Delta Variant Leads to Shift in Consumer Behavior — Marketers Respond

With Covid-19 Delta variant cases on the rise, social distancing and sanitation have once again become top priorities for consumers. According to new data by Avionos, consumers are growing increasingly wary of shopping in physical stores due to the rise of the Delta variant. Among those consumers who shopped with a new brand during the pandemic, almost one-third cited safe in-store experiences as a top reason for choosing that brand.

Rather than seeing this latest shift in consumer sentiment as an obstacle, some marketers are using it as an opportunity to capture new audiences and engage more deeply with their existing customers.

“Now, more than ever, people are searching for a connection, and those brands that can inspire through storytelling will come out ahead,” says Avionos’ Mousumi Behari.

While promotions still reign supreme as a primary marketing strategy for retail brands this summer, Behari says brands should tread cautiously in the weeks ahead. There are growing concerns that the Delta variant may scare Americans into staying home, which would be incredibly damaging for retailers as we head into fall. 

Behari cautions that the pandemic is still a reality, and brand marketers need to demonstrate a certain amount of empathy for what people are going through. Behari says this is not the time to pull back on convenient shopping options and easy return policies, which many brands put into place during the early days of the pandemic last year.

“[One] thing we have seen in the last year is an emphasis on socially conscious marketing,” Behari says. “The only thing I would caution here is to be authentic and to get it right; otherwise, the wrong messaging could be very damaging.”

Growing Concerns

Although consumer spending has held steady amidst the Delta variant surge so far, cracks are beginning to emerge. While the hard data doesn’t indicate that consumers are pulling back on spending at physical storefronts just yet, at least one survey suggests that concerns are growing. According to Civic Science, the percentage of consumers who say they are not concerned about being in public spaces has fallen from 50% to 41% in recent weeks. Los Angeles County has already implemented a new mask mandate for indoor activities, and other areas are likely to follow.

“I’ve seen large retailers like Target and Walmart revert to having all their employees wear masks,” Behari says. “Retailers such as The Home Depot now have checkout kiosks with plexiglass barriers for protection, and others are encouraging customers to use the self-checkout to lessen contact.”

With more consumers citing safe in-store experiences as one of their biggest concerns, and 77% of shoppers now saying they’ve come to trust certain brands more due to their actions during the pandemic, Behari sees an opportunity for marketers to stand out with distinctive campaign strategies. 

Live streaming events, for example, have worked especially well for independent brands, as well as Amazon. Behari says the success of this approach can largely be attributed to the fact that people are still at home more now than before the Covid-19 pandemic, and they have the free time to tune in. If the rising Delta variant pushes even more consumers into staying at home, then approaches like this will become even more valuable for online and offline brands.

“Social media is also growing as a viable e-commerce channel as evidenced by TikTok integrating with Shopify to offer brands a method to monetize the platform. This is a classic ‘meet the customer where they are’ play,” Behari says. “All of these digital channels will help Covid-19 safety strategies as they lessen contact while still remaining easy and convenient.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Tags: