Disrupted supply chains and buying local: adjusting your marketing strategy in the age of COVID

Mark Leadercramer asks marketers to consider some of the most prominent consumer trends to emerge from the COVID era. Is it time to adjust your strategy to keep up with new consumer behaviours and ensure future growth?

When COVID-19 hit – and with force – it made people reevaluate all of the daily choices they make. Decisions that impact our health and wellbeing, like what we eat and where we buy from, were suddenly front of mind. In the USA, 35 percent of consumers have recently been motivated to purchase nutrition products that support immune health. Because of health and safety reasons, supply chain issues and a shift in consumer mindset, people are assessing the way they eat and incorporating more plant-based proteins and milks made from ingredients like oats, rice and tofu into their diets.

New consumer mindsets mean that, as marketers, we must quickly adjust our strategies to move with the times and emerging attitudes.

For those behind the Australian Made campaign, however, it was an opportunity to remind consumers to support local businesses and manufacturers because global supply chains were interrupted. But it was a partnership with a global brand that helped the organisation amplify its message.

Australian Made teamed with eBay to create a dedicated ‘Australian Made on eBay’ hub that connected local businesses with Australian consumers in a way that benefited all parties. The customer could sidestep long shipping delays and businesses were introduced to many potential buyers who were ready to spend their money. It quickly became a win-win situation.

Local managing director of eBay Tim McKinnon says the number of certified Australian Made sellers on the platform increased by 35 percent during the past five months. He expects this number to continue to grow as even more Australians flex their entrepreneurial muscles, many with home-based businesses, to service the online shopping boom.

This collaboration and the results stemming from it indicate two important trends: since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of Australian home-based businesses has grown and online sales have increased dramatically.

Of course, these aren’t the only two things in our lives that have changed. COVID-19 has changed the way we eat, drink, work and socialise, as well as shop. But what is going to happen when we emerge from the pandemic? One thing that remains fairly certain is that many of the changes in behaviour we’ve adopted will become permanent.

For any business this raises important questions – ones you need to address now before competitors get the jump on you. Ask yourself if your marketing strategy, no doubt designed before the COVID-19 outbreak, is still relevant in this brave new world. What can you do to better communicate to customers who now view brands, products and even services in a totally different way? How are you going to retain your existing clients while adjusting your marketing strategies and tactics to grow your business?

Before you formulate your responses, take the time to reassess your main target audiences – they may well have changed in the past six months – what they think about your brand and what you want them to think about your brand. It is likely to be quite different to the answers you would have given in December last year before our lives were so rudely interrupted.

The successful Australian Made and eBay collaboration proves consumers now see the many advantages of purchasing locally produced goods, especially during times of national emergencies when global supply chains are disrupted. The move tapped into a growing interest in self-reliance for entrepreneurs and Australian-made products for consumers.

Chances are, now people have had gaps left by supply disruptions from overseas met by a producer who might live in the same city as them, they are unlikely to go back to the big, faceless chains or websites based elsewhere. As brand awareness grows for Australian businesses and they learn to capitalise on their uniqueness – it will help them financially push through the pandemic and into the rebuilding period that follows.

If they didn’t before COVID-19 hit, consumers now expect brands to take on more responsibility beyond merely providing a product. These days, millennials make up the largest group of consumers, but they are the ones who’ve been hit hardest through a number of global events. When the eldest of them were starting out in their careers they faced a recession, and now their lives have been disrupted by a worldwide pandemic. While most of them will tell you they want secure employment and to be able to own their own home, these goals are now out of reach for many in this age group. Still, they go on, starting families and facing new challenges in their careers and personal lives. Brands that support them will earn their loyalty, and this is perhaps the most important lesson marketers should take from this difficult time in history.

Mark Leadercramer is the general manager of Mintel South APAC.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash.