4 Ways 2020 is Shaping Consumer Trends in 2021

02.16.2021 Alyson Phillips

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Hardly anyone would try to argue that 2020 was just a typical calendar year. But the disruption experienced during the last year has created ripple effects that are carrying forward into the future.

As we move through 2021, it’s clear the change we all experienced in 2020 has created lasting effects on the consumer landscape. For marketers and advertisers, these changes are important to consider when building campaigns and strategies to engage audiences and generate ROI for your business.

Here’s a look at four big ways the aftershocks of 2020 are dictating consumer trends in 2021—and possibly beyond.

1. Local is important—but not in the way you think.

As the pandemic forced a nationwide shutdown of businesses and industries, consumers in many markets shifted their spending habits to support local businesses over large national chains. Forty-three percent of those consumers say they’re still more likely to buy local than they were during the pandemic.

That’s a strong trend in support of small businesses, but it isn’t consistent across every market. In your specific business location, local business support may vary. Regardless of the level of support you may experience, though, you can still leverage the power of “buy local” customer efforts by reconsidering where that “local” audience is now coming from.

Some of this local targeting may be shaped by how the landscape of your local audience has changed. For businesses that typically cater to consumers working in tall downtown office buildings, for example, your “local” market may look very different from now until the end of the pandemic’s work restrictions. With 53 percent of our own survey respondents still working from home at least part-time, some of your traditional audience may still be absent from your vicinity—which means you may need to target different consumers, and/or different selling and service windows, to accommodate these changing trends.

In addition, supplemental services such as increased delivery, curbside pick-up and quick-ship options can be used to retain customers who might otherwise lose touch with your business due to changed commuting and travel patterns, or a mere lack of visibility of your business. The more you can close that physical gap, the more capable you will be at retaining and even growing your current customer base.

2. Working from home is here to stay—and it’s going to reshape everything.

Work-from-home arrangements aren’t just changing their work arrangements for the short term. At least 41 percent of consumers say they plan to continue working from home at least 50 percent of the time after the pandemic. While this trend can also vary from one market to the next, it’s clear that working-age consumers have discovered a strong inclination for work-from-home arrangements—at least for part of their work week.

Employers continue to develop new solutions and strategies that support remote work, from virtual happy hours to employee morale boosters such as flexible work schedules. This will have implications for a wide range of industries, from transportation to tourism: with more flexible work opportunities, consumer trends around vacations and other consumer travel will continue to change. Changing seasonal travel trends, demand for long weekend vacation destinations, and more.

3. That honey-do list from 2020 may be light on projects.

With the pandemic raging and in-home services hard to safely set up, consumers embraced DIY projects on a level never seen before. Then, as businesses started to open back up, many consumers used the money saved on travel and other expenses, and put those funds toward long-delayed home repairs and renovations.

Now that 2021 has arrived, many of those home projects are taken care of—and consumers don’t have plans to find new projects to spend their money on. Only 42 percent of consumers say they’re likely to spend money on home services, matching the levels seen in 2019.

As a result, home services businesses may need to think up creative campaigns and incentives to increase consumer purchasing within the home services industry.

4. Consumer demand for DTC services is only going to increase.

During the pandemic, direct-to-consumer brands were able to connect with customers and maintain revenue thanks to subscription selling models and direct sales supported by a relatively stable shipping supply chain. As consumers have increased their awareness of both the convenience and cost-efficiency of these services, they’re expected to continue looking for retail shopping options that forego traditional models in favor of direct sales.

Even as businesses return to normal operations, local companies that can compete with the benefits of DTC competitors—through automated reordering, home delivery, same-day delivery and other friction-free services—may have an easier time building up their customer base and leveraging this trend to strengthen their local brand.

As consumer trends evolve, forward-thinking businesses should develop ad messaging and campaigns that speak to these emerging interests. Contact us today to see how a digital ad partner can help you stay ahead of the curve.

About the Author

Alyson Phillips

Alyson is the Director of Marketing at Cox Media’s corporate offices in Atlanta. With a background in journalism and over a decade of experience in brand marketing, she has a passion for connecting brands to their customers through powerful storytelling. In her role, she’s responsible for amplifying the Cox Media brand in the communities we serve nationwide – whether through advertising, thought leadership, or the customer experience. When she’s not working, she’s chasing around her twin toddlers and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

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