experiences during a very troubling time.”