Despite our uniqueness at an individual level, humanity as a collective shares many similarities. We spend time with friends or family, ingest pop culture and collectively share the human experience. We understand that if our peers are stocking up on canned goods or buying the same brand of toothpaste, they’re likely doing so for good reason (with a few recent exceptions *cough, toilet paper*). This was made more clear than ever during the last year when we all fought through the global pandemic and were unified by our common experience. As marketers, it’s our job to understand the changes that the pandemic wrought so that we can anticipate consumer trends and do our jobs effectively. When the world gets back on its feet and finishes clearing out the COVID cobwebs, it would help you to be ahead of the curve and have an idea of what might come next.
Mintel is one of the world’s leading market intelligence agencies and they routinely survey and conduct studies on human behavior and cultural trends. Last year, they conducted a study titled Global Consumer Trends 2030, in which they attempted to develop a “living, growing prediction model that will adapt with the unforeseen.” The model names 7 trend drivers—
- Health Undefined
- Collective Empowerment
- Priority Shift
- Coming Together
- Virtual Lives
- Sustainable Spaces
- Digital Dilemmas
—that provide them with a loose roadmap for predicting consumer behavior, allow them to explain the reasoning behind the behavior and share how the future could shape those trends. Well, there hasn’t been anything more unforeseen in recent memory than COVID-19, and Mintel adjusted their trend drivers in their most recent Global Consumer Trends survey that shows that not only has consumer behavior changed but so has human behavior. Mintel also takes into account the changes that have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic like the subtle yet profound shifts in consumer thinking and responses from brands – and attempt to encapsulate the better future that consumers, globally, aspire to, and toward which brands can build their own strategic visions. As experts in what consumers want and why, Mintel is uniquely suited to predict the future of consumer behavior and what that means for brands; as experts in all things paper, we’re here to share how smart marketers can examine those trends and use print to turn them to their advantage.
The first of the 7 pillars is “Health Undefined.” Health, both mental and physical, is currently at the forefront of everyone’s mind and deserves its place at the top of the list. Mintel says that “As brands aim to set a new tone and new structures, an opportunity exists to return to a mindset where being active and taking mental breaks feels more like a curious adventure and playtime rather than hard work.”
Screen or Digital Fatigue is one of the most prevalent causes of mental stress at the moment. Zoom calls and Netflix have been the backbone of American society lately and consumers are growing more and more adept at tuning out online noise. Anything that motivates consumers to move away from the screen momentarily has the potential for great success. Consider a paper-based campaign that gradually moves your audience into an online journey.
Consumers around the world are making sure their voices are heard loud and clear in the push for equity, agency, and rights. The advent of the Black Lives Matter movement and showcases how people are clamoring for positive change, both in society and to protect the planet for future generations. Mintel notes that “there is an opportunity for brands to take a lead in addressing these issues, and they may risk being seen as a hindrance if they fail to do so.” There is value in diversity—don’t just have a goal of returning to form post-pandemic, identify how you can improve upon your previous systems. Put new faces in the forefront of your business, speak up for what matters and mold yourself into a 2021 business.
Consumers are seeking a return to the essentials, with a focus on flexible possessions and a reframing of what ownership actually means—your audience doesn’t just want affordability and convenience, they also need protection, and durability of goods. Keep in mind that your co-workers or employees are part of this shift.
Acknowledging that we need community and mutual support
Consumers are coming together in like-minded communities to connect with and support each other, driven by the impact of the global pandemic. “A widespread understanding that community and belonging are critical to combat loneliness is pushing many to create like-minded communities themselves, whether in their surrounding areas or online”
During the last year, our digital presences were used to work, maintain relationships and receive news from the outside world. Now, many people are seeking digital experiences that move away from work and instead help us relax, socialize, learn and create. Digital footprints grew exponentially during the pandemic making this is the perfect time to implement omnichannel marketing; use the information you’ve collected from your consumers and send them personalized mail that you know will capture your attention.
“Approaches to digital entertainment have become more positive and constructive, as consumers value the potential these have for bringing joy and helping them connect during a challenging time.” QR codes are making a comeback, and including them in any direct mail campaign is a great way to show consumers that you understand what they’re interested in and then direct them to your website from their mailbox. Consider utilizing a PURL (personalized URL) or AR content to drive customers to your website or social media channels. Direct mail is especially important now. Last March, the way we learn, shop and work were upended, plunging us into a life that is saturated with digital interaction. Digital fatigue is a real thing and nothing is more refreshing than receiving PRINTED mail.
Consumers want to support brands that make a positive social impact. COVID-19 has subtly but significantly shifted consumer awareness of our relationship with the spaces in which we live, accelerating the demand for sustainability. We’re more aware of what’s preventable than ever, and sustainable advocates took advantage of their captive audiences last year. Mintel reports that “Consumers increasingly appreciate that what is good for the group is also good for the individual. COVID-19 has highlighted how just one person’s actions can have an outsized impact on their immediate environment.” If you’re looking for tips on increasing your sustainable footprint, look no further. Paper is a viable, sustainable option and can have a greater impact both externally and internally than you realize.
Many of the habits that the world learned during COVID aren’t going anywhere, but there is a middle ground. “eCommerce and online transactions have the potential to become, and remain, the norm. Thus brands are encouraged to innovate digital capabilities in anticipation of consumers’ needs and, crucially, to expertly bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds to offer a more reliable and consistent experience.”
Tech enhances lives, but general wariness is growing as our digital dependence increases. While there are many benefits to a digitally connected life, concerns about its negative impacts are putting consumers in a predicament. On one hand, consumers enjoy the connectivity that a large digital presence brings, but as we learn more about the invasive nature of websites and applications and how they collect our data, many people are pushing for more privacy. Digital channels should only be part of the channel mix—paper and print serve as a great base for any integrated marketing campaign
While it is thorough, the research and expertise shared here are not exhaustive. For more resources on post-pandemic life and the print and paper industry, visit our blog or listen to the Paper Matters Podcast.